Project Free Our Knowledge
Long time listener first time caller :) Some colleagues (@Protohedgehog, plus others I'll link in a later comment - not sure of their handles just now) and I have been developing an idea I had for how we might collectively organise a grassroots syndicated boycott of commercial publishers, while mitigating risk to individual researchers. A colleague (Eelke Spaak) liked the idea enough to turn it into a website, which we soft launched at a talk this week to develop interest and hopefully find more people interested in collaborating.
This is the summary of the ideas (same as current version of website, with more details contained there):
Scholarly publishing is broken. Every year, commercial publishers siphon off billions of dollars of academic funding by restricting access to potentially life-saving research. Meanwhile, academics - who provide almost all of the value in scholarly communication - are left to compete for an increasingly dry pool of funds, forcing many to leave their preferred careers for more stable alternatives.
Why support these companies? In the highly competitive environment of academia, reputations are built on publishing in prestigious journals, which are typically owned by commercial publishers. This means that any one individual who boycotts commercial publishers will risk diminishing their future career prospects.
How can we fix this? If a large proportion of academics were to simultaneously boycott these journals, they would quickly lose their value and the incentive to publish there would be reduced. The academic community could then transition the flow of knowledge from commercially-owned journals to fair open-access systems that are more in line with the ideals of the community.
How will we achieve this? We plan to grow a community of academics who pledge to exclusively support community-owned free open access publication systems. Crucially, pledges made by members will only become active when a pre-specified threshold of support has been reached in the academic community, with names anonymised until this time, allowing individuals to show support without risking their livelihoods.
Please check out the website for more details. I've talked with some of you about this individually (@alexholcombe @Vinnl) but not yet had a chance to post the idea here until now - sorry, have been flat out! But would be great to hear your feedback and develop the ideas to a point where we can launch properly next year (I'm happy to work on this full time after early 2019, just have to finish off my PhD first! ;)). In particular, we're still trying to work out if the Fair Open Access principles are appropriate / broad enough for this movement - given that the idea would require widespread adoption. I have some 'pilot' data on this from a talk I presented this week (currently accruing expressions of interest via the website, and so could test this more thoroughly down the track):
If not, another option might be to aim for a pared back version to get more people on board, with the option to aim for more strict criteria down the track. Looking forward to your feedback,
Cheers Cooper Smout