Friday, September 14, 2018

A tipping point for academic publishing?

Perhaps. George Monbiot has a good opinion piece in The Guardian worth reading. This is hardly his first rodeo when it comes to writing about the distribution of wealth from the public sector to a handful of private sector publishing conglomerates. What is different is that some stakeholders, such as federal governments, grant agencies, and university libraries are pushing back at long last. Of course, there's also Sci-Hub, which is distributing what would otherwise be behind a paywall for free. I am a bit late to the party when it comes to Sci-Hub, but I can say that for someone who wants to do some data or manuscript sleuthing, it can be a valuable resource. I've had some opportunity to use that site as a means to quickly determine if a book chapter was (apparently) unwittingly self-plagiarized much more efficiently than if I waited for the actual book to arrive. When I reflect on why I decided to pursue a career as an academic psychologist, it was in large part because I wanted to give away psychology in the public interest (to paraphrase the late George Miller). Publishing articles that get paywalled is a failure to do so. I am not great at predicting the future, and have no idea what business model will be in place for academic publishing a decade from now. What I can do is express hope that whatever evolves from the ashes of the current system, it is one that does not bankrupt universities or individual researchers/labs, and that it is one that truly democratizes our work, truly makes our research available to the public. After all, our research is a public good and should be treated as such. Such an attitude really should not be a revolutionary concept.

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