As a humanist, you may read the term “open access,” and think, “Isn’t that for scientists?” It is true that open access is more common as a publishing standard in the sciences than in the humanities (as seen in the chart below), but it is a quickly growing phenomenon in the humanities as well.
The monograph has long been the traditional mode of publication in the humanities, but this is shifting. As more humanities articles are being published, the framework for scholarship is becoming more open. This is in part caused by a decline in book sales and library budgets that make it more difficult for scholars to publish in the traditional sense. Furthermore, for us digital humanists, the traditional monograph may not be the best form of publication for our unique types of work. Publishing in e-journals is becoming more common. This raises the question of access.
Imagine a world in which scholarly material is freely and openly accessible to all people, regardless of whether they are from an Ivy League school, a community college, or the community council. That obscure Early Modern Paleography article you’ve been dying to read? Right there online. Data on your local voting precincts? Open to everyone. This is the world that open access supporters envision. Data easily accessible and available. Free textbooks for students, free resources for scholars, the formation of communities of practice without antiquated barriers to entry.
According to Kate Herman, the former Scholarly Communications Research Assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and current Library Science Master’s Candidate, “the principles that inform open access can provide digital humanities with a framework, emphasizing accessibility, engagement and transparency, while digital humanities projects help push open access to constantly expand capacity to reflect the changing forms of scholarly communication.” Digital humanities and open access are a natural coalition, because both are motivated by a belief that information should be accessible for the good of the public. Open access and digital humanities folks can work together to promote new methods of scholarship and publication that champions the ideals of both communities: accessibility, creativity, and engagement with the past, present, and future.