Do not go gentle

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This post is a plea really to academics to not surrender rights, or the promise of openness so readily. I completely understand that I am in a privileged position, and it’s easy for me as a prof to say “only publish in open access”, or “share your stuff openly”. But it’s a different story if you are a new researcher, and after one of those ever more elusive permanent positions. But even so, I am often surprised at just how readily academics acquiesce to bad deals, particularly with regards to publishing.

I have frequently heard “I would love to publish open access, but in my field I can’t”. Or “I tried, but they said no.” And that is it, there is no attempt to find an alternative journal, to negotiate the embargo period with a publisher, to offer any form of push back. Academics frequently underestimate their power I think. As I mentioned a few years ago, I took the open access oath (only reviewing and writing for open access). It is a remarkably effective step. Our labour (offered freely to journals) is all we have, but the system requires it to operate.

Similarly, I have heard academics state that they would like to develop an online profile, but it would be frowned upon by their boss. Academic life seems to me to be increasingly precarious, and this climate of doubt and uncertainty can be abused. You have to tow the line ever more to get, or stay in a job. But academics are remarkably good at fighting against attacks on the integrity of their discipline. I don’t feel that they have become accustomed to thinking of their labour and outputs in the same way. So my plea is this – push back a bit. Ask the question about open access, refuse to do the review, start a modest (non-job threatening) online profile. Each time we acquiesce quietly makes it harder next time.

4 Comments

  1. Hello Martin,
    What’s your position on self-archiving as a complement to publishing in closed journals )not for you personally, as you have taken the oath, but in principle)? My experience is that it is not necessarily publishing open-access that raised the profile of my papers, but making versions of them available and visible.

    1. Hi Colin
      yes, I think self archiving is great, if that is the version that people find and access. My pushback here would be on embargo times -some publishers say you can’t self archive for 12 months, which is ridiculous. Also, you own the last version before it is typeset by them, so people often think they cannot put up a version without the publisher’s consent. This is part of my easy acquiescence moan – you wrote the goddamn thing, you should be free to put up a version if you wish.

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