Parasites, freeriders, predatory publishers, gatekeepers: Lessons from academic publishing in turmoil

Keynote presentation 2 June 2016, Prague
In my talk I will engage with ongoing debates on the hegemonic structures of academic publishing in the broader context of scientific knowledge production, evaluation, and scholarly communication. The evaluation and measuring of scientific quality and productivity is a key element in this regard. I will first introduce relevant historical fragments of computer assisted scientometric analysis, such as the development of citation indices and Journal Impact Factor. Then I will argue that in recent years, the scene has changed substantially: from once being developed as descriptive methods, we nowadays deal with a multitude of theoretical and empirical approaches designed for normative intervention. The performativity of impact measuring is an apt example of how intervention strategies might conform to a regime’s inner logic to the point of subverting it. Science policy and administration increasingly seek to evaluate research productivity and the effects of academic science on innovation and economic competitiveness. Individual researchers are required to constantly consider their position within certain information markets and meritocracies. The omnipresent pressure to publish or perish leads to strategies of optimization in which new evaluation criteria and alternative metrics are used to game the system. At the same time new business models and markets – like the gold route to open access - are fostering traditional systems of communication and reward. The current public attention to large scale implementations of Open Science creates an opportunity to change our habitual ways of scholarly communication and evaluation. My presentation will feature selected campaigns and recommendations for institutional and national transitions to open scholarship. I will conclude that by learning from the lessons in academic publishing we can create conditions where engaged research can flourish while developing capacity and skills for openness in knowledge production.

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