The Political Economics of Open Access Publishing – A series
One of the odd things about scholarly publishing is how little any particular group of stakeholders seems to understand the perspective of others. It is easy to start with researchers ourselves, who are for the most part embarrassingly ignorant of what publishing actually involves. But those who have spent a career in publishing are equally ignorant (and usually dismissive to boot) of researchers’ perspectives. Each in turn fail to understand what libraries are or how librarians think. Indeed the naive view that libraries and librarians are homogenous is a big part of the problem. Librarians in turn often fail to understand the pressures researchers are under, and are often equally ignorant of what happens in a professional publishing operation. And of course everyone hates the intermediaries.
That this is a political problem in a world of decreasing research resources is obvious. What is less obvious is the way that these silos have prevented key information and insights from travelling to the places where they might be used. Divisions that emerged a decade ago now prevent the very collaborations that are needed, not even to build new systems, but to bring together the right people to realise that they could be built.
I’m increasingly feeling that the old debates (what’s a reasonable cost, green vs gold, hybrid vs pure) are sterile and misleading. That we are missing fundamental economic and political issues in funding and managing a global scholarly communications ecosystem by looking at the wrong things. And that there are deep and damaging misunderstandings about what has happened, is happening, and what could happen in the future.
Of course, I live in my own silo. I can, I think, legitimately claim to have seen more silos than the average; in jobs, organisations and also disciplines. So it seems worth setting down that perspective. What I’ve realised, particularly over the past few months is that these views have crept up on me, and that there are quite a few things to be worked through, so this is not a post, it is a series, maybe eventually something bigger. Here I want to set out some headings, as a form of commitment to writing these things down. And to continuing to work through these things in public.
I won’t claim that this is all thought through, nor that I’ve got (even the majority of) it right. What I do hope is that in getting things down there will be enough here to be provocative and useful, and to help us collectively solve, and not just continue to paper over, the real challenges we face.
So herewith a set of ideas that I think are important to work through. More than happy to take requests on priorities, although the order seems roughly to make sense in my head.
- What is it publishers do anyway?
- What’s the technical problem in reforming scholarly publishing
- The marginal costs of article publishing: Critiquing the Standard Analytics Paper and follow up
- What are the assets of a journal?
- A journal is a club: New Working Paper
- Economies of scale
- The costs (and savings) of community (self) management
- Luxury brands, platform brands and emerging markets (or why Björn might be right about pricing)
- Constructing authority: Prestige, impact factors and why brand is not going away
- Submission shaping, not selection, is the key to a successful publishing operation
- Challenges to the APC model I: The myth of “the cost per article”
- Challenges to the APC model II: Fixed and variable costs in scholarly publishing
- Alternative funding models and the risks of a regulated market
- If this is a service industry why hasn’t it been unbundled already (or where is the Uber of scholarly publishing?)
- Shared infrastructure platforms supporting community validation: Quality at scale. How can it be delivered and what skills and services are needed?
- Breaking the deadlock: Where are the points where effective change can be started?