APA Vice President Barbara McManus sends along some thoughts on the current state of affairs at the APA regarding electronic publication.
Although the American Philological Association was a very early leader in the publication of “machine-readable” texts and has supported the development of electronic editions of a number of research tools in Classics, the association has not really addressed the issue of electronic publication of scholarship in the field. In fact, the long-standing APA Committee on Non-Print Publications has languished in a state of suspended animation for the last several years–still on the books, but with no members and no mandate. I was therefore very pleased to see how many candidates in the upcoming election of APA officers and committee members brought up this issue in their statements (9 candidates for 6 different positions); one even referred readers to the online papers of the panel on Electronic Publication and the Classics Profession that Ross Scaife and I organized for the 2004 APA convention. This is a positive sign that e-publication will attain more prominence on the association’s agenda and, I think, a tribute to grass-roots pressure from classicists and others in humanities disciplines. One of my last actions as Vice-President for Professional Matters will be to propose formation of a subcommittee with members from several APA divisions to actively address the issue.
I was somewhat troubled by one element in several of the candidates’ statements, reflecting the opinion that electronic editions of research tools have made access “democratic” or “available to all.” People at large research universities tend to forget that subscription-only services like the online edition of L’Année philologique or Project Muse are not available to scholars at the hundreds of smaller institutions that cannot afford such specialized services. When e-publication does get on the APA agenda, it is crucial that Open Access has a prominent place in the discussion, and I hope that continued grass-roots pressure from classicists will ensure that this does happen.
Barbara F. McManus
It’s wonderful to see Barbara supporting OA so forthrightly. Alas, the APA (and a fortiori CAMWS) still appear to me to be some distance away from coming to terms with this topic effectively. Nonetheless, it seems likely that the field of Classics is eventually subject to the same trends and phenomena as affect modern society generally: the internet ultimately routes around and thereby makes obsolete organizations and institutions (including much of the creaky apparatus of traditional 19th and 20th c. academic publication) that don’t always adequately serve people’s needs for information and communication. It’s just not a completely linear process (or easy).