The Radical Open Access Collective: Community, Resilience, Collaboration

An Open Insights interview with Janneke Adema and Sam Moore

Reblogged from: https://www.openlibhums.org/news/278/

Interviewed by James Smith (OLH)


Janneke Adema and Sam Moore are the authors of a March 2018 UKSG Insights essay entitled Collectivity and collaboration: imagining new forms of communality to create resilience in scholar-led publishing. Today we explore the context behind the Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC), and their thoughts on the complexities of scholar-led open access publishing.

The ROAC is holding the Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care conference at Coventry University from 26-27 June 2018.


OLH: Hi Janneke and Sam, thanks for talking to us! To start, how would you summarise the core philosophy of the ROAC?

JA & SM: Thanks for the invitation! We feel that the core philosophy behind the collective is about returning control of publishing to the scholarly community. While the member presses do not represent a unified or homogeneous set of values or practices, they are each interested in practicing a vision of open access that is accountable to (and reflective of) their various communities. This affords experimentation, critique, collaboration and a range of other practices that traditional publishing currently prohibits to a lesser or greater extent. The collective ultimately hopes to offer a mutually supportive, non-hierarchical environment for exploring the futures of open publishing practices.

The collective ultimately hopes to offer a mutually supportive, non-hierarchical environment for exploring the futures of open publishing practices.

Taking this into consideration, some keywords that come to mind with respect to the ROAC’s philosophy are: collaboration, non-competitive, not-for-profit, horizontal (non-hierarchical), scholar-led, ethics of care, diversity, community, experimenting, global justice, affirmative creative critique, performative, progressive, radical, mutually-supportive, mutual reliance, multi-polar, resilience, communality, inclusivity.

OLH: What ethical principles does the ROAC seek to normalise, and what challenges does it face in doing so?

JA & SM: We are not sure “normalise” is the right word here, given the implicit normativity this word brings with it. Ethics, many of us feel, is not something that can be defined in advance or that can be predetermined, we cannot resort to moral criteria or predefined values or truths when it comes to publishing, scholarly communication or openness, for example. A responsible ethical approach to openness, to publishing, to the book, would not presume to know what these are, nore what ethics is, in advance. If anything we feel ethics is, or should be, non-normative: its meaning cannot be predetermined. We also do not follow any set “principles” in this respect; however, our ethics is not relativistic either; instead it responds to specific singular practices and situations, around how openness is implemented and the materiality of the book changes, for example. Our ethics are therefore performative, they arise out of the way we (as scholars, publishers) become with the media we publish.

OLH: Why is being radical a good thing?

JA & SM: Being radical is neither good nor bad, it is a terminology we have adapted to distinguish the specific version of open access we want to promote from more neoliberal or top-down versions, for example. The etymology of “radical” shows it derives from the Latin radix, for root, where it means going back to the origin, to what is essential. For us, radical open access simply represents what we always perceived open access to be, it is a way for us to position ourselves within the wide diversity of meanings open access represents and conjures up.

The etymology of “radical” shows it derives from the Latin radix, for root, where it means going back to the origin, to what is essential.

Being radical does however offer us the chance to present an affirmative counterpoint to the dominant discourses around open access, particularly those promoted by commercial publishers and governmental funders—such as HEFCE and RCUK (now UKRI) in the UK—who tend to be interested in OA inasmuch as it promotes business, transparency, and innovation or merely protects the interests of commercial publishers (see the Finch report, for example). This is how the average humanities and social sciences researcher is likely to encounter OA—as merely representative of a neoliberal ideology and a top down instrumental requirement—and so the ROAC seeks to illustrate that there is an alternative and that OA can have a basis in something both emancipatory and transformative.

OLH: The ROAC is an advocacy group, but it is also a community-builder. How does a strong community translate into a response to the pressing issues of open access?

JA & SM: Because it offers us the opportunity to scale-up or as we have previously argued, to “scale small”—keeping the diversity and independence of the (often small-scale) endeavours of our members intact—both horizontally and vertically. By harnessing the strengths and organizational structures of not-for-profit, independent and scholar-led publishing communities we hope to further facilitate collective efforts through community building and by setting up horizontal alliances. Next to that we hope to enable vertical forms of collaboration with other organisations, collectives, institutions and agencies within scholarly publishing, for example libraries and universities, but also with collectives of artists, technologists and activists. As we have argued elsewhere, we want to explore how we can set up so-called “chains of equivalence” (Laclau) with other movements and struggles that are also dealing with aspects of openness – not just those associated with open knowledge, open science, open data, altmetrics and so on, but also those areas in the Arts and Humanities that conceive digital media more explicitly in terms of power, conflict and violence. Those associated with critical media theory, p2p networks and shadow libraries, for example. We are interested in exploring a plurality of open movements, theories and philosophies in this respect, which may at times conflict and contradict one another, but which can nevertheless contribute to the construction of a common, oppositional horizon.

By harnessing the strengths and organizational structures of not-for-profit, independent and scholar-led publishing communities we hope to further facilitate collective efforts through community building and by setting up horizontal alliances.

In this respect the ROAC also intends to present a unified voice in response to certain issues of advocacy and policy. Having a strong community allows us to discuss and respond to various issues around publishing and openness, around how open access is being implemented for example, highlighting why funders should take alternative, scholar-led publishing initiatives seriously as part of this discussion. Think for example of the recently announced intention of the UKRI in the UK to have a mandatory OA monograph component to the REF after the next. This could present a threat by commercialising and formalising a particularly kind of OA monograph practice in the same way that the current REF policy has done for journal articles (including for example the adaptation of (high) BPCs for monographs, which are unsustainable), which is to say, in accordance with the wishes of commercial publishers. This has already summoned conservative reactions from organisations such as the Royal Historical Society, positioning themselves against this development. Yet, such funder requirement for OA books could also potentially present an opportunity for many presses within the ROAC who already publish OA monographs (such as ROAC members punctum books, Open Book Publishers, and Mattering Press, for example) as well as for scholars looking for options to publish their books in OA without (excessive) BPCs. Making both funders and scholars aware of the existence of these scholar-led models for publishing open access books is of the highest importance here. This is where we would see the ROAC coming in.

OLH: How do you imagine the role of radical experimentation as a tool for humanities open access?

JA & SM: Many of the ROAC member presses would understand the relationship the other way round, that openness affords experimentation and is the reason many OA projects adopt an open approach to begin with. This means that openness is often foundational to radical projects, a natural way of working that permits different kinds of experimentation in certain contexts. Openness is thus not about being more open, for instance, but is rather about being open to change and experimentation—depending on the contingent circumstances, the political and ethical decisions and cuts that need to be made, and so on.

… [B]y experimenting in an open way with the idea and the concept of the book, but also with the materiality and the system of material production surrounding it—which includes our ideas of the material and materiality—we can ask important questions concerning authorship, the fixity of the text, quality, authority and responsibility; issues that lie at the basis of what scholarship is and what the functions of the university should be.

This is why, in foregrounding experimentation, the ROAC reflects a range of practices and ideologies, rather than a single, coherent movement for making research freely available. Experimentation in this respect can be seen as a form of ongoing critique, serving as a means to re-perform our existing institutions and scholarly practices in a more ethical and responsible way. Experimentation thus stands at the basis of a rethinking of scholarly communication and the university in general, and can even potentially be seen as a means to rethink politics itself too. For instance, by experimenting in an open way with the idea and the concept of the book, but also with the materiality and the system of material production surrounding it—which includes our ideas of the material and materiality—we can ask important questions concerning authorship, the fixity of the text, quality, authority and responsibility; issues that lie at the basis of what scholarship is and what the functions of the university should be.

OLH: How does a radical approach to open access empower researchers in the Global South, and those outside of traditional institutional frameworks?

JA & SM: We would rather emphasise the opposite: it is researchers in the Global South and those outside or on the fringes of institutions (so-called para-academics) that empower the open access movement and scholarly publishing more in general. Dominique Babini has for example stressed that “the international community would do well to follow the examples of initiatives in Latin America, where open access is already the norm and where costs are shared among members of scholarly communities to ensure lasting impact”. In Latin America, Babini points out, the cost of publishing has always been an integral part of the cost of research, where it is universities and academic societies, not commercial publishers that predominantly publish journals and books. There is also the example of sustainable publishing platforms and models developed here, based on cost sharing, in opposition to the commercial enclosures APCs impose for example. Think of portals such as SciELO and Redalyc, but also the organisation (and ROAC member) Babini represents,CLACSO, which brings together hundreds of research centres and graduate schools in the social sciences and humanities, predominantly in Latin American countries.

… [I]t is researchers in the Global South and those outside or on the fringes of institutions (so-called para-academics) that empower the open access movement and scholarly publishing more in general.

From the perspective of being outside of established structures, we also need to acknowledge the essential role shadow libraries and guerrilla open access play in providing access to research in a global context, where for example LibGen and Sci-Hub have achieved with relative ease what the open access movement has for decades been striving for: quick and easy and near universal access to the results of scholarly research.

OLH: Open source tools and open access publishing are intertwined. What needs to be free and open for smaller initiatives to thrive?

JA & SM: If possible the entire production process (open that is, nothing is free), although we appreciate we will always be implicated in commercial, profit-driven, proprietary structures, platforms and models to some extent. It is about making strategic choices on the basis of what we, or better said, the ROAC’s members, think is important. Sometimes this means using proprietary software, sometimes it includes publishing in a closed way. There are no pre-set answers or guidelines here, although there are now many open-source options for scholar-publishers to choose from. Future work of the ROAC will be, based on the information portal we have already set up, to further collate many of these options and to develop a toolkit of advice so that other communities can start their own publishing projects too.

In many ways we’re heading in the wrong direction with increased control of the means of production by large corporate entities.

That said, the current push for centrally-controlled walled gardens, such as those being developed by Elsevier (see e.g. this article by Posada and Chen) and Springer-Nature, is very disturbing. Publishers now seek to lock users into their ecosystems, monetising not just user intellectual property but their interaction data too. In many ways we’re heading in the wrong direction with increased control of the means of production by large corporate entities. A perhaps missed opportunity to counteract this is the recent tender call for the European Commission Open Research Publishing Platformthat does not specifically require open infrastructure to protect against corporate capture.

Nonetheless, instead of centralised and one-size-fits all publishing platforms, we would like to emphasise the value of decentralised ecosystems of small open source publishing projects, where platforms are often based on implementing a specific model or solution aimed to solve the crisis in academic publishing. This kind of imposed uniformity could lead to a loss of control of certain aspects of the publishing process and threaten the independence and individuality of small experimental projects. This is why the ROAC intends to complement library-based and university press publishing projects that share a more decentralised vision, and urges funders to support a biodiversity of publishing projects and models.

OLH: What are your views on volunteerist labour in publishing? Is this something for which people should always be paid or is unpaid publishing work acceptable?

JA & SM: Our feeling is that academic publishing is already sustained by (and couldn’t exist without) large amounts of volunteer labour contributed by academic editors, reviewers, copyeditors and interns. Presses in the ROAC simply divert some of this labour from commercial publishing (and encourages other academics to do the same) towards something more transformative, that is truly in the communities interest as well as community-owned and controlled. Yet labour is not a zero-sum game and will be always be a site of struggle between individual commitments as part of the traditional publishing industry, due to the prestige this confers, and collective commitments to transforming this system through experimentation into alternatives. Ultimately we want to make the appeal that publishing should be valued as both an integral aspect of research and something for which scholars should be paid as part of their academic positions.

Ultimately we want to make the appeal that publishing should be valued as both an integral aspect of research and something for which scholars should be paid as part of their academic positions.

That said, many of our initiatives are currently committed to paying their designers, typesetters and proofreaders, interns, or other people they do work with, fairly (whilst they often don’t receive a wage themselves). On the other hand, members of the ROAC have also been critical of applying a market logic or a logic of calculation to all the relationships within research and communication. There are different ways than mere monetary ones in which we can recognise the contributions of the various agencies involved in the publishing process.

The ROAC also aims to decrease the amount of volunteer labour in publishing to some extent by enabling scholar-led and not-for-profit projects to work closer together and to encourage them to, as a community, share amongst themselves, tools, best practices and information that might aid with working more efficiently, including information on how to obtain funds and grants to subsidise publishing projects. To encourage this, we have set up the Radical Open Access mailing list, which we use to discuss issues around the politics and ethics of publishing, and to share best practices and strategies amongst each other.

OLH: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Janneke and Sam!

Join us again soon for more #EmpowOA Open Insights.

Registration for Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care now open

Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care


Two days of critical discussion about creating a more diverse and equitable future for open access

The Post Office
Coventry University
June 26-27 2018 

Organised by Coventry University’s postdigital arts and humanities research studio The Post Office, a project of the Centre for Postdigital Cultures

Find out more at: http://radicaloa.co.uk/conferences/roa2/

Attendance and participation is free of charge but registration is mandatory. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/radical-open-access-ii-the-ethics-of-care-tickets-44796943865


Co-curators: Culture Machine, Mattering Press, Memory of the World/Public Library, meson press, Open Humanities Press, punctum books, POP

Speakers: Denisse Albornoz, Janneke Adema, Laurie Allen, Angel Octavio Alvarez Solís, Bodó Balázs, Kirsten Bell, George Chen, Jill Claassen, Joe Deville, Maddalena Fragnito, Valeria Graziano, Eileen Joy, Chris Kelty, Christopher Long, Kaja Marczewska, Frances McDonald, Gabriela Méndez-Cota, Samuel Moore, Tahani Nadim, Christopher Newfield, Sebastian Nordhoff, Lena Nyahodza, Alejandro Posada, Reggie Raju, Václav Štětka, Whitney Trettien


Radical Open Access II is about developing an ethics of care. Care with regard to:

  • our means of creating, publishing and communicating research;
  • our working conditions;
  • our relations with others.

Radical Open Access II aims to move the debate over open access on from two issues in particular:

THE QUESTION OF ACCESS. At first sight it may seem rather odd for a conference on open access to want to move on from this question. But as Sci-Hub, aaaarg, libgen et al. show, the debate over access has largely been won by shadow-libraries, who are providing quick and easy access to vast amounts of published research. Too much of the debate over ‘legitimate’ forms of open access now seems to be about how to use the provision of access to research as a means of exercising forms of governmental and commercial control (via audits, metrics, discourses of transparency and so on).

THE OA MOVEMENT’S RELUCTANCE TO ENGAGE RIGOROUSLY WITH THE KIND OF CONCERNS THAT ARE BEING DISCUSSED ELSEWHERE IN SOCIETY. This includes climate change, the environment, and the damage that humans are doing to the planet (i.e. the Anthropocene). But it also takes in debates over different forms:

  • of organising labour (e.g. platform cooperativism);
  • of working – such as those associated with ideas of post-work, the sharing and gig economies, and Universal Basic Income;
  • of being together – see the rise of interest in the Commons, and in experiments with horizontalist, leaderless ways of self-organizing such as those associated with the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Dakota Standing Rock Sioux protests.

Background

In 2015 the inaugural international Radical Open Access Conference addressed an urgent question: how should we set about reclaiming open access from its corporate take-over, evident not least in the rise of A/BPC models based on the charging of exorbitant, unaffordable and unsustainable publishing fees from scholars and their institutions? The conference saw participants calling for the creation of new forms of communality, designed to support the building of commons-based open access publishing infrastructures, and promote a more diverse, not-for-profit eco-system of scholarly communication. With these calls in mind, the Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC) was formed immediately following the 2015 conference as a horizontal alliance between like-minded groups dedicated to the sharing of skills, tools and expertise. Since then it has grown to a community of over 40 scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other projects. The members of this alliance are all invested in reimaging publishing. And what’s more, are committed to doing so in a context where debates over access—which in many respects have been resolved by the emergence of shadow libraries such as Sci-Hub—are increasingly giving way to concerns over the commercial hegemony of academic publishing. So much so that the issue addressed by the 2015 conference—how can open access be taken back from its corporate take-over? —now seems more urgent than ever.

In June 2018, Coventry University’s postdigital arts and humanities research studio, The Post Office, will convene a second Radical Open Access conference, examining the ways in which open access is being rendered further complicit with neoliberalism’s audit culture of evaluation, measurement, impact and accountability. Witness the way open access has become a top-down requirement – quite literally a ‘mandate’ – rather than a bottom-up scholar-led movement for change. Taking as its theme The Ethics of Care, the concern of this second conference will be on moving away from those market-driven incentives that are frequently used to justify open access, to focus instead on the values that underpin many of the radical open access community’s experiments in open publishing and scholarly communication. In particular, it will follow the lead of Mattering Press, a founding member of the ROAC, in exploring how an ethics of care can help to counter the calculative logic that otherwise permeates academic publishing.

What would a commitment to more ethical forms of publishing look like? Would such an ethics of care highlight the importance of:

  • Making publishing more diverse and equitable – geographically, but also with respect to issues of class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality?
  • Nurturing new and historically under-represented cultures of knowledge – those associated with early career, precariously employed and para-academics, or located outside the global North and West?
  • Ensuring everyone is able to have a voice – not least those writing on niche or avant-garde topics or who are conducting hybrid, multimodal, post-literary forms of research, and who are currently underserved by our profit-focused commercial publishing system?

Indeed, for many members of the ROAC, a commitment to ethics entails understanding publishing very much as a complex, multi-agential, relational practice, and thus recognising that we have a responsibility to all those involved in the publishing process. Caring for the relationships involved throughout this process is essential, from rewarding or otherwise acknowledging people fairly for their labour, wherever possible, to redirecting our volunteer efforts away from commercial profit-driven entities in favour of supporting more progressive not-for-profit forms of publishing. But it also includes taking care of the nonhuman: not just the published object itself, but all those animals, plants and minerals that help to make up the scholarly communication eco-system.

Radical Open Access II is community-driven, and is being co-organised and co-curated by various members of the ROAC in a collaborative manner. It includes panels on topics as diverse as: Predatory Publishing; The Geopolitics of Open; Competition and Cooperation; Humane Metrics/Metrics Noir; Guerrilla Open Access; The Poethics of Scholarship; and Care for the Commons. The conference is free to attend and will also be live streamed for those who are unable to be there in person.

Collectivity and Collaboration in Scholar-led Publishing

New article out in Insights by Janneke Adema and Samuel Moore, which discusses the potential of new forms of communality for scholar-led publishing using the Radical Open Access Collective as a case study.

The article is available on the journal website here: https://insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/uksg.399/ (where you can also leave comments in the margins) and you can find the abstract below.

Collectivity and collaboration: imagining new forms of communality to create resilience in scholar-led publishing

Authors: Janneke AdemaSamuel A. Moore 

Abstract

The Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC) is a community of scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other open access (OA) projects. The collective promotes a progressive vision for open access based on mutual alliances between the 45+ member presses and projects seeking to offer an alternative to commercial and legacy models of publishing. This article presents a case study of the collective, highlighting how it harnesses the strengths and organizational structures of not-for-profit, independent and scholar-led publishing communities by 1) further facilitating collective efforts through horizontal alliances, and by 2) enabling vertical forms of collaboration with other agencies and organizations within scholarly publishing. It provides a background to the origins of the ROAC, its members, its publishing models on display and its future plans, and highlights the importance of experimenting with and promoting new forms of communality in not-for-profit OA publishing.

How to Cite: Adema, J. & Moore, S.A., (2018). Collectivity and collaboration: imagining new forms of communality to create resilience in scholar-led publishing. Insights. 31(1), p.3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.399

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The Radical OA Collective: building alliances for a progressive, scholar-led commons

Underneath a blogpost Samuel Moore and Janneke Adema wrote, which was originally published on the LSE Impact Blog, here.


The Radical Open Access Collective launched its new website earlier this week. Open access has always been about more than just improving access to research, and Janneke Adema and Samuel A. Moore here highlight what the Radical OA Collective can offer. A focus on experimentation with new forms of publishing and authorship; the promotion of traditionally underrepresented cultures, languages, and publics; and an understanding of publishing as a relational practice, highlighting and caring for the relationships involved throughout the process, all form part of the Radical OA Collective’s underlying philosophy.

This week saw the launch of a new website for the Radical Open Access Collective, a vibrant community of presses, journals, publishing projects, and organisations all invested in not-for-profit and scholar-led forms of academic publishing. The members of this collective showcase the wide variety of alternative forms and models of open access publishing currently experimented with, mainly in the humanities and social sciences. This in a context where, although open access is now finally gaining ground, the spirit of experimentation that originally fuelled this movement is being progressively sidelined by a growing reliance on and implementation of specific, market-driven open access publishing models (particularly those connected to exorbitant article and book processing charges); models which do not necessarily suit, support or sustain open access publishing in the humanities and social sciences, but which do serve commercial stakeholders’ interests and the current publishing status quo.

The Radical OA Collective reminds us that experimentation with new forms of publishing remains essential, and that open access has always been about more than just improving access to research. As a movement open access has also focused on exploring and promoting not-for-profit, institutional and academic-led publishing alternatives, for example. This is to provide a counterpoint to the commercial legacy system and the vast profits it extracts from our scholarly research and communication interactions. This system has posed specific risks to specialised book publishing in the humanities, to the publication of books by early-career researchers, and to the dissemination of research from those working in the global south or writing in languages other than English; all of which, although essential to sustaining the scholarly conversation, often lack a direct market appeal. To counter this the Radical OA Collective highlights the importance of making publishing more diverse, equitable, and open to change, where it wants to ensure that new and underrepresented cultures of knowledge are able to have a voice. Members of the collective therefore work together to champion the variety of alternative models for scholarly communication that currently exist, and the collective is keen to build alliances with other initiatives interested in building a collaborative and non-competitive publishing ecosystem; one which supports a progressive and multi-polar knowledge commons.

During open access week, we’d like to highlight three examples of what radical open access, and the Radical OA Collective specifically, brings to open access.

1. A focus on experimentation

Members of the collective do not shy away from asking difficult questions about what publishing is and, with that, what it can become. Many initiatives within the collective see their publishing projects as an extension of their own critical work and a way to explore different modes of publishing, often deterred by our (still very paper-centric) established publishing forms and practices. As such they have been keen to experiment with publication forms, models, processes, relations, and agencies, cutting through the stabilisations within scholarly publishing–from the fixed book to the single author–that, often uncritically, have become disciplinary norms. This open-ended critical experimenting has become a guiding principle for many initiatives to explore the potentially more politically and ethically progressive possibilities made possible by technological developments and digital tools; to investigate how these might impact on the ways in which research will be conducted, disseminated and consumed in the future. As an ongoing critical process, experimenting can therefore be seen as a form of intervention into the object-formation and increasing marketisation of publishing and academia.

Many of the projects involved in the collective see open access as essential to enabling these new forms of (digital) experimentation. This may be through communal authoring and editing of wiki books (see Open Humanities Press’ Living Books about Life series); anonymous or collective authorship (in the case of an Uncertain Commons, for example); or multimodal or digital-only publications, publishing platforms and software (including ground-breaking initiatives such as Vectors and Scalar, but also newer projects, such as electric press and Textshop Experiments) next to projects that want to focus on what openness means for images and visual forms of communication (i.e. Photomediations Machine) for example. But alongside experiments such as these we also want to highlight projects that aim to cut across both disciplinary boundaries and distinctions between practice and theory (for example Goldsmiths Press, which also focuses on publishing literary and artistic works), as well as scholarly communities that are experimenting with the creation of new communities and social networks to share research and establish cross-disciplinary alliances (from MediaCommons Press, to The BABEL Working Group and Humanities Commons).

2. Underrepresented cultures

One of the main motivations underlying the Radical OA Collective concerns the promotion of diversity and equitability within academic publishing, and this entails the creation of environments where traditionally underrepresented cultures can fully participate. This includes presses and alliances that promote publishing and collaboration in specific regions; for example CLACSO, which brings together hundreds of research centres and graduate schools in the social sciences and humanities, predominantly in Latin American countries, or African Minds, which, next to publishing works from African academics or organisations, has conducted in depth research on the state of the university press in Africa. Members also promote publishing in different languages; see, for example, Éditions Science et Bien Commun, a Quebec-based press publishing research by and for francophone countries in the Global South, or meson press, which (next to books in English) is keen to publish and translate media theory books in German.

There is also a focus on providing opportunities to early-career researchers to publish, and not only to publish but to help them directly with the publishing process and familiarise themselves with it. Mattering Press, which originates from a peer-support group of early-career researchers, in particular wants to stimulate those at the beginning of their academic careers, as do publications such as Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry, dedicated to the publication of writings and creative works by degree-seeking students. punctum books is well-known for providing space for the publication of works of so-called “para-academic” theorists and practitioners, often independent or precariously employed researchers or those in so-called “alt-ac” positions. These projects and the collective as a whole are dedicated to opening up scholarship to publics that are new or currently underserved, including those writing on niche topics or conducting experimental research for which the commercial publishing market doesn’t always provide a space.

3. Ethics of care

One of the things for which the Radical OA Collective stands out is its members’ focus on the ethics and politics of publishing. For example, many initiatives foreground an ethics of care, as part of which publishing is understood as a relational practice, highlighting and caring for the relationships involved throughout the publishing process, from authors, editors and reviewers to typesetters, copy-editors, indexers and beyond. This involves, amongst others, paying, rewarding or otherwise acknowledging people fairly for their labour wherever possible, while ensuring that the efforts of volunteers are not exploited or overly relied upon. Well aware of the high amounts of volunteer labour that academic-led initiatives depend on, the collective has made this one of its focal points, writing about and discussing the diverse forms of labour academic publishing relies upon, arguing for it to be valued more in various ways (that are not necessarily monetary).  A focus on labour issues is all the more important in a predominantly commercial publishing environment, given the large amounts of academic volunteer labour (from peer reviewing to editing, to liking and bookmarking and building relationships in exchange for usage data in SSRNs) that is needed to sustain it and maintain the exorbitant profits its stakeholders have come to expect.

The Radical OA Collective therefore seeks to redirect this volunteer labour where possible towards more progressive forms of publishing, for example by shifting it away from commercial profit-driven publishers and gifting it to developing not-for-profit open access projects instead. Related to this is a commitment to taking time and care with regard to the published object itself, something that is often lacking in profit-oriented modes of publishing. But perhaps most important, as Eileen Joy of punctum books writes, is for the collective to care for “ourselves and each other” in the face of marketised cultures of higher education that require researchers to work long hours and think of themselves as “brands”:

“This would be to think of Community, or the Collective, as a sort of ‘mutual admiration society’, but also as a Convalescent Ward, in which ‘taking care’ (of ourselves and each other) would be more important than ‘performing’ according to so-called ‘professional’ standards and protocols.”

Next to bringing together this community of people eager to change publishing, to make it better and more just, the collective wants to support other academics eager to set up their own presses and projects, or those disillusioned with the commercial solutions currently on offer. We share advice and offer support from those within the community who have already gained experience with publishing in this manner and are willing to help others in a horizontal and non-competitive manner. We have started to formalise this through the creation of an information portal with links to resources on funding opportunities for open access books, open-source publishing tools, guidelines on editing standards, ethical publishing and diversity in publishing, and OA literature useful to not-for-profit publishing endeavours. We want to turn this into a toolkit for not-for-profit publishers in the future (and this will be of use not only to academic-led presses, but hopefully also to university presses, and library-run and society publishers, for example). We have also set up a directory of academic-led presses, to help legitimise this form of publishing as a “model” and make scholars aware that there are publishing alternatives out there.

If you run a not-for-profit OA publishing initiative or are interested in starting your own scholar-led publishing project, we encourage you to join the Radical OA mailing list and help us further build this supportive and inclusive publishing environment.

Reblog: Taking back control

Car Wars

  1. Zero Tolerance

Dear Parents,

I hate to start the year with bad news, but I’d rather it be this than a letter of condolence to a parent whose child has been killed in a senseless wreck.