Finding Planning Scholarship for Free: Articles with Open Access or Partly-Open Access

Online versions of journals have made quick inroads at universities. However, subscriptions are expensive and those outside universities seldom have access. A new generation of open access journals is making planning research accessible beyond the campus. Some examples illustrate the range of material now available. Some are fully accessible and some are partially open to non-subscribers:

2 minute read

November 29, 2007, 8:43 AM PST

By Ann Forsyth


Online versions of journals have made quick inroads at universities. However, subscriptions are expensive and those outside universities seldom have access. A new generation of open access journals is making planning research accessible beyond the campus.

Some examples illustrate the range of material now available. Some are fully accessible and some are partially open to non-subscribers:

  • A few journals are fully free online and do not charge subscriptions or author submission fees. The new International Journal of Architectural Research, though focused on architecture, includes empirical studies and topics of interest to planners. The journal is based at MIT at the Archnet web site. It has something of an odd interface. One goes to the main page at http://archnet.org/gws/IJAR/, scrolls down to the "volumes tab", is led to a second interface, has to click on tabs for each issue and then scroll down to find PDFs. However, given the lack of architectural journals it has attracted interesting submissions. For example, planners may appreciate Stefanos Polyzoides' reprinted commentary on architecture in volume 1, issue 3.
  • Other journals provide several free articles from each issue. For example, Progressive Planning, a magazine that includes many articles by academics aimed at a popular audience, typically places two to five articles online from each issue in html format: http://www.plannersnetwork.org/publications/magazine.html. The full magazine is available to members in a password protected PDF format. However, almost all articles in the Spring 2007 issue-featuring work on New Orleans and on advocacy planning--were put online: http://www.plannersnetwork.org/publications/mag_2007_2_spring.html.
  • Still other journals, such as the Journal of the American Planning Association include a few free articles online-for JAPA such articles are not available for all issues: http://www.planning.org/japa/byissue/index.htm.
  • Finally are journals that are open access but that charge authors, a practice based in the sciences. The International Journal of Health Geographics is one of the new generation of journals requiring a stiff fee for submission-over $1,500-but then not charging for subscriptions. While the jury is still out on this approach, the journal contains much interesting work using GIS. Their recent articles include many of interest to planners: http://www.ij-healthgeographics.com/articles/browse.asp

Overall, even those without university libraries now have significant access to planning scholarship. However, full access comes with a stiff price, a matter of concern to those interested in the accessibility of information.

Finally, don't forget a single Google search to find such articles apparently uses as much energy as a low-wattage light bulb in an hour (see http://www.rightlivelihood.org/). So save energy elsewhere.

Ann Forsyth is a co-editor of Progressive Planning magazine and has helped create an information-rich web site, Design for Health.


Ann Forsyth

Trained in planning and architecture, Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From 2007-2012 she was a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell. She taught previously at at the University of Minnesota, directing the Metropolitan Design Center (2002-2007), Harvard (1999-2002), and the University of Massachusetts (1993-1999) where she was co-director of a small community design center, the Urban Places Project. She has held short-term positions at Columbia, Macquarie, and Sydney Universities.

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