25 November 2015

Academic boycotts

Mark Carrigan’s website poses this question as part of a lead-up to a roundtable in early December:

Why have researchers been so ready to campaign against for-profit academic publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis/Informa, but not against for-profit platforms such as Academia.edu, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar?

Because “someone’s making money” isn’t what bugs researchers. What bugs researchers is being impeded from the business of doing their research.

Paywalls and subscription fees obstruct academics trying to do research.

Platforms like Google Scholar facilitate research. I could not do my job half as effectively if Google Scholar didn’t exist. Academia and ResearchGate haven’t been as useful yet, but I have never felt the frustration in using them like I have when I’ve hit the “pay now” screen for that article I want to read..

It’s also worth noting that the original question contains an assumption: that campaigns against for-profit publishers are major academic movements. But those calls for boycotts have...well... not exactly left those business struggling. They are still highly profitable, and show no visible signs of worrying that academics are going to stop submitting papers to their journals.

External links

As Academia.edu Grows, Some Scholars Voice Concerns

1 comment:

Jan Velterop said...

I agree that it is not profits, but paywalls and subscription fees that obstruct academics trying to do research. That doesn't mean, though, that the high cost of publishing isn't a problem, albeit to a large degree hidden to researchers (particularly the cost of subscriptions). Literally billions go into the publishing system, for-profit or not, which could be used for research.

Realistically, changing the system wholesale is a very long-term project. Many decades, if not longer. But meanwhile the case could be made for a kind of transition in the form of a more widespread use of already existing methods that separate the essence of communication of research results from the approbation and assessment mechanisms that journals really are (CADs, Career Advancement Devices). I argue the case for separating informal publication of results and formal, peer-reviewed assessment via journals here: http://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/10/29/science-which-needs-communication-first-careers-which-need-selectivity-later/, and just such separation can produce material financial savings (if Academia indeed wants that) as well as remove the barriers of paywalls without boycotts.

Jan Velterop