Academic Paywalls Codify Elitism

I have returned from the Registan conference on  Social Trends and Stability in Central Asia, where I spoke on a roundtable panel about human rights in Uzbekistan with Jim Bigus from the State Department, Steve Swerdlow from Human Rights Watch, and Sanjar Umarov from the Uzbek dissident group Sunshine Uzbekistan. The conference was great and hopefully Registan will be holding another one in the future. In the meantime, you can check out the Registan website for Central Asia news and analysis.

Now I’m catching up to the response to my latest article for Al Jazeera about academia, which like my first one, appears to have struck a chord with frustrated researchers around the world. This one concerns the academic paywall system, which requires non-academics to pay exorbitant fees to access scholarly materials. My own work goes for $183.00, a fee that serves to keep the public from reading it. An excerpt:

Since I receive no money from the sale of my work, I have no idea whether anyone purchased it. I suspect not, as the reason for the high price has nothing to do with making money. JSTOR, for example, makes only 0.35 per cent of its profits from individual article sales. The high price is designed to maintain the barrier between academia and the outside world. Paywalls codify and commodify tacit elitism.

In academia, publishing is a strategic enterprise. It is less about the production of knowledge than where that knowledge will be held (or withheld) and what effect that has on the author’s career. New professors are awarded tenure based on their publication output, but not on the impact of their research on the world – perhaps because, due to paywalls, it is usually minimal.

“Publish or perish” has long been an academic maxim. In the digital economy, “publish and perish” may be a more apt summation. What academics gain in professional security, they lose in public relevance, a sad fate for those who want their research appreciated and understood.

Read the full article here.

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One Response to Academic Paywalls Codify Elitism

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on Tales from the Adjunctiverse and commented:
    Confirming what anyone with an ounce of sense always suspected, another gate to keep the barbarians out out an in their place ~ even (maybe especially) NTT colleagues. Welcome to the Ivory Silo™

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