Conceptualizing, Financing and Infrastructuring Open Access in STS Work
Transnational STS Publishing Working Group | T-STS Network
October 30, 2020
The October 30th meeting of the Transnational STS Publishing working group is slated to discuss the conceptualization, financing and infrastructuring of open access in STS work. Recent issues include the lack of digital preservation of OA journals and questions about whose responsibility that is; increased rent-seeking behavior of commercial mega-publishers and corporate take-over of scholarly infrastructures; and divergent conceptualizations of open access and its purpose which we have seen increasingly coming to a head in discussions over the Plan S policy (see for example responses to Plan S from AmeliCA, ALLEA, and the International African Institute). During the discussion, the working group will seek to understand: how can open scholarly practices and infrastructures enable transnational and cross-generational connections? What barriers exist to realizing (and sustaining) these connections and how have different groups attempted to tackle these challenges?
The discussion will use this draft paper “Perspectives on Open Access in Africa” as a jumping off point for discussion. It would be helpful to review the paper in advance as well as some of the supplemental data here.
Conceptualizing Open Access
Is publishing under Open Access intended to support academics expected to perform under particular university and international standards of “excellence” (making what is already produced as “scholarship” within the traditional academy more accessible) or is Open Access about broadening the reach of scholarship beyond the academy (and relatedly, broadening what is considered scholarship in the first place)?
This fundamental question raised in the paper directly influences the implementation and practice of Open Access. How have different journals (in STS and/or other fields) thought about why Open Access matters? How has that influenced your policies, practices and decisions around OA?
Funding Open Access
Finances are obviously needed to run publishing outfits, no matter how radical their vision. See quotes from the paper repasted here:
Oniang’o, who left a full university professorship position in 1996 to run the journal she founded full-time described: “We are published by a Trust so we would like to turn that into a private company to try and generate resources. We have more manuscripts than we can handle. … so the challenge then became how do we raise funding. Personally I don't get paid in fact I feel I benefit more from it, because it keeps my mind going. I find it very exciting, but I have to run a system that you know that compensates those that help me to run this. ... [if] we now go down [because we don’t have money to run the journal] it won't just make sense. [So]… I'm...excited to learn about how to go commercial [laughs] because we have to sustain... have to sustain the journal you know. And we have to make it work.” (23:14)
Adebowale, whose Dakar-based independent academic publishing house runs on a commercial model: “...So how to fit the Open Access model for scholarly monographs would be an area I would really, really like us to touch on...for a private publisher, a commercial publisher that do not get funding for the work. ...open access as both a model to promote the work [scholarly monographs in particular], to promote the printed version, is interesting to me, but also as a model to get the word to the furthest reach possible is interesting to me. And how to fit that into the commercial model of publishing that I'm currently involved in? I know some publishers in Africa have tried it and … maybe [only] one I know...has in a way been successful...” (3:39).
What kinds of funding models have different journals (in STS and/or other fields) used? Lessons learned? Advice?
Local journals like AJFAND “may be addressing African local issues, but … still have to be seen to be competing internationally.” How can international bodies help facilitate such processes to enable smaller journals with more localized reach to also be credentialed and circulate without needing “scale”? As Adebowale pointed out, there is a need to experiment and innovate around better models of collaboration both intra-national/intra-regional and transnational.
How might we as journals and allied organizations reduce the competitive friction of individualized “success” and instead encourage more creative, egalitarian, and innovative models of partnership around scholarly publishing? What are some possible practical steps? What do people need? What could we do together as a collective?