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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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After a Herculean effort, coinciding with open access week 2020, our edited volume Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access has now been published by The MIT Press. It's available both in print to purchase and as a CC BY open-access download.

I wanted to take this opportunity to write a few words about the goals of the volume, which speak to my interests in open access. I think that the section headings in the book set out the themes nicely: colonial influences; epistemologies; publics and politics; archives and preservation; infrastructures and platforms; and global communities.

The first of these sections - on colonial influences - reflects my interests in the ways in which unequal paradigms of research (and higher education) have evolved, worldwide, as a result of imperialist practices and histories. The prestige economy that privileges the Anglophone academy and that pressures researchers outside of this region into conducting research that is of less local relevance has dire consequences. As Charlotte Roh, Harrison W. Inefuku, and Emily Drabinski point out in their chapter, for example, in "top" economics journals, "only 1.5 percent [of papers] were about countries other than the United States". Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou does a good job, opening the volume, in setting out, also, the ways in which these practices when combined with Article (and Book) Processing Charge models - re-enforce worldwide inequalities. Alongside the other chapters in the first section, the overarching message is clear: open access holds enormous promise for addressing the worldwide disparity of access to research. However, when we see the prestige economy (alongside inappropriate economic models) moving into the OA space, the damage appears immense. Perhaps the most prestigious scientific journal in the world, Nature, has announced that it will publish open-access papers from January 2021. The cost per paper? £8,600. This does very little to address the inequality of who may speak, even while it does allow for anyone to read. Essentially, such a model continues the patronising structure in which the Global North (a problematic term) believes itself to be a knowledge exporter, unidirectionally sending out knowledge. This is not good for the world.

This theme runs throughout the book. Stuart Lawson's chapter, for instance, trains a spotlight on the ways in which the public libraries in the UK have historically served imperialist functions. I could go on for a long time summarising the way that this thread works its way into almost every area of the book.

As I write this post-publication post, though, the true nature of this book has come to me in a single sentence. This book is about the ethics of academic publishing and its transition to open access. It tries to approach this from a historically informed angle, with an eye on the future. It veers between the pragmatic/the practical and the theoretical/discursive. I edited this book -- and was ably guided by the peer-reviewers -- so that a wide range of voices could be heard beneath one 'roof', so that we can reflect on the current moment, and so we might choose to do things differently as we rush headlong forward into implementation.

Thanks to Jonathan, I'm also pleased, here, to be able to list the ToC in a nicely linked format. The chapters in the book are also available as a set of open access PDFs to coincide with Open Access Week. Following is an overview of the table of contents.

  1. Epistemic Alienation in African Scholarly Communications: Open Access as a Pharmakon – Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou
  2. Scholarly Communications and Social Justice – Charlotte Roh, Harrison W. Inefuku, and Emily Drabinski
  3. Social Justice and Inclusivity: Drivers for the Dissemination of African Scholarship – Reggie Raju, Jill Claassen, Namhla Madini, and Tamzyn Suliaman
  4. Can Open Scholarly Practices Redress Epistemic Injustice? – Denisse Albornoz, Angela Okune, and Leslie Chan
  5. When the Law Advances Access to Learning: Locke and the Origins of Modern Copyright – John Willinsky
  6. How Does a Format Make a Public? – Robin de Mourat, Donato Ricci, and Bruno Latour
  7. Peer Review: Readers in the Making of Scholarly Knowledge – David Pontille and Didier Torny
  8. The Making of Empirical Knowledge: Recipes, Craft, and Scholarly Communication – Pamela H. Smith, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Naomi Rosenkranz, and Claire Conklin Sabel
  9. The Royal Society and the Noncommercial Circulation of Knowledge – Aileen Fyfe
  10. The Political Histories of UK Public Libraries and Access to Knowledge – Stuart Lawson
  11. Libraries and Their Publics in the United States – Maura A. Smale
  12. Open Access, “Publicity,” and Democratic Knowledge – John Holmwood
  13. Libraries, Museums, and Archives as Speculative Knowledge Infrastructure – Bethany Nowviskie
  14. Preserving the Past for the Future: Whose Past? Everyone’s Future – April M. Hathcock
  15. Is There a Text in These Data? The Digital Humanities and Preserving the Evidence – Dorothea Salo
  16. Accessing the Past, or Should Archives Provide Open Access? – István Rév
  17. Infrastructural Experiments and the Politics of Open Access – Jonathan Gray
  18. The Platformization of Open – Penny C. S. Andrews
  19. Reading Scholarship Digitally – Martin Paul Eve
  20. Toward Linked Open Data for Latin America – Arianna Becerril-García and Eduardo Aguado-López
  21. The Pasts, Presents, and Futures of SciELO – Abel L. Packer
  22. Not Self-Indulgence, but Self-Preservation: Open Access and the Ethics of Care – Eileen A. Joy
  23. Toward a Global Open-Access Scholarly Communications System: A Developing Region Perspective – Dominique Babini
  24. Learned Societies, Humanities Publishing, and Scholarly Communication in the UK – Jane Winters
  25. Not All Networks: Toward Open, Sustainable Research Communities – Kathleen Fitzpatrick

You can also find our introduction and conclusion to the book as well as acknowledgements, bibliography and contributor bios.