We are living in Occupied Scholarly Territory


[This is a short post as I am testing whether I can post from my guest room (I probably can't blog from the main lab)]. I shall explore this theme, probably getting even more angrier that I am.

We have ceded the homeland of Scholarly Publishing to the commercial closed access publishers. For me the only true goal is that we regain the ability to control our scholarship – authoring, publishing, reading, re-use. I don't see many people actively formulating this goal and doing something about it. I don't think many people, even in the OA community, actually care about this. I haven't formulated it well, but that's because there has been a 10-year vacuum of thought and action.

There are two intermediate positions: Green, which cedes the moral right of publication to the publishers and negotiates scrappy deals on the least profitable land. "You can grow hay on this plot as long as you continue to let us exploit the best land. You can only do this during these months (because we say so) and if you are too successful we'll find another way to stop you". Green OA is appeasement. It has no political force and is entirely dependent on the whim of the publisher. For me NO OA mandates should even think of green. (Hybrid is even worse, we pay the publishers twice to remain under their control).

Gold, which says nothing about the means of production. It gives the readers rights, and these are sufficient for readers if full CC-BY is applied. (It makes no concession to the innovation of the web.) It gives the authors no rights, other than to make their work available to the world. It does not allow them freedom of expression or freedom of innovation in the publishing process. That's not to say it isn't useful in the interim but the publishers are still occupying our homeland. Some publishers do understand this and are moving, but the OA offerings from major (closed) access publishers still treat authors as second class (or worse).

What we need for OA is a clear political manifesto (we don't have one) and clear courses of action.

Where is the Open Access Salt March?

Where are the Open Access busses?

Where are the Open Access Suffragettes?

Where are the people who have gone to court and possibly to jail for their beliefs? Mumbly platitudes (such as the lamentable Florida State university cop-out) don't change the world.

On odd days of the week (this seems to be one) I despair. On even days I think we are winning.

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0 Responses to We are living in Occupied Scholarly Territory

  1. Tas says:

    Peter, you protray this as an us and them scenario. However, a large of prominent scientists work for the traditional publishers sitting on editorial boards and enabling the system to continue. How can the system change, when scientists themselves enable publishers to dominate the scholarly publications landscape?

    • pm286 says:

      Good question, and thanks for posting
      In many occupied territories there are those who work with the occupiers ("collaborators", "Quislings", "the British Raj", etc.). I am afraid they are part of "them" - the problem.

      How it can change is what I am actively trying to explore. We need as many imaginative people as possible who formulate the basic problem (which we haven't yet done), the basic goals and then the means to achieve them. There is little sense of urgency - "it's the libraries problem" or whatever. I am takiing the fight to the scholarly poor who couldn't care a brass farthing about the professors. The scholarly poor will give them short shrift when the crash comes

    • Mike Taylor says:

      "Peter, you protray this as an us and them scenario."

      Is is an us-and-them scenario. See this very insightful analysis (on a blog that I contribute to, but this article is not by me):

      The bottom line is that authors want their work to be read; and publishers' business model is to prevent people from reading it. Their and our goals are not merely out of alignment, they are diametrically opposed.

      • pm286 says:

        If you haven't read Mike's post (I have, several times) do so now. And then either become converted, or tell us why not. Because, honestly, I cannot see how rational humans with something similar to common human values (not even a conscience) cannot see the value of Openness.

      • Tas says:

        I guess it depends on how you define 'us'. If you mean us as in we the people who are committed to OA then you are right but if you mean 'us' as in the scientists vs. publishers, then the lines are more blurred than that. There has been a substantial failure, despite 20 years of OA, to communicate the benefits and potential. It's more or less only the last few years the some inroads have been made but we have barely scratched the surface. The amount of grey material, that is locked away and hidden when it has massive potential to accelerate technological development, is staggering.

        • Mike Taylor says:

          "If you mean us as in we the people who are committed to OA then you are right but if you mean ‘us’ as in the scientists vs. publishers, then the lines are more blurred than that."

          Not really. We have been habituated to believe that publishers' interests align with our own, but as Matt's article (linked above) shows, that simply isn't the case. David Parry said it well: "If you publish in a journal which charges for access, you are not published, you are private-ed".

          "There has been a substantial failure, despite 20 years of OA, to communicate the benefits and potential."

          That's true; and it is of course the very problem that we are now trying to fix.

  2. Barbara Fister says:

    But what about when the scientists are the publishers? I'm looking at you ACS and Royal Society. These are scientific societies founded to spread knowledge and promote science but their prices are crazy-high. The chemists I know tell me (a librarian) "well, jeez, you should be given more money." I want to say "jeez, you should care more about promoting science and get control of your own organization." It's hard to communicate the benefits of OA when scientists themselves reap the benefits of imposing tolls and can't imagine any other way of promoting science.

    • pm286 says:

      The ACS does not promote science, it promotes the ACS. When the NIH created a free open database of open chemicals the ACS spent money and energy lobbying congress to get it closed down. They nearly won. This is not promoting science, it is sheer greed and self-centeredness.

      Yes, it's hard. We cannot wait for Planck's method of progress - funerals. But so few scientists seem to even know there is a problem. I do what I can. And my brain is constantly looking for new approaches.

      It's not about money. It's about ownership.

  3. Pingback: Around the Web: #OccupyScholComm in chronological order : Confessions of a Science Librarian

  4. Pingback: Around the Web: #OccupyScholComm in chronological order [Confessions of a Science Librarian] | Digital Brain ; Science and Technology News

  5. It seems that writer's will always struggle and battle publishers. Although their "ends" are the same (well, for the most part it is to make money on both sides), but the mans are surely different.

    It's interesting that Peter touched on mode of production. Based on this it's still clear that the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat prevails even between writers and publishers. Again, the same theme - same end, different mean and reason.

    Great post btw.

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