On 22nd September I’ll be participating in a panel on funding and business mechanisms for equitable open access for the 2020 OASPA conference. I’ll be using the opportunity to discuss some of the projects I’m involved in – notably the Radical Open Access Collective and the Community-led Open Publishing Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project – in order to highlight the different approaches to business models and sustainability that these projects may entail. In particular, drawing on my recent work with Janneke Adema, I will be discussing ‘scaling small’, an organisational philosophy that seeks to build resilience within scholarly publishing through mutual reliance and collaboration. Scaling small is an approach that preserves the locality and (biblio)diversity of approaches to publishing while encouraging presses to work together on shared technical, infrastructural and other publishing projects. Predicated on an ethic of care, in direct opposition to the cookie-cutter economies of scale preferred by the larger commercial publishers, scaling small intends to nurture cooperation (over competition) as a sustaining force for global scholarly communication. I’ll be discussing the opportunities and potential drawbacks of this approach for a more ethical and equitable ecosystem of open access scholarly publishing.
The panel is on Tuesday 22nd September at 5pm BST and will feature the following other participants:
Vivian Berghahn Berghahn Books, UK
Sharla Lair LYRASIS, USA
Alexia Hudson-Ward Oberlin College and Conservatory, USA
Chair: Charles Watkinson, University of Michigan, USA
Transformative agreements are an increasingly common way for universities and consortia to shift publisher business models towards open access. They do this through a prearranged payment that allows institutions to access subscription content while allowing future research to published in an openly accessible form. These deals are a way for publishers to continue to receive subscription income and boast about their open access content, while universities value them as a cost-neutral strategy for transitioning away from subscriptions towards open access (read Lisa Hinchliffe’s primer for an excellent summary of transformative agreements)
The UKRI open access consultation deadline is this Friday and we’re likely to see a flurry of responses leading up to it. One response to the consultation caught my eye today from the Friends of Coleridge, a society that ‘exists to foster interest in the life and works of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his circle’. I wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts on this because I think it represents something quite interesting about the way that open access is playing out within UK humanities organisations.
On February 26th, what feels like a lifetime ago now, the Los Angeles Times published a column with the headline ‘COVID-19 could kill the for-profit science publishing model. That would be a good thing’. Its author, Michael Hiltzik, argues that for-profit publishing is ‘under assault by universities and government agencies frustrated at being forced to pay for access to research they’ve funded in the first place.’ Hiltzik doesn’t really go into how open access confronts the for-profit model, and instead offers a somewhat crude summary of the importance of open science during the pandemic, including preprints, open collaboration, data sharing and open access to research.
As this feels like the first day in a while that I have enough concentration to write, I thought I’d take the opportunity to jot down some thoughts guided by the question: what on earth can the pandemic teach us about open access to knowledge?
The term ‘predatory publisher’ reveals a limit of language – or rather it asks too much of language. It seeks a binary separation between ‘predatory’ and ‘non-predatory’ where no such separation can exist, ultimately illustrating more about the motivations and hidden biases about the accuser than the supposedly predatory journal at hand. We therefore need another way to conceptualise the practices that predatory publishing seeks to describe.
When the original BOAI declaration on open access was published, one of its stated aims was to ‘save money and expand the scope of dissemination at the same time’ through open access publishing. The web offered distribution costs that the authors claimed were ‘far lower’ than print publishing and so OA was seen at least in part as something that could ease library budgets ailing from above-inflation journal subscription prices, all while making research available to the public. Arguably, the BOAI statement was quite measured in its focus only on distribution costs (which clearly are cheaper in an online world); but despite this, many people claim that the cost of publishing more generally should be less in an open-access world. Some advocates have even tried to calculate how much an article should cost to publish.
If you’re at all interested in open access publishing, you probably know that it has a long and complicated history. There are disagreements and differences over strategies, tactics, politics, definitions, motivations, disciplinary approaches, business models and routes to OA. Many words have been spilled over the ‘mess’ that open access has become and the fact that the concept of open access itself has a number of different lineages. The OA ‘movement’ is not therefore a unified movement — nor has it ever been — but is a disparate collection of arguments and projects in favour of freely accessible research.
I write a lot about scholar-led publishing. My thesis explored the differences between scholar-led and policy-based forms of open access, and I’ve recently published an article about early academic-led experiments in e-journal publishing. I love what the ScholarLed consortium is doing for open access and look forward to seeing the infrastructures and forms of governance that the consortium members design and build for open monograph publishing.
As early-career researchers, one of the first things we are told about publishing is not to release our research as part of an edited volume. Chapters in edited volumes are not nearly as valued for career progression as journal articles, even though they may take the same amount of time and care to produce. When I edited a volume on open research data a few years ago, the most common reason for declining to submit a chapter was that it would simply not be valued for career purposes.