Research conducted at state universities is mostly financed with public money: As such, knowledge is a public good and should therefore also be publically accessible. Tradition dictates that research results are published in scientific journals, which are of vital importance for the career paths of researchers. However, even today, these journals are usually published by large publishing houses, whose respective business models prescribe the raising of revenues from public libraries and academic institutions. This is the case even though almost all of the articles that come to be published are penned by researchers who are largely publically funded. What is more, to a significant extent, the selection and peer review process applied to the articles is also conducted by researchers who receive publically funded salaries. In most instances, the performance of these duties – generally considered to be part of the scope of reputable academic activities – goes unpaid. Meanwhile, over the past few years, the trend towards “open access” has steadily gained pace: Conventional journal contributions are either “bought out” from authors’ contracts and published in a publically accessible manner (green road), or articles appear in journals established specifically for this purpose, which are committed to the provision of open access (gold road). The first batch of open access journals following the “gold road” is now beginning to emerge in the economic sciences, among them the recently initiated “Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design”.
The “Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design” (jMID) endeavours to publish original papers addressing the design, analysis and evaluation of economic, political or social mechanisms and institutions. In (nearly) every case, game theory represents the bracket that enfolds articles from a multitude of disciplines, in line with the editors’ understanding of game theory as the comprehensive method spanning the breadth of the social sciences. According to the team, it lends itself very well to the design or the comparison of social incentive structures. Examples from the recent past – which are also addressed in the first issue of the journal – range from overcoming bottlenecks in organ transplantation via platforms for emissions trading, through to school place allocation and auction theory. The editorial team is convinced that the published articles will be of interest to a wide audience from the scientific disciplines pertaining to economics, finance, politics, informatics, management, history, mathematics, public administration, and related subjects. The first issue was published recently and can be accessed online at http://www.mechanism-design.org/.
A team of scientists working on their own initiative publishes the journal at the University of York (Great Britain), with co-editors located in Klagenfurt (Austria), Lund (Sweden) and Oxford (Great Britain). More than 50 associated editors are involved in the publication process: leading experts from across the globe, all of whom work for free. The journal is open access, independent, peer-reviewed, and does not realize any profits, while simultaneously pursuing the goal of disseminating high-quality current findings and scientific approaches as widely as possible. The journal’s running costs are covered by donations (in particular from the institutions where the editors work); there are no costs at all for authors and readers. As one of the very first open access journals to embrace the theoretical social sciences in their entirety, jMID combines the three principles of 1) self-administration which is guided solely by academic principles, 2) free-of-cost publication and 3) genuinely open access. One of the four co-editors is Paul Schweinzer (Department of Economics) at the Alpen-Adria-Universität, who sees the founding of these kinds of open access journals as a wonderful opportunity to crack open the mechanisms of the conventional publishing industry, because: “The world needs more and better informed facts, and these facts require more transparency. And: The more publically accessible scientifically substantiated insight is, the better.”