“In the nearly 20 years since the publication of the three declarations on open access (OA) (Bethesda, Budapest, and Berlin), many digital and economic developments have altered the landscape of open scholarly publishing. Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access, a 25-chapter collection edited by Martin Paul Eve and Jonathan Gray, explores questions raised by these changes with a focus on how the intersection of technologies and traditions surrounding publishing and OA are informed by the past and may project into the future.
The book is divided into six parts: colonial influences; epistemologies; publics and politics; archives and preservation; infrastructures and platforms; and global communities. The editors have chosen well in assembling dozens of scholars and practitioners from both the Global South and Global North in this useful volume aimed at those who study and practice OA scholarship. Each of the chapters succeeds in advancing the conversation regarding either the historical dimensions or future directions of a particular facet of open scholarship. The collection seeks to provide a range of perspectives across current research and inform practice but is not introductory and those new to the conversation may do well to first read an overview of OA scholarly communication.1
As with many developments in digital technology, the earliest rhetoric around digital, OA scholarship was largely, even overly, optimistic. Many of the assumptions underpinning OA disruption posited inevitably greater freedom and openness in scholarly communication.
The volume opens with four chapters that complicate this narrative and offer a deeply insightful critique of the promise of OA scholarship, specifically as it relates to post-colonial societies. In Chapter 1, the author draws from Jacques Derrida’s scholarship on Plato’s Pharmacy to explore the ways that OA implementation can be a sort of pharmakon (“poison remedy”) by fostering healthy scholarly flourishing in some regions while acting to noxious effect in the African context. The theme of OA systems and the perpetuation of inequality are expanded upon in the second chapter while the final two chapters of the first section, drawing from current best practices, offer suggestions for a more just and inclusive future….”
“It is remarkable to see how within two decades, technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate information, making research more freely available to the broader public, and in doing so giving rise to new opportunities and challenges for publishing. In Building Equitable Access to Knowledge Through Open Access Repositories, Koutras illustrates how the so-called knowledge revolution has bestowed huge problems for copyright laws and intellectual protection. Yet as he argues, commercial publishers and university libraries can co-exist by collaboratively supporting open access repositories that offer the widest possible access to knowledge promoting greater social inclusion for a more fair and just global society. Koutras uses a wide variety of frameworks—including legal, philosophical, historical, economic, and ethical—to convince the reader of the enormous benefits that can be achieved through free equitable access to knowledge. After a productive analysis of how our digital landscape can extend access to information, which in turn helps construct knowledge economies for future sustainability and the safeguarding of human rights, this book takes the reader through the history of copyright, to explain how open access can be considered an infringement on IP rights, working against commercial profits and public expenses, and discouraging investments in technology. But contrary to this environment, Koutras illustrates optimistically how we can balance open access with copyright to facilitate a more efficient and equitable economy, and one where principles of corporate social responsibility can be central to the creation, preservation and sharing of research data through digital resources….”
“Literature reviews are a core part of academic research that are loathed by some and loved by others. The LSE Impact Blog recently presented two proposals on how to deal with the issues raised by literature reviews: Richard P. Phelps argues, due to their numerous flaws, we should simply get rid of them as a requirement in scholarly articles. In contrast, Arnaud Vaganay proposes, despite their flaws, we can save them by means of standardization that would make them more robust. Here, I put forward an alternative that strikes a balance between the two: Let’s build databases that help systemize academic research. There are examples of such databases in evidence-based health-care, why not replicate those examples more widely?…”
Richard Smith, a former editor at BMJ, reviews Jason Schmitt’s film, Paywall.
“As I watched Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, I was taken back 30 years to when I thought for the first time about the business aspects of academic publishing. I was an assistant editor at the BMJ, and the editor asked me to join a meeting with a group of rheumatologists who wanted a share in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, a journal we owned. “We do the research published in the journal”, said one of the rheumatologists. “We do the peer review, we edit the journal, we read it, and we store it in our libraries. What do you do?” “Tell them what we do”, said the editor to me. I was at a complete loss….”
“Shadow Librariesis a collection of country studies exploring “how students get the materials they need.” Most chapters report original research (usually responses to student surveys) in addition to providing useful background on the shadow library history of each nation (Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, India, Poland, and South Africa). As editor Karaganis puts it in his introduction, the book shows “the personal struggle to participate in global scientific and educational communities, and the recourse to a wide array of ad hoc strategies and networks when formal, authorized means are lacking… ” (p. 3). Shadow libraries, sometimes called pirate libraries, consist of texts (in this case, scholarly texts) aggregated outside the legal framework of copyright.
Karaganis’ introductory chapter does an excellent job summarizing the themes connecting the chapters, and is worth reading by itself. For example, the factors leading to the development of shadow libraries are common to each country covered: low income; a dysfunctional market in which materials either aren’t available or are overpriced; a rising student population; and easy access to copying and/or sharing technology. The student population boom in low and middle-income countries in the last 20 years is remarkable- quadrupling in India, tripling in Brazil, and doubling in Poland, Mexico, and South Africa. At the same time, reductions in state support for higher education have exacerbated the affordability problem, leaving the market to meet (or more commonly, not meet) demand. Add to this the tendency of publishers to price learning and research materials for libraries rather than individuals, and the result is a real crisis of legal access….”
“As for the articles themselves, Suber is a witty, intelligent, and compelling advocate for OA. In the first sections, Suber lays a foundation explaining OA and its emergence as a response to the serials pricing crisis and the development of the web. Across multiple articles, Suber lays out his strongest arguments for knowledge as a public good and for OA specifically, describes and refutes the opposing arguments, creates the vocabulary that distinguishes between flavors of OA, and presents evidence that OA can and will work.
Moving from the early overview chapters, Suber explores some practical applications that are useful for librarians looking to learn more about how OA can be implemented. One of the interesting concepts that he explores is “flipping a journal” (150), a process by which a journal could become OA by replacing the subscription fees imposed on readers with publication fees imposed on accepted authors. The model is not perfect, and Suber devotes considerable space to envisioning the realistic obstacles that would be faced in practice, but he ultimately views the process as a win-win that would allow publishers to explore OA without much risk. Elsewhere, Suber discusses scenarios for creating OA digitization projects, establishing OA for electronic theses and dissertations, and setting an OA policy for a funding agency or university. Suber’s advocacy is pragmatic throughout, arguing that different forms of OA are suited to different contexts and that, although some forms are more ideal than others, it is important to recognize all progress and not let the perfect become the enemy of the good….”
“This compelling blend of theory, policy, and practice is also on display in Suber’s fascinating new book, Knowledge Unbound: Selected Writings on Open Access, 2002-2011, published last year by MIT Press. Anyone with an interest in the rich history and evolving landscape of academic publishing should take note of Suber’s work. Director of both the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and the Harvard Open Access Project, Senior Researcher at SPARC and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, and Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, Suber became a leader in the open access movement during its pivotal decade, a period traced in this collection of forty-four essays….
For Suber, asking vital questions about the future of scholarly publishing naturally requires a critical stance toward “the assumption that the interests of the research community should be subordinated to the business interests of publishers” (p. 21). With forceful clarity, Suber guides the reader away from bended-knee paeans to a tiresome red herring, encouraging serious reflection about what scholarly publishing ought to accomplish in the first place….”
Andrew Lang’s review of Peter Suber’s Knowledge Unbound. “Suber is a witty, intelligent, and compelling advocate for OA. In the first sections, Suber lays a foundation explaining OA and its emergence as a response to the serials pricing crisis and the development of the web. Across multiple articles, Suber lays out his strongest arguments for knowledge as a public good and for OA specifically, describes and refutes the opposing arguments, creates the vocabulary that distinguishes between flavors of OA, and presents evidence that OA can and will work….Suber’s advocacy is pragmatic throughout, arguing that different forms of OA are suited to different contexts and that, although some forms are more ideal than others, it is important to recognize all progress and not let the perfect become the enemy of the good….Knowledge Unbound is an excellent resource for librarians looking to take a deep dive into the subject of open access.”
“Bhaskar winds down his argument with attention to likely futures and gives significant credence to open access publishing as the most plausible future for academic publishing: ‘Free content is becoming the norm in academic communications; academics, at least, want information to be free. It won’t eradicate prestigious names like Harvard and Chicago. However, it’s already forcing publishers with serious overheads to re-examine their business and content models. When a host of new entrants can survive on tiny or non-existent APCs then most players with financial drag face a stark choice: either adapt to OA or become uncompetitive and unappealing to authors (ch. 6).’ He encourages publishers to focus on being “amplifiers of content” rather than “makers of books,” and stresses the increasing amplificatory importance of good metadata, the strategic need for cooperation between small publishers as a “means of withstanding novel pressures,” and the exigency of smarter data collection and experimentation. All of these elements funnel into “harnessing attention” as an inexorable priority: “those who can gather and create attention are the new bankers of an attention economy” (ch. 6)….If Bhaskar is right about the future of publishing (and I think he is), his is in many ways an argument in favor of the library as the basecamp for the new scholarly publisher….“