Reviewing, Editing, & Publishing: Open Access and the Public Philosophy Journal

As part of our celebrations building up to Open Access Week from October 23 – 29, we’re featuring a guest blog post authored by Shelby Brewster, the Associate Editor of the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ). Humanities Commons and PPJ are MESH projects with generous support from Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters and MSU Libraries. If you’d like to learn more about PPJ, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Mastodon.

Like the Humanities Commons, the Public Philosophy Journal supports open access scholarly communications. The PPJ is an open access, digital-only journal that offers a forum for the curation and creation of accessible scholarship that deepens understanding of, deliberation about, and action concerning issues of public relevance. The theme of this year’s Open Access Week, “Community over Commercialization,” captures many of the ways that openness manifests in the PPJ. In contrast to many conventional publishing models, at the PPJ community is the foundation of our practices, from review to editing to publishing.

In Review: Community over Competition

At the PPJ, articles go through our Collaborative Community Review process (CCR). CCR sees the relationship between authors and reviewers as one of community rather than competition. In the collaborative review process, all parties come together as colleagues to enrich the work in question. Together with a Review Coordinator who facilitates the process, authors and reviewers engage in a constructive dialogue in which all parties are known to one another. The CCR process is completely open, recognizing that our positionality is part of our scholarship and encouraging a sense of thick collegiality for everyone involved. CCR does not serve a gatekeeping or purely evaluative function. Instead, review is rooted in mutual respect, a shared effort to advance scholarship to make a better world.

In Editing: Community over Elitism

Openness extends into our editorial policies and vision. As we explain on our website, “too often scholarly publishing engages in and reinforces exclusion rather than fostering the diversity of authors, readers, and issues in public and academic communities. Revising outdated ideas of who counts as a scholar and what counts as scholarship requires collective re-envisioning of how knowledge is developed, evaluated, and circulated through peer review and post-publication processes.” And so we maintain an open definition of expertise, recognizing that members of multiple communities that are not necessarily “academic” as such have perspectives and knowledge that benefit scholarship oriented toward the public good.

In Publishing: Community over Commercialization

All PPJ publications are open access, published in accessible formats, and available for reuse under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. We work to make our content easily accessible by communities both within and outside academia, and those that sit in between.

We also carefully consider which tools we use to create our work, as we acknowledge that these too should be aligned with our values. For publishing, we partner with Manifold, an open source publishing platform created by both publishers and scholars. Scholar-led infrastructure, like Manifold and the Humanities Commons, is an important way to value, support, and emphasize community in an ever-increasingly commercial publishing landscape.

To expand our commitment to community and support others who also wish to do so, the PPJ has been working on a new platform for values-based peer review, Pilcrow. In collaboration with Mesh Research and with the support of the Mellon Foundation, PPJ members and a development team have created an environment for a collegial review process that allows publishers and scholars to develop scholarship that aligns with their values, as well as openness and community. In the coming months, Pilcrow will be available, open source, for anyone looking to further integrate a commitment to community into their writing and publishing practice. So openness is an integral part of how the PPJ envisions community, in review, editing, publishing, and beyond. Community-led research infrastructure has the potential to not only give scholars more control over their data, but also support and facilitate innovative scholarship. Alongside our colleagues at the Commons and elsewhere, we’re committed creating community to support “scholarship as a series of collective acts toward advancing a just world.”

The Web We Want

As we seek new members to join our network, we want to share with you more of the inner workings of Humanities Commons and how we understand our work as part of a collective movement. Today, our community development manager, Zoe Wake Hyde, shares a vision of the future of the web that our team wants. If it resonates with you, we encourage you to consider becoming a Humanities Commons Member.

We live, as they say, in interesting times. The dawn of the internet is within living memory for many, and its different phases of growth and adoption are familiar to most. Whether you’ve gone from Tumblr to TikTok, reminisce fondly about RSS or are all in on AR, the only constant in our experiences of the web has been change.

In the scholarly world, the emergence of online publishing has led to exponential growth in the amount of content available. Traditional publishing systems have reacted by restricting access and trying to maintain scarcity, while the open access movement has gained momentum as a way of leveraging the web’s affordances to break down barriers to access. In turn, the major publishers have pivoted to data as currency, and there is increasing consolidation across the scholarly infrastructure landscape, leading to a concentration of power.

So what drives this change? The reasons are as complex and diverse as human behaviour itself, but two of the major contributing factors are money and power.

Where money is invested and power is leveraged has an enormous impact on our everyday lives on the internet. Unfortunately, much of that impact has been used to position us as consumers and commodities, to be bought and sold to, with our attention becoming the price of participation. That perhaps paints a grim picture, but it’s one we must confront head on.

Like the divine right of kings, so too can the power of the internet overlords be overthrown.

The good news is that money and power can be used to change things for the better. Investment in technologies that catalyze different kinds of interactions in digital spaces, and the right kind of influence on policy and structural mechanisms can make a difference.

So, why does this matter to Humanities Commons?

We see our role in the online ecosystem as creators of an alternative. We resist the idea that human interactions should be commoditized and used as a means to a profitable end. Instead, we seek to facilitate meaningful connections that lead to the creation of new knowledge to be shared openly. We approach designing our tools as an act of service, where our only interest is to benefit users. And we do this work in the domain of knowledge creation and dissemination because we believe in its value to the world.

We also see ourselves as just one piece of a very large puzzle of actors pursuing the same goal, and aim to ally ourselves with others dedicated to creating the same kind of future for online, digital scholarly work. Together, we seek a more just and equitable knowledge ecosystem, where many kinds of knowing are shared and valued. 

That’s the web we want.

But to get there, we have to come back to the question of money and power. To change the dominant logic of the web, we have to invest in the people and products that make it happen.

While we may not have venture capital-level funds available, our combined might as institutions, societies, nonprofits and other invested actors shouldn’t be underestimated.

In our next post, we will explore the role academic institutions have to play in this change.

Become a sustaining member of the Humanities Commons network and support us to build the web we want. Find more information or book a call via calendly.com/zwhmsu.

Purpose, Values, Process, Goals

As we seek new members to join our network, we want to share with you more of the inner workings of Humanities Commons and how we understand our work as part of a collective movement. Today, our founder, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, tells of how we have come together as a team, united by a shared purpose and shared values. If these resonate with you, we encourage you to consider becoming a Humanities Commons Member.

Since early 2020, Humanities Commons has been working toward a sustainable future. Key to that future is the generous support we’ve received from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and a range of other funders and donors, that has allowed us to build a flourishing team to support the network. But building that team has not been solely a matter of searches and onboarding; we’ve also put a lot of collective labor into ensuring that we’re working together in the most generative ways possible.

We began that work late last August by bringing our all-remote team (minus a few of our more recently hired colleagues) together in Lansing for a two-day retreat. Over the course of those two days, we began the process of getting to know one another, laying the groundwork for the ways we’d work together, and thinking as expansively as possible about our goals and expectations. We all left energized, if a bit daunted by how much work we had mapped out for ourselves and how vast the possibilities seemed. All of us took heart, though, in a sentence that Zoe Wake Hyde (our community development manager) shared with us: “We can’t do everything, but we can do anything!”

Figuring out which things would comprise our *anything* required a lot of collective thinking. During the retreat, we undertook a modified version of the HuMetricsHSS values framework exercise, starting to articulate what most matters to each of us in the work we do. We also began the process of developing a framework for the Commons’ purpose and goals, enabling us to shape our work around the vision of transformation in collective knowledge production that we hope to effect. 

But the retreat was only the start. Over the next several months, the team met for regular working sessions — twice a week, at first — to continue thinking together about who and how we wanted to be. Each of our working sessions was facilitated by a different member of the team, often using a Miro board to ensure that everyone’s thoughts were captured. By late 2022, we had collectively developed a statement of purpose and a statement of values for the network, which we circulated to our governing council and to our user advisory group for feedback.

Today, as part of our sustaining membership campaign, we’re posting these statements publicly, and we invite your thoughts about them. 

Our purpose is to cultivate open spaces for diverse communities to connect, create, share, and experiment. Together we work to transform global knowledge systems.

The values that guide our work are: Experimenting, Cultivating Community, Nurturing Trust, and Supporting Open Exchange of Knowledge

For a more in depth look, read our full statement of purpose and our full values statement, and we invite you to share feedback by commenting on this post or tagging @hello@hcommons.social on Mastodon.

These statements undergird our work as a team, but also our work with the Commons community. In the weeks ahead, as we bring more members into the community of organizations and institutions supporting our work, we’ll share more about how we plan to support that community, how we hope to facilitate self-governance within it, and more.

It’s been a long process leading to this point, but given that our goal is nothing short of transforming our global knowledge system, taking time for reflection, response, and revision is crucial. We very much look forward to hearing from you, and to thinking with you as we move into our next phase of development.

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Improving accessibility in all areas of our work is fundamental to our ambition to create more just and equitable scholarly communications.  In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we here at Humanities Commons wanted to let you know about some of the work we’re doing behind the scenes to both improve accessibility for site users and to learn and grow as a team. Here are four ways we are putting our commitment into action:

  1. Group Meetings On Topics Related to Accessibility: We’ve integrated accessibility-related topics into our regular working group meetings. This has included watching and reflecting on Axe-Con talks as a team and discussing how to bring inclusive design to all stages of our process.
  1. User Experience Design: From our website to our workshops to our pdfs, you’ll see some design choices and changes coming that aim to increase accessibility throughout the Humanities Commons experience. For example, we will be moving to Atkinson Hyperlegible as our default font. Created by the Braille Institute, this font is designed to increase character recognition and improve readability for visually impaired readers..
  2. User Experience Research: We’ve started whole team conversations about the process of user experience research and integrating a diverse range of voices and perspectives into our testing and conversations. We look forward to working with the community this summer and beyond to learn with and from you about your needs and experiences.
  1. Team Training: Over this coming summer, our team will be taking accessibility fundamentals from Deque University, as well as additional Deque University courses tailored to our daily tasks, and meeting in early Fall to work on integrating what we have learned into our workflows. 

We’re excited to share with you more in each of these areas as we continue to meet and grow as a team. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you if you have ways that you’d like to see our site improve!

Support Humanities Commons as a Sustaining Member

If you know Humanities Commons well, you know that we are committed to a more just and equitable future of knowledge creation. We take our place alongside other incredible people and organisations working towards the same goal, knowing the only way to make true, transformational change is to leverage our collective power.

Right now, we are seeking new members to join our network and help shape the future of the Commons. Our members are critical to our success and keep us connected with the needs and priorities of our community. By becoming a member, you are not only supporting our existing work, but creating new possibilities by contributing your unique perspective.

Hang on, I have an account already – doesn’t that make me a member?

Yes! But also no! Individual users of the Commons are members of our community, but more often, we’ll refer to you as our users. In this context, we are talking about members of our network of participating organisations.

So, why should I become a member?

Humanities Commons’ purpose is to cultivate open spaces for diverse communities to connect, create, share, and experiment, in the service of transforming global knowledge systems together. If this ambition speaks to you, membership is a way to help us work towards that purpose. Member contributions enable us to build the necessary infrastructure for a vibrant knowledge commons, developing exciting new features for individual and organisational users. Member support also helps us to continue to offer our free Humanities Commons site, which benefits everyone invested in open humanities scholarship. In future, we also plan for membership to subsidise the participation of organisations who serve communities most marginalised in conventional knowledge systems.

Just as importantly, membership is, to us, a relationship we seek to foster with our allies and collaborators. These relationships are what will ultimately drive us forward. We seek to be in relation with those who are investing in academy-owned infrastructure designed for a more connected knowledge ecosystem. Who are working towards a future where there are viable alternatives to the closed, proprietary systems that dominate, where we are building the web we want, and where people are treated as more than consumers and commodities. Truly, these relationships are an opportunity for us to lean into our collective power and imagination to build the future we envision.

Ok, but what does it mean to be a member? 

Membership in our network is not simply transactional. Members will be asked to, as much or as little as they can, participate in our evolving governance structures, offer feedback on strategy and direction, advocate for the Commons in the spaces they occupy, and participate in other efforts such as promotional activities and user research. Our goal is to create many avenues for members to contribute in the ways that make the most sense to them, and are always open to new ideas. As our network grows, we expect to develop additional opportunities, including research and funding collaborations.

In addition, all members receive:

  • Recognition as a sustaining member on our website and other communication channels as appropriate (e.g. conference presentations)
  • Quarterly member updates
  • Opportunities to promote and collaborate on projects with other members
  • The right to nominate & vote for governing council members
  • The ability to contribute to our roadmap (i.e. contribute to specific projects that are of importance to your organisation)
  • Top priority to join a cohort of institutions establishing their own Commons instances with our support (launching January 2024)

Interested? Here’s how to sign up.

Membership is open to any organisation, department, research center, institution, or consortium who wishes to engage with our work.

Until June 30, 2023, we are offering a one-time option for members to join at US$5000 per year, with the possibility of signing on at that rate for up to 5 years. However, if you are interested in becoming a member, but have a different budget in mind, please reach out, as we’d love to talk through different options.

The first step is to set up a call with our community development manager, Zoe Wake Hyde, at calendly.com/zwhmsu and she will guide you from there!

Find more information about membership and a short FAQ here.

Open Access for Teachers: A Reflection from a New Hire

Last week, we celebrated International Open Access Week with guest posts from some of our friends, and we decided to keep the party going a little longer! Today, June Oh, Assistant Professor in English & Digital Studies at The University of Texas at Tyler, shares her thoughts on the joy of an open access syllabus.


Recently, I realized something about open access. It’s not just about those publications I want to get; it’s about the support for the teachers. Previously, I shared my experience as an international student finding joy in open access (“Humanities Commons for International Students and Scholars”). Now adopting from an R1 university to an R2 mentality, and with a few access issues every now and then, what I experience daily isn’t just about research. It’s about teaching—and how open access is a shining light for a busy, worried, and eager instructor.

I’m a new hire with three new class preps and upcoming class pilot proposals for a new minor, a new certificate, and a new PhD program on my radar. As I was entering the job market as an English literature major—18C literature—I learned pretty quickly that all academic jobs, at least for the first several years, will ask me to teach outside my comfort zones and expertise. It does. And I need help.

From class activities and rubrics to syllabus and learning objectives, open access teaching materials available on Humanities Commons soothe my new hire anxiety. Googling works too, but sometimes the promising-looking syllabus sits behind the veil of the university proxy. Other times, I venture into platforms like “Teachers Pay Teachers” but rarely find higher ed materials. As of October 20, Humanities Commons hosts 402 items that are categorized as syllabus. Just looking at the topics and the titles of these courses inspire me. Also, what I love about Humanities Commons’ open access is that it opens space for what I consider teaching-in-progress. I search for “Digital Humanities syllabus,” and I see Kristen Mapes’ syllabi from 2017, 2018, and 2021, among others. What I see in these syllabi are Kristen’s continuing revisions and experiments with her pedagogy, materials, and approach. I know in theory no class is perfect and it’s a work in progress. But the academic plague of perfectionism gets in the way. That’s when actually having access to and reading the syllabi from other instructors through open access platforms is saving my day.

It’s starting to get chilly and the university bookstore is asking for a book request. And tonight, I’ll make some tea and find joy in open-access syllabi.

Finding Joy in Open Access: Reflections from the Humanities Commons Team

As we conclude our celebration of International Open Access Week, we asked our team to reflect on what joy in open access looks like for them.

Zoe Wake Hyde, Community Development Manager

As someone who has worked for many years in open access and open education, I have a somewhat complicated relationship to the theme we chose for this year’s OA Week. I have found genuine joy in doing work that I care deeply about, particularly in the relationships I have forged and the sense of belonging that the open community can inspire. But I’ve also experienced some pretty profound despair when things have gotten hard, progress has stalled, outside influences interfere (hello, pandemic) and our efforts have been co-opted by those who created the problems we’re trying to address in the first place. 

Joy is personal. Open work feels personal. It’s natural and, frankly, wonderful to find joy in this kind of work, but there is also always the risk of hurt that comes along with it. I don’t have any tidy solutions here, but there is a balance I am learning to manage between investing myself in my work and keeping enough distance that I can manage the tough times. I also think we should strive to learn from the incredible social justice movements that have come before us; nothing is ever entirely new and we would be wise to remember that we are far from the first to consider the personal costs of doing purpose-driven work.

What I am sure of is that whatever the risks of embracing joy, my work and my life are better for it. 

I can never resist a good book recommendation, so here goes: Joyful Militancy – Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times 

I also found this in the wilds of Twitter recently and felt it spoke to what I’ve written about here:

Bonnie Russell, Project Manager

As a librarian, I think a lot about how to ensure access to information of all kinds. Prior to joining the Humanities Commons team I spent almost 10 years in scholarly publishing, and I grew increasingly concerned about the sustainability of current publishing models. There is a growing barrier to access for many who are not affiliated with institutions or who are at institutions that simply can’t afford the increasing subscriptions in the current market. 

For me, the joy in OA is bringing information to everyone, regardless of position and financial means. OA allows everyone equal access to information, and at the same time it empowers everyone to disseminate their work widely. OA levels the playing field. It connects global collaborators, and it allows those who want to research and create to build on the work that has come before. 

Scholarship is becoming increasingly multimodal. Undergraduate students in the humanities are taught not just writing, but often work with audio, video, and video games. As these formats continue to grow journals and monographs won’t disappear, but they will come under increasing competition for views. OA offers these students and scholars the ability to share their work widely when many publishers simply can’t find a way to publish these new formats. My joy at this moment is being a part of the Commons and working to think about not just what’s happening now, but how we can support these new formats in the future.

Larissa Babak, User Engagement Specialist

When I think about finding joy in open access, my memory points me back to a collection of “aha!” moments.  

As part of my experience as an instructional designer, I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk to faculty about open educational resources. There are so many incredible OERs available, but often, faculty are not sure where to start when looking for an OER. Joy arrives in the “aha!” moments when a faculty member who is passionate about all the benefits of open access finds the right text for their course. 

As part of the Commons team, I constantly have my own, joy-filled “aha!” moments, too. Regularly, I’ll browse the CORE repository and spot a deposit with a fascinating title, or a colleague will share a deposit I might find of interest. In the user support I provide on the Commons, I’ve had the privilege to meet numerous journal editors who are moving their journals to the Commons in order to ensure their work is available to all. Each of these meetings are inspiring to me in the enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment brought to the cause of open access. 

In these ways, joy feels like the proverbial lightbulb going on inside my brain. Joy can be found in my personal moments of finding open access texts that inspire me, but also in the ability of open access to bring people together.

A Bumpy Start to the Joys of Open Access: A Festive Perspective

Today, as we continue to celebrate International Open Access Week and reflect on finding joy in OA work, we’ve got a guest post from our friends at H-Net and the Journal of Festive Studies.


More than six years ago, the open access joy of The Journal of Festive Studies began. Patrick Cox, the then-Vice-President for Networks at H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online reached out to Ellen Litwicki and Aurélie Godet – both scholars of festive studies – to ask them to act as lead-editors for this new open access publication. H-Net had been established nearly 25 years before and had since blossomed into a well-established platform where scholars shared resources and ideas and published tens of thousands of freely available book reviews, making it well situated to publish an open access journal.

At the same time Patrick  reached out to Ellen and Aurélie, he also initiated the process of starting a new H-Net network, H-Celebration, to host the journal. Patrick also recruited me as managing editor and Réa de Matas, who currently is a member of H-Net’s Council, to become an editor for H-Celebration and develop the graphics and logos for the journal. In the background, Yelena Kalinsky, H-Net’s Associate Director of Research and Publications at the time, already worked their magic, supporting us as production manager—and with everything else. Basia Nowak and Charlotte Weber, the copyeditors for H-Net Reviews, soon joined the team with their copyediting expertise.

Back then, we received journal submissions via email, which we then had to upload and organize on a private H-Net network on the H-Net Commons. While this system worked well enough in the beginning, it quickly became confusing as we separated submissions, author bios, and peer reviews to ensure the double-blind peer review process. Luckily, Yelena was already working on another solution: using the Open Journal Systems.

Since the inaugural issue, a lot has changed. We now use Open Journal Systems – a management software for open access academic journals—a huge relief! A few months ago, Emily Joan Elliott took over for Yelena. After issue 4, Ellen will leave us and Isabel Machado, our guest editor for issue 3, has already begun to take over Ellen’s responsibilities, working with us on issue 5.

From the beginning, there was no question that the Journal of Festive Studies would be an online, open access publication that allowed authors to maintain the rights to their work through a Creative Commons license. We value that this approach would give everyone free access to research that isn’t hidden behind a paywall.

Together, the journal editors, the editorial board, and our contributors both find and bring joy by virtue of the field they study and knowing that others can freely access this scholarship. We are proud of the role we play in expanding the fields of both open access scholarship and festive studies. We hope others will join us in that work.

Cora Gaebel is the managing editor for the Journal of Festive Studies, a cultural anthropologist, a world traveler, and a life cycle celebrant.

Why Open Access? An Infographic from Julian Chambliss

This week, October 24-30, is International Open Access Week and we’re celebrating by partnering with some of our friends to reflect on the theme of joy in open access!

In this infographic by Julian Chambliss—Professor of English at Michigan State University, Val Berryman Curator of History at the MSU Museum, and faculty lead for the Graphic Possibilities Research Group—shares his perspective on why open access matters.

An infographic titled "Why Open Access?" with information on the mission of the Graphic Possibilities project, connections with teaching, digital humanities,  and community building.
This infographic describes the impact of open access on Graphic Possibilities Research Group at Michigan State University. [Long description] [PDF version]

On Prior Publication

Last week, we received two takedown notices for items deposited to CORE. They arrived at nearly the same time, and so we found ourselves thinking about them in connected ways, though their cases are very, very different.

The first came through AWS Abuse, who passed on a report to us that we were distributing copyright infringing content. Under DMCA Safe Harbor provisions, we are required to take down such potentially infringing material immediately, and can only afterward follow up with an investigation to determine whether it’s actually infringing or whether it should be restored. Agreeing to follow this process is important to the network’s survival, as it’s only through such adherence that we can prevent the Commons from being sued for instances of copyright infringement of which we’re unaware.

In this case, we took the item down. Looking at the document revealed that it was a scan of copyrighted material, so the complainant may have a case. We have, however, inquired with the depositor in case there are complicating circumstances that we should know about.

The second request came to us from a user, who asked us to remove one of their deposits. Generally speaking, we resist removing deposits unless there are very good reasons, given our concern for the continuity of the scholarly record. In this case, it turned out that the deposit was a conference paper that the depositor later submitted for publication by a journal. The journal was now demanding that the deposit be removed, as they have a policy against accepting material that has been published elsewhere.

We reached out to the journal to ask about this policy, noting that even the venerable PMLA would not consider a conference paper deposited in a repository to be a violation of its prior-publication rule.

The response we received was — well, let’s say it — rude. The managing editor ultimately made it clear that if we did not remove the deposit, the journal would rescind its offer of publication to the author.

We are not in the business of harming the careers of our users, and so we have removed the deposit, if reluctantly. But we want to use this incident to open a conversation about the differences between conference papers and published articles, as well as between preprints and publications. We believe that authors have the right to share and seek feedback on the early stages of work prior to submitting that work to publishers, and that the existence of such pre-prints online does not constitute prior publication. And we urge our users to seek venues for publication that do not limit their rights over the ways they share their own work.

What issues have you run into in the relationship between sharing work online and publishing it in more formal venues? How would you encourage us to respond to situations like this? And how might we work together to create a more open, less extractive, and completely non-punitive scholarly communication ecosystem?