Recently the Society of Biblical Literature informed its membership of a
new "Green Open Access" policy for works published in SBL publications
This policy allows the author to post or archive a PDF file of the
postprint manuscript in specified types of open-access locations—the
author’s institutional repository (IR) and the author’s personal or
institutional website—following an eighteen-month embargo from
publication date. The complete article citation must be provided as
specified by SBL.
So eventually the article can be made available if the author takes
action. This is generally a move in the right direction. I think this
would work better if the works were openly available from SBL itself,
since that would provide a centralized, indexed, and searchable
repository. As it stands, the articles would be fairly disparate.
In the full text of the policy [PDF] there is a great synopsis of the
enduring importance of centralized academic publishers:
Academic, peer-reviewed publishing uniquely serves higher education by
setting standards, vetting content and methodology, and disseminating
research. Such publishing is also a means of professional development
through credentialing for tenure and promotion. Consequently, academic
publishers are an essential component of the higher education ecology.
In spite of the power of internet technologies for self-publishing, JBL
and similar journals still serve an important purpose. But following is
where I disagree with the SBL:
In order to foster biblical scholarship and scholarly communication,
the Society of Biblical Literature allows specific and reasonable
dissemination of the results of scholarly research published within
its books and journals.
Contrary to the terms of this new "open access policy," the reasonable
dissemination of scholarship would involve providing immediate open
access to the works, preferably under a permissive license. After all,
how better could SBL serve the biblical studies ecosystem than by
releasing the results of research to everyone? It could only improve the
I suspect the only reason for closed access is so that SBL can monetize
the articles by using restrictive copyright licenses. The selection of
candidate articles, peer-review process, editing, and type-setting cost
money, after all. However I think it would be best to cover those
expenses up-front. I would like to imagine that my SBL dues and JBL
subscription fee would be enough to cover these expenses. If they are
not, I would be willing to pay more, if it meant that the articles
published in JBL had unqualified open access.
This is definitely a positive development, so I hesitate to criticize
this fresh policy change. But I think SBL needs to keep moving in the
direction of freely-accessible content, for the good of all.