Panel 40

Publish or perish reloaded: The matrix of contemporary scientific publishing facing institutional research arrangements and the marketization of academic environments

Organizers: Stefano Crabu; Federico Neresini

University of Padova, Italy

Topics: The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices

Keywords: publish or perish; Open Access; academic piracy; Academic predatory practices; academic publishing oligopoly

The “publish or perish” (PP) aphorism – with its creeping necropolitics of knowledge – still informs the everyday work of academics. Although it appeared at the beginning of the last century, the PP principle still normatively orients the assessment of academics and researchers on the basis of their success in publishing, with an emphasis on productivity as potentially impacting the innovativeness, significance and social impact of scientific outcomes. Moreover, we can argue that this principle continues to act as a pivotal subjectivation device for the thousands of academic workers from both the Global South and Global North.

Despite its sharp relevance in shaping, reshuffling and igniting research trajectories, the PP phenomenon requires careful analysis. Hence, what now seems urgent and politically exigent is to initiate a lively debate for the purpose of theoretically and analytically grasping the conditions – political, economic, epistemological, institutional and technological – surrounding the culture of contemporary scientific publishing. Academic publishing is indeed a global techno-service industrial complex worth more than USD 19 billion. However, this market is highly concentrated, with few for-profit publishers exercising oligopolistic power in managing academic journals and generating substantial profits for publishers and high costs for public universities (e.g., cost of subscription to scientific journals). Thus, the current political economy of academic publishing potentially compromises the free access to academic scientific knowledge, essentially contradicting the mandate of many public policy schemes. Although digitalization and open access (OA) were intended as liberating forces for academics and research organizations, they appear to have somewhat contributed, alongside key university ranking indicators, to boosting the oligopoly of for-profit academic publishers and translating the digital platform culture within the academic publishing sector.

Within this scenario, it is also important to underline emerging forms of academic piracy, violations of intellectual property rights (e.g., the subject of editor lawsuits against Sci-Hub) and the emergence of “predatory publishers” associated with the potential decline in the academic quality of research. The aim of this track is to explore current scientific publishing practices and the related political, economic, epistemological, institutional and socio-technical arrangements surrounding the PP imperative.

We therefore encourage social scientists, STS scholars, policy scholars as well as practitioners in the academic publishing industry to submit theoretically, empirically and/or methodologically oriented contributions that aim to explore the following: -   The emergence and consolidation of the academic publishing oligopoly;

  • Current OA policy implementation and related challenges in the context of the academic publishing oligopoly;
  • Emerging forms of “academic piracy”;
  • Academic predatory practices;
  • The platformization of academic publishing and the use of metric, “alter metric” and scientometric indicators provided by digitalization;
  • New business models associated with OA and emerging forms of self-organized open publishing;
  • How (digital) citation index databases influence the academic publishing industry and scientific publishing practices;
  • Gaps and inequalities between the Global South and Global North in accessing scientific publications and implementing OA policies.