From a New Deal to Projekt Deal: Time for solidarity with German scholars

By Bram Büscher and Joel Wainwright

A recent editorial published on Geoforum spells out the urgent need to divest from Elsevier and the corporate publishing model

project deal
From Projekt DEAL

The commercial scientific publishing model is broken. The basic problem is simple. We scholars give the products of our labour, our research papers, reviews, and so forth — for free to for-profit corporations. These corporations then sell the same products of our labour back to us, via libraries. This arrangement might be acceptable if the publishing industry charged only modest fees or contributed some fundamental quality to the work. But they do neither.

 No matter how much they say they care about knowledge, their main priority is —  as with any for-profit corporation — maximizing returns for private investors. In pursuing this goal, they employ creative means to extract resources from the public purse to pay for exorbitant journal fees – funds that otherwise could be invested in public research and education. In the process, the publishing corporations intensify a perverse focus on impact factors, citation counts, ‘clickbait’ articles and academic branding, rather than genuine engagement. All this degrades the quality of academic work and serves to undermine the conditions in which many of us work.

Simply put, the publishing industry works against the interests of the scholarly community. And yet, as with other perverse political economies, we academics are deeply implicated in this unjust situation. Although many curse the status quo, we actively reproduce it through our collaboration— above all, by continuing to contribute the products of our labour freely. Despite widespread frustration, it has proven difficult even to get critical scholars to agree on a course of action that would challenge the model. Particularly frustrating is that untenured scholars are basically trapped in the system, forced to reproduce their own exploitation in order to survive in academia.

 

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