This briefing paper aims to provide a historical perspective that can inform the debates about what the future of academic publishing should look like. We argue that current policy regarding open access publishing, and many of the other proposals for the reform of academic publishing, have been too focused on the opportunities and financial challenges of the most recent changes in digital communications technologies and have given undue weight to commercial concerns. In 2013, the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded a 4-year project on the editorial and commercial history of the world’s oldest-surviving scholarly journal (‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: a social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal, 1665-2015’, AH/K001841). The project is led by Dr Aileen Fyfe at the University of St Andrews in partnership with the Royal Society. The project team convened a workshop at the Royal Society, 22 April 2016, on ‘The Politics of Academic Publishing, 1950-2016’. This briefing paper is informed by the contributions of those who attended that day, and we thank them for their insights.
‘Public access to publicly funded research’ has been one of the rallying calls of the global open access movement. Governments and public institutions around the world have mandated that publications supported by public funding sources should be publicly accessible. Publishers are experimenting with new models to widen access. Yet financial flows underpinning scholarly publishing remain complex and opaque. In this article we present work to trace and reassemble a picture of financial flows around the publication of journals in the UK in the midst of a national shift towards open access. We contend that the current lack of financial transparency around scholarly communication is an obstacle to evidence-based policy-making – leaving researchers, decision-makers and institutions in the dark about the systemic implications of new financial models. We conclude that obtaining a more joined up picture of financial flows is vital as a means for researchers, institutions and others to understand and shape changes to the sociotechnical systems that underpin scholarly communication.
research libraries, scholarly communication, academic publishing in libraries, digital repositories
Poetry and poetics
Nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture
Academic publishing and Open Access
Dogs named Squirrel
I am a self-employed, independent scholar with a PhD (History) from Canada’s York University, with a long history of trade and academic publishing.
Digital Academic Publishing
Destroying the distinction between fiction and nonfiction
Helping build, define, publish and promote post-monograph, digitally mediated scholarly argument
This essay explores the various state(s) and future(s) of academic publishing, and also makes an argument for the radical hope of a vibrantly futurist University-Library, and the formation of new cultural-intellectual-artistic publics, that would come into being in new para-institutional spaces.
My work at the University of Illinois Press is exciting and multi-faceted as I work to build collaborative relationships on all three U of I campuses and in the community, and to help broaden the Press’s development program to support a second century of excellence in academic publishing.
I’m the founder and CEO of Ideas on Fire, an academic publishing and consulting agency helping interdisciplinary, progressive academics write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds. I host the Imagine Otherwise podcast, which highlights the awesome people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds.
The past twenty years have witnessed a mounting crisis in academic publishing. Companies such as Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor and Francis have earned unprecedented profits by controlling more and more scholarly output while increasing subscription rates to academic journals. Thus publishers have consolidated their influence despite widespread hopes that digital platforms would disperse control over knowledge production. Open access initiatives dating back to the mid-1990s evidence a religious zeal for overcoming corporate interests in academic publishing, with key advocates branding their efforts as archivangelism. Little attention has been given to the legacy or implications of religious rhetoric in open access debates despite its increasing pitch in recent years. This essay shows how the Protestant imaginary reconciles–rather than opposes–open access initiatives with market economics by tracing the rhetoric of openness to free-market liberalism. Working against the tendency to accept the Reformation as an analogy for the relationship between knowledge production, publishers, and academics, we read Protestantism as a counterproductive element of the archivangelist inheritance.