GESF - Open Access… Closed Economy?

22 May 2015, 1.30 PM - 22 May 2015, 3.00 PM

Dr Chris Muellerleile


Globalisation, Education & Social Futures

Time: 1:30 - 3pm


This paper makes the case that despite the attention it receives, open access journal publishing is only one small component of a larger dynamic of openness surrounding academic knowledge production. Most importantly the paper argues that the context—or medium—that open access articles, and more importantly data about all journal articles, are dependent upon to become useful and meaningful is quickly being economized by for- profit publishers. Despite the belief of many academic researchers and curators of journals that this is an economy based on the content—or use value—of research articles, this emergent economy is largely based on exchange values, which has a different social and spatial constitution. This new economy is highly digitized, filtered and framed by for-profit firms, and constituted by new spaces of assessment, metrics, comparison, and competition. This paper offers a brief overview of the open access publishing landscape, explores some of the emerging strategies of academics and publishers given the transition to open access, and finally presents a brief case study of Elsevier, the largest of the for-profit academic publishers. It suggests that Elsevier is one step ahead of the open access game in the ways it is developing expertise and capacity as a science, academic, and university data aggregator. In all of this Elsevier, along with the other publishing conglomerates, is constructing a new global economy of academic assessment and competition, much of which is based on the very real, but nevertheless derivative value of academic research and academic journals. It concludes by questioning whether running headlong into the world of openness is actually a counter-productive move for academics and academic institutions that seek to produce high-quality, intellectually meaningful, and socially impactful knowledge.

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