Summary of the Kickoff Meeting for OALI at the FU

The kickoff meeting of the OALI initiative took place on Monday 29th of October at the Freie Universität in Berlin. The participants were Anke Lüdeling (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin), Martin Haspelmath (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig), Gereon Müller (Universität Leipzig), Felix Bildhauer (FU Berlin), Matthias Hüning (FU Berlin),  Janna Lipenkova (FU Berlin), Judith Meinschäfer (FU Berlin), Roland Schäfer (FU Berlin), Horst Simon (FU Berlin), Ferdinand von Mengden (FU Berlin). Katja Mruck from the Center of Digital Systems (CeDiS, FU Berlin) was also present as a guest. Adam Przepiórkowski (Polish Academy of Sciences and University of Warsaw), Andrea Schalley (Griffith University, Brisbane), Joseph T. Farquharson (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine), and Sebastian Nordhoff (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig) took part via Skype.

I first gave a presentation introducing the issue and mentioning some questions that should be discussed and decided.

The General Setup

We decided that it is best to attach the initative to a university or other research institution. I will explore the options at the FU Berlin. After the meeting Martin Haspelmath suggested that attaching the initiative to the MPI in Leipzig may also be an option. We will explore these possibilities as quickly as possible.

We discussed founding a Verein (Association) since this would allow us to accept donations. The downside is that you have to have annual meetings where the six members of the board are present. A German Verein seems to be inappropriate  for our international enterprise. We decided to try without this additional structure. I found out today that it is possible to get donations to a research project at the FU. I will explore this option further.

There will be series editors that are responsible for certain subparts of linguistics. One series will be established that covers all publications that do not fit the descriptions of the other series.

Series proposals and editors are judged by an advisory board that will be established in the near future.

Series in other languages than English will be possible.

Advantages of the New Publishing Format

It was agreed in the discussion that the advantages of the new way to publish should be emphasized. They are:

  • Speed
  • Version control
  • Visibility
  • Connection to the primary data and software

The new way of publishing allows scenarios that differ from what we know so far. Authors can make drafts of their book available to the community as soon as there is something to show. Some authors do this and did this in the past, but publishers frowned about this and some refused to publish books that were in the net. The initial submission could be stored together with reviews and with improved versions of the document (Wikipedia like). This guarantees that the earliest moment in which a certain idea was present is documented. It also opens up new possibilities of quality improvement. Readers alert authors of mistakes and typos in a phase after acceptance and before finalization.

The documents are accessible by all search engines not just by those that are run by companies that happen to have a contract with the publisher.

The publications can be stored together with primary data and software. (Some) publishers are setting up this infrastructure now and some authors already did this on their own, but there are entirely new possibilities as demonstrated by the projects of Enhanced Digital Publication. Check out their videos.

The Cost of Knowledge 2

Anke Lüdeling asked about the list of supporters which mainly contains the names of established researchers and has some elite flavour. As you can see in this post (and also on the OALI web page in the reviewers lists) I omit titles. I think they are not important here. In the list of supporters they are important since the point is to show both insiders and outsiders that well-established researchers think OALI is worth being supported. The OALI group on academia was set up in order to make it possible for everybody to subscribe, but I guess there are more supporters than linguists who registered with academia. I originally planned to make the whole thing more open by setting up something like  thecostofknowledge for linguistics with connection to OALI. However, it was decided that we should rather concentrate on establishing series and getting publications out. Those who want to declare their sympathy to the proposals can do this by leaving posts or comments in the blog and by joining the OALI mailing list. This is even more support than signing a petition since you have to delete some emails from time to time =;-).

Of course if somebody wants to set up something like  thecostofknowledge for linguistics independent of OALI, I would be interested to see the numbers.

LaTeX vs. MicroSoft Word

There was also a discussion of whether it would be possible to make LaTeX submission obligatory, but help Word and Libre Office users to find somebody who does the conversion, if they want to. The LaTeX users convinced me that Word submissions have to be accepted, but it was also pointed out that having to deal with Word submissions does increase the costs for the publishing organization. So, here is a first thing that everybody who is interested in OA publishing can do: Learn LaTeX. I gave a course about LaTeX for Linguists some years ago. The handouts are in German and a bit outdated (tree-package, fonts, …), but I will work on this as soon as I find time. There will be another post on this topic soon.

Interestingly a Word user remarked after the meeting that she wanted to switch and said: Everybody who tried to do a book in Word will agree that one should try professional alternatives.


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  1. Pingback: Open Access Bücher in der Linguistik | Offene Wissenschaft

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