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Legal Academic Publishing May Be Broken *


Academic publishing is broken.

That’s the word from Brazilian journalist, Raphael Tsavkko Garcia, who reports for Al Jazeera and MIT Tech Review, among other news outlets, in an excellent piece in Bookseller.

Garcia’s points may be as applicable to legal publishing – think law reviews and other legal periodicals – as any academic publishing.

*[There may be inaccuracies on this post as to the accessibility of legal academic articles. Rather than delete the post, I have left it up because it has been circulated on social media. Further comments from me forthcoming.]

  • It is increasingly difficult for academics to have access to the articles they need to do their work – even their own articles. 
  • Well-ranked journals don’t even give the authors access to the articles they wrote.
  • Authors cannot get access through their schools, unless the school is a subscriber and often they are not.
  • Colleagues in the author’s field cannot get access unless they or their institution are subscribers.
  • Authors and colleges need to pay large sums to read one piece or to cite it.
  • Large repositories of journals and professional publications are extremely expensive and more and more universities handpick which ones they will subscribe to, creating countless difficulties for researchers to have access to much-needed articles and journals.
  • Because of lagging technology, academics can spend more time figuring out how to access an article than actually reading it, making notes and citing it – or having to pay a full price for the entire journal, let alone a shameful amount for one article.
  • Academics are threatened by big publishing companies if they decide to make the content they have produced available for free.

The dilemma is that academics need to publish in such journals for status and tenure. Law schools need their professors in law journals and the like to sustain rankings and, in turn tuition monies.

Garcia sees non-profit entities partnering with universities as one possible solution.

In the case of law schools, why not have law schools using open publishing platforms such as a managed blog platform for the law. Partner with organizations like LexBlog to run the platform and support your professors.

Keeps the expenses for a law school to a minimum and results in all articles free and open to be cited and shared.

Get the obvious advantages of advancing the law much faster, raising the stature of law professors quicker and making the law professor’s articles relevant again. Law reviews are becoming less and less relevant with the advent of legal blogs.

I don’t have the experience of academics or librarians on this subject. But I have sat at enough legal and law school conferences to learn that legal academic publish could use some fixing – and that the fixing is not likely to come from traditional legal publishers who benefit from the status quo.

Standing corrected on some points, per Professor Madison.