I was very impressed to read this blog post by Jeremy Trombley:
As an up and coming academic, I’m willing to put my career on the line and promise to only publish in open access journals. Putting my career on the line is a very real threat, since many departments look for publications in key (generally not open access) journals such as American Anthropologist when hiring. However, I’m confident that the people who will be evaluating me will overlook those issues if they understand why I made this choice, and will evaluate my work on its own merits and not on the journal that publishes it.
I wish I could do the same, but unfortunately I can’t and I wish to share the reason why. The fact is that in much of the world (and in the US as well) there has been a move towards quantification in determining academic promotion and tenure. Taiwan, where I live and work, is has been particularly bad in this regard, as they struggle to raise the number of Taiwanese universities listed in international university rankings.
Taiwan does not have tenure, but one has a series of mandatory reviews as one proceeds from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor. The guidelines for these reviews are mandated in a very top-down way from the Ministry of Education (MoE) and there is little leeway in how these rules are interpreted at the university level. (One of the legacies of the martial law period in Taiwan is that the personnel office reports directly to the MoE, not the university president.) However, one way in which universities do vary with the official rules is in the informal requirement that professors have a minimum number of publications in SSCI listed journals (or SCI for the sciences). Universities thus compete to make the official rules stricter rather than more flexible.
On a side note, these requirements are interesting because SSCI journals are mostly in English, so Taiwan has created a separate Chinese-language TSSCI list, but they are counted less than the SSCI journals (even though they are often harder to get published in). Taiwan is somewhat unique in having the TSSCI list—universities in Hong Kong and Singapore focus more on SSCI. (Taiwanese academic Albert Tzeng has done some research on this.)
In any case, the problem I face is that I already struggle under the burden that my documentary filmmaking garners me zero points under this quantitative regime. Even book chapters count for very little here. And if the top journals in your field are not SSCI, tough luck. Moreover I don’t know of any SSCI listed Open Access journals in anthropology. I know there are some in other fields, but none that I know of in anthropology. My hope is that HAU will eventually earn this distinction, but that will take some time. Till then, I’m afraid I can’t follow Jeremey’s brave example. To keep my job I have to strive to publish a certain minimum of articles in SSCI publications, after which I will have the freedom to publish elsewhere if I please. I’m sharing this so that OA advocates can be more aware of some of the constraints scholars in other countries might face in submitting work to their journals.