A statement by the COPIM project addressing our stance towards the corporate acquisition of OA infrastructure, and the structures and safeguards we are putting in place to ensure that our infrastructure will remain community-owned and governed.
At COPIM, we have noted the recent acquisition of Knowledge Unlatched by Wiley, which itself follows Knowledge Unlatched’s opaque transition in 2016 from a UK Community Interest Company (a non-profit organisation) into a German GmbH (roughly equivalent to a UK PLC, i.e. a for-profit company). This move by Wiley is one of several recent acquisitions of open access (OA) infrastructure by large commercial organisations, such as bepress by Elsevier in 2017, and F1000 Research by Taylor & Francis in 2020. It reflects an ongoing consolidation of research infrastructure by major publishing corporations, and in particular the increasing attempts to monetise and, potentially, monopolise the infrastructures of open knowledge dissemination.
From its beginning, COPIM has been driven by the belief, held by all its partners (a consortium of universities, libraries, scholar-led OA publishers and research infrastructure providers) that the infrastructure we rely on to publish and disseminate OA books should itself be open, and owned and governed by the research communities that use it. We have repeatedly cited the widely-quoted argument by Bilder, Lin and Neylon that ‘Everything we have gained by opening content and data will be under threat if we allow the enclosure of scholarly infrastructures’ and this motivates and shapes our work. The recent acquisitions of OA infrastructures by large for-profit corporations pose precisely this threat.
By contrast, the central philosophy of COPIM, which we have discussed publicly and written about extensively, is that of ‘scaling small’:
an alternative organisational principle for governing community-led publishing projects based on mutual reliance, care, and other forms of commoning […] this principle eschews standard approaches to organisational growth that tend to flatten community diversity through economies of scale. Instead, it puts forward the idea that scale can be nurtured through intentional collaborations between community-driven projects that promote a bibliodiverse ecosystem while providing resilience through resource sharing and other kinds of collaboration.