This post, written by Prof. Martin Paul Eve, is an introduction to the next episode of the ‘BoOkmArks: Open Conversations About OA Books’ series. A live session will be held via this Zoom link on November 23rd at 16:00 CET / 15:00 GMT/10AM ET, when we will interview Martin, the co-editor of a newly published book on open access: Reassembling Scholarly Communications. Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access. If you have questions for Martin, please add them to the comments section below so they can be included in the conversation on November 23rd — and join us at the event if you can!
by Martin Paul Eve
It can be easy to forget, in the maelstrom of policy compliance, that open access is, at its heart, about the fundamental good of scholarly communications. Too often, we lose sight of why we are doing open access as we are bogged down in the how. Indeed, the ‘how’s of funder mandates, article processing charges, embargo periods, and other procedural elements have frequently led to a situation where the first encounter that researchers have with open access is negative, a mere demand for conformity, rather than a celebration of the possibilities of free-to-read and free-to-reuse, peer-reviewed knowledge.
It is, then, to the more complex and rich histories and mechanisms of open access that our recently edited book, Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access, is dedicated. Split into six sections that span colonial influences; epistemologies; publics and politics; archives and preservation; infrastructures and platforms; and global communities, this book, published openly with The MIT Press, aims to interrogate the way things were, the way things are, and the way things might or could be in the future, with respect to open access.
A core thread that runs through the book is the issue of social justice. It seems to me key to reclaim for open access its status as a force for public good in the world. The frames of analyses that help us to do so include examinations of the unequal emergence of scholarly publication infrastructures, worldwide, and the exclusionary systems that perpetuate ongoing prestige differentials, based on the historic wealth and colonial status of nations. These inequalities are replicated in article processing charge models; in the subjects that journals will permit to be published; and even in the popular myths around the histories of public libraries. They will be addressed through new paradigms of cooperative (library) publishing; by inclusive and diverse preservation strategies; and in new platform tenets that cement commitments to all communities. Our problems with open access may be addressed through an ethics of care or with Afrofuturist thinking, as our contributors suggest.
Of course, while much of the book is theoretical and historical, our contributors do not shy from reality. There are chapters describing the history of the massive South American publishing initiative, SciELO; a chapter considering what a Linked Open Data system for Latin America might look like; ruminations on the infrastructuralisation of OA; and the politics of opening sensitive archives of atrocities. The book contains histories of the Royal Society’s publishing programmes alongside notes on the evolution of copyright. To contain multitudes, rather than simplistic (yet more palatable) grand narratives is here the goal.
Which is all to say that this work, complementing the practical efforts for open-access that I and my co-editor, Jonathan Gray undertake, intends to provoke a conversation. What is that conversation about? I will delegate my final words in this introductory post to our own conclusion. At the core of the matter, I believe, is this: ‘Until we dismantle the prestige-economy scaffold on which the edifice of academic publishing is hung, the North-to-South export of elite open access and its associated cost-concentrating business models will continue to have dire consequences’.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.