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Can (should) academia take back scholarly publishing?

satisfactionA couple of years ago, my fellow Chef Kent Anderson responded (quite strongly) in this forum to an opinion piece by George Monbiot in which Monbiot characterized academic publishers as “the most ruthless capitalists in the western world” and as “parasitic overlords” and called for scholars to “liberate the research that belongs to us.” Kent’s response, for its part, characterized Monbiot’s piece as a “rant” and as “uninformed, unhinged, and unfair.” As one might imagine, his posting generated a very long and sometimes fascinating comment stream.

Fast-forward to last month, when I wrote a post about what I believe to be “signal distortions” contributing to a very weird set of economic dynamics in the scholarly publishing industry. At the end of that piece I mentioned that there are some who would clearly welcome the “taking back” of scholarly publishing by the academy, and I promised to share thoughts about that. (For the rest of this post, the phrase “scholarly publishing” should be understood to refer mainly to scholarly journal publishing. The academy already competes directly with commercial publishers in the book realm.)

The question I’d like to address here is not whether we in the academy should “take back publishing” from the commercial scholarly publishers, but rather what the options for doing so might be, and whether any of those options seems feasible at the moment (whether or not desirable).

Click here to read more from this May 13, 2015 Scholarly Kitchen post by Rick Anderson.

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