Publish AND Perish – a radical rethink of academic publishing

The business model of academic publishing is based on a double, or even triple, appropriation of public resources where universities pay for the research, writing, reviewing and even editing of journals, which they then have to buy back for their libraries, says the authors of a new paper entitled “The poverty of journal publishing".

In both its political economy, and its concern with ranking the productivity of academics through their research outputs, the academic publishing industry is at the forefront of strategies of privatization and accumulation of knowledge through intellectual property rights, as well as the measurement and exploitation of immaterial labour, says the authors.

After outlining the current business model, and explaining why it is a poor basis for the production and circulation of knowledge, Armin Beverungen of Leuphana University in Germany and two colleagues from the University of Essex in UK consider four possible responses to these iniquities. These are : a further expansion of open access research repositories; a ‘fair trade’ model wherein academics are recompensed for their up-to-now free labour; a return to in-house, university press publishing; and autonomous publishing controlled by free associations of academics and affiliated researchers.

Of these, they see the most potential in the latter: a re-appropriation of academic labour through the simple strategy of cutting out the publishers entirely and publishing open-access, online journals directly under the control of their editorial board