Graham Harman has an interesting series of posts on self-publishing articles (or open-access publishing). Initial thoughts here; a second-thought here; and a response and his thoughts on that. Part of this is, as he acknowledges, the security that being a full-professor gives.
I agree with the general sentiment and parts of this – and, in part, this is due to my own career position. With some publications I just don’t see the benefit in publishing behind a paywall – book reviews are the most obvious example, but commentaries are another. We have moved all single book reviews to the Society and Space open site, for instance, and are trying to get more commentaries up there too. The readership for these is much greater than in the print journal. The last couple of book reviews I’ve written have been for open access sites.
I’m not so sure about full articles. Part of this is that Geography is more of a journal-discipline than Continental Philosophy, for example. Part of this is a different regime in the UK. The research assessment system (now called REF) means that whatever you’ve achieved in the past, in one important way you are only as good as your work in the current assessment period. So the current period ends at the end of 2013. All the work anyone has done up to that point is ineligible for the next assessment – it will be based on work published in 2014-20?? (we don’t know the next end date, nor the rules of assessment). And while the guidance this time says that outlet is not important but content is, I think we all know that a piece in a peer-reviewed, prestigious journal is going to stand a substantially better chance of being selected, and then graded more highly, than a piece self-posted online. An open access online journal is another matter, but I sense here too attitudes are only changing slowly. I fully expect my next submission will be dominated by books, as the current one is and the previous one was, but articles still matter.
Where I am unsure is about unpublished papers. I have a few that I’ve given as talks that are either forthcoming, under review, need revision/resubmission after review (one instance each), or need me to turn a talk into a potential article (a few more). Should I post those online? I’d like to, but I open up all sorts of issues about what I can then do with them. My tactic with this site has been to get them published in the usual way, and then to post the pdf up here (see the archive here). I’ve also been posting audio and/or video of talks when possible, though recognise that this does restrict where else I might be able to give that talk (some thoughts on that question here). Publishing is changing fast, and both as an author and editor of a commercial journal – albeit one with a small, independent publisher; and with small but increasing amounts of material online and open access – I am watching these developments with interest.