Part of being an academic means being part of a closed system. Much of the work we do as scholars remains hidden in obscurity, behind some formidable pay-walls. Whether it is the high cost of academic books or peer reviewed journals only research libraries can afford subscriptions to, there is a problem of access in academia. Most of the public never sees our work, even if they want to.
I’m happy (dare I say, proud) that I work for an institution whose own academic journal, the Pacific World, is freely distributed to anyone who wants it, in both electronic PDF format and good old fashioned print. This is made possible by the generous support of the Numata Foundation, an organization that does all sorts of good work for Buddhist studies all over the world, helping make our work as scholars accessible.
I’ll not debate the merits of this closed system here. Suffice it to say, a lot has been written about what’s wrong with this system and the need for more access to scholarly work. Many of these arguments, however, never address the fact that merely having access to scholarly work can never take the place of an education. Real education does not happen simply by reading something; education takes time, commitment, guidance, good teachers and mentors, and a peer group. But that’s an argument for another time!
My only purpose here is to acknowledge the difficulty many have in getting access to good scholarly work. Even students, who do have access to research libraries, often find themselves either looking for something that the library does not have or in the position of needing to buy something ridiculously expensive. But, fortunately, there are a number of sources out there that are open access. You just need to know where to look.
Below is a short and no doubt incomplete list. My own research interests mean I’m just not aware of everything out there. So I encourage anyone with other tips to leave them in the comments. It’s a start. A way of helping expand our collective knowledge.
Journals with open access:
Journals with other levels of access:
The Pure Land: the Journal of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies. Membership in the IASBS is relatively inexpensive ($20 per year; $15 if you’re a student, and the first year is free). With membership, you get a subscription to the journal as well as access to all back copies via the Internet.
Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies: 60 months after publication, the JIABS goes online in free PDF format. If you can’t wait that long, become a member and get a regular subscription to the journal.
The Eastern Buddhist is a subscription-based journal, but unlike other academic journals, it’s subscription price is pretty low. Just $25 per year. (Compare that to the journal Contemporary Buddhism — a fantastic journal — which has subscriptions starting at $87 up to more than $300.)
A subscription to The Journal of the American Academy of Religion comes with AAR membership. For students, this is $50 per year. It’s a sliding scale otherwise, based on your income. Not cheep. But sort of essential for scholars. I’m told you can get free access to PDFs somewhere online, but can’t figure out how.
As I said, if I missed anything, let me know in the comments!