EJIL – the Beginning of an Existential Debate & Masthead Changes

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At the last meeting of our Editorial and Scientific Advisory Boards I announced the beginning of a discussion which, in my view, will be the most fateful for the future of EJIL since its founding 23 years ago. There are two linked issues which inform this discussion and they can be stated simply enough, though resolution and decision will be anything but simple.

Should EJIL continue to be published in both hard copy and digital versions or should it move to digital only? And should EJIL continue to be published by an academic press such as our current publisher, OUP, or should it become self-publishing?

The two issues are linked because if we decide that there is virtue (my current belief, but increasingly a minority one, I suspect) in continuing to publish a hard copy paper version of EJIL, then we will have to continue to use the services of an academic or commercial press (the distinction between the two is increasingly blurred these days).

The principal case for going ‘digital only’ is that if we did that we could offer EJIL, in the very same form it is published today, as a free service to the whole world and simply abolish subscriptions, following the admirable model of the German Law Journal. To do this, we would have to cut our ties with OUP since, given the costs of running a big press like OUP, even the digital only’ option would entail very considerable subscription rates both to institutions and individuals. If self-published, we would have enough material support from our universities and enough income generated by the modest amount of advertising we already have (yes, that has existed from the beginning, so Purists hold your fire) to produce the Journal proprio motu and offer it free.

Let’s reverse the question: Is EJIL sufficiently established and prestigious that it would no longer need the hallow it enjoys from the OUP brand? There is no question that our mission would be better served if we could offer EJIL as a free service to its readers. But would such a move, which implies cutting the cord to OUP, result in a loss of authors? Readers? Prestige? Influence? Impact factor? And how to assess the intangible losses from dropping the hard copy paper version of EJIL if we were to go down that route?

Our Boards have not even begun to discuss these issues, but I would be very interested in reader and author reactions to help me prepare a Discussion Paper for our Boards.

Masthead Changes

Orna Ben-Naftali and Paola Gaeta have completed their stint on the Board of Editors. We thank them profusely.  Nehal Bhuta, Anne Peters and Marko Milanovic have joined the Editorial Board from the Scientific Advisory Board. Welcome!

Karine Caunes completes her term as Associate Editor  ̶  we extend our gratitude to her. Guy Sinclair takes over in the hot seat. Welcome and Good luck!

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Dan Joyner says

October 20, 2012

I appreciate your opening these important questions up to reader comment. My own view is that moving to all online delivery would be fine, and is probably inevitable. I also think that retaining the journal's status as affiliated with OUP is important. This is just my gut feeling. EJIL does have its own brand and a great reputation, but I do think the OUP connection has been vital in creating these assets, and will be important in sustaining them in the future.
With best wishes for your deliberations.
Dan Joyner

Dapo Akande says

October 21, 2012

I am of the view that there continues to be merit in publishing in print as well as online. For one thing, there is the ease - and the joy - of browsing pages in print. However, it is worth noting that just this week, indeed the same day that this editorial went out, Newsweek magazine announced that it would end its print edition and from next year would only be published online:

Christian Djeffal says

October 22, 2012

Thank you very much for raising these very important issues and thank you also for discussing this publicly. If the green road was the aim (open access, digital only), there might be still a possibility to have a parallel print on demand service. The allocation of costs will then of course be different. A digital only solution might still involve OUP. The question would then be in which ways the connection to OUP will increase the assets and how this collaboration should work. I think it would be very interesting to develop different scenarios and I do look forward to further discussions.