JAPA in the Information Age (Nerd Alert: Technical Details)

Where does the Journal of the American Planning Association fit in this contemporary landscape of almost ubiquitous access to information?

What role do journals have in a world where people can “just Google for city web sites, blogs, media accounts, reports, online magazines, and social media postings”?

In a recent editorial, "Scholarly Publication in an Information Age" (Vol. 85., No. 4)  I argue that reliable sources such as JAPA continue to play an important role for information consumers and producers.

The editorial, free online, grapples with the issue of open access where articles are free to use without a subscription or other payment. In a world where so much information is free, this is generally a positive trend.

However, the peer review process for traditional journals such as JAPA is expensive. This process aims to select and nurture papers that “engage important questions, systematically describe methods that can actually answer the questions posed, and clearly articulate implications for research and practice.”

Someone needs to pay for this quality, and for JAPA it is subscribers.

Into this environment have come what are called predatory journals, ones that appear to be standard journals like JAPA but where articles have not gone through rigorous peer review, if any. This has muddied the debate around open access, in that the information in these journals is not necessarily reliable.

Not all open access journals are predatory, however, and indeed many journals are now like JAPA with a mix of free and subscription articles. As I note “there is a dizzying array of [open access] initiatives currently underway and the only thing that is certain is that change will happen.”

The American Planning Association is very interested in these issues of increasing access to quality information.

This may occur through JAPA articles themselves, blogs about the articles, or initiatives such as Planning magazine’s "JAPA Takeaway" column, which will summarize relevant articles a few times a year.

My editorial concludes by asking “What is the APA’s role in disseminating research from JAPA? Does that mean helping make it easier for people to read research articles even if they are not members? What about disseminating the results in other ways that are meaningful in the cluttered information landscape — from tweets to reports?”

How to increase access is likely to remain an important conversation for APA.

The Journal of the American Planning Association is the quarterly journal of record for the planning profession. For full access to the JAPA archive, APA members may purchase a discounted subscription for $48/year, or a digital-only subscription for $36/year.

Top image: Illustration by Getty Images.


Headshot of Ann Forsyth.
About the Author

Ann Forsyth

Ann Forsyth is editor of the Journal of the American Planning Association and the Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.

January 16, 2020

By Ann Forsyth