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 Revising outdated ideas of who counts as a scholar and what counts as scholarship requires collective re-envisioning of how knowledge is developed, evaluated, and circulated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.”

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]