October Membership Drive: Support for open-access fan scholarship

The following post was written by Lesann, a staffer in our Development & Membership Committee

Twice a year, during drive time, OTW does its best to remind supporters and (hopefully) future supporters of what the organization is working on, how it is cutting edge and important. In order to do this, staffers in OTW interview the heads of different OTW projects. This time, I had the privilege of speaking with the editors of Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), the OTW’s academic journal.

In one of our emails back and forth, content editor Kristina Busse said, “we really just do our work to bring out 3 full journals with 5-10 full peer reviewed essays, 5-10 symposium pieces, and a couple of book reviews on average each.” It struck me, upon reading this tongue-in-cheek comment just how much volunteer work that means for herself and the entire journal team.

Three full journal issues a year, with five to ten peer reviewed essays each, would be no small feat even in an academically supported environment, where a university press is supporting the process and there is a built-in community of available peer-reviewers. What the team for TWC manages, is to overcome the lack of established academic infrastructure and consistently provide a respected journal of superlative quality. That is huge.

Like the OTW’s other projects, TWC is free to everyone. There is no requirement of subscription, payment, or any type of contribution to consume the journal pieces, and perhaps even transform aspects of them. Like all OTW volunteers, everyone who works for the journal contributes their time and skills for free: from the editorial staff and production staff to the academic peer reviewers, who assure the journal’s reputation within the field.

An academic journal that is free to any and all readers is a rare thing. To give some idea of how valuable a resource TWC is, a similar academic journal on fan studies charges individual subscribers $105 USD a year, a typical price for a 12-month subscription to a peer-reviewed journal in the field. Libraries also benefit by having TWC as a part of their holdings (but not an additional cost in their journal budget).

Even with all the hours of donated time, there are some financial costs associated with producing TWC. In an earlier post we mentioned the Web hosting costs for the server that houses the journal. Because TWC is online only, it also requires a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for each of its articles. Editor Karen Hellekson describes DOIs as “insurance against switching infrastructures.” A DOI, as explained by the MIT library site, “identifies an individual article (like a serial number) such that a permanent URL can be created.” In other words, should TWC ever need to move to a new online platform, having a DOI subscription will save hours upon hours of volunteer time, as well as prevent interested readers from being unable to find the content they seek. The OTW pays an annual subscription fee of $275 for this service, plus a $1 fee for the DOI of each individual journal article.

Transformative Works and Cultures strives to provide fresh and thought-provoking material for fans and non-fans alike. The next two issues, scheduled for March and June 2014, will focus on fan labor and fan materiality, respectively — both topics to which many fans can relate.

To help support the production of original, open-access fan scholarship, please consider making a donation today. Thank you!