Scholarly Communications

Scholarly Communication

I really appreciated the focus on the burden of Open Access on young and precariously-situated scholars. Regarding embargoing one’s dissertation, I agree with the AHA’s guidelines and considerations to at least let newly-minted graduate scholars choose for themselves whether or not they want to embargo. The bigger issue I see with this whole debate is the tenure demands and the capitalist structuring of journals. Why is the value of scholarship, competence, and job qualifications all highly contingent upon publications? This creates a monetary hierarchy for starters, considering how expensive submitting can be and this economic burden falls often on young scholars or their institutions. Changing the nature and demands of tenure as publication-focused I think would contribute to more receptivity towards Open Access that then would not put as much of a burden on young scholars.

Of these weeks readings, I loved Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s article “Giving It Away: Sharing and the Future of Scholarly Communication.” I know technically this isn’t considered a “philosophy” piece, but oh, how it felt like philosophy and I thought it was fantastic! I love her emphasis on shifting of values and academic culture. The epistemic commodification that acts as a gatekeeping, capitalist, ivory tower-preserving mechanism is deeply troubling. It seems so blatantly obvious that capitalism has influenced education and knowledge-sharing in the United States such that to freely share is to “lose” or “cheapen” the value of the knowledge itself. This harms! This creates epistemic violence! I especially love this quote from her piece:

As Dave Parry has commented, “Knowledge which is not public is not knowledge.” It is only in giving it away that we truly produce knowledge; it is only in escaping our self-absorption as a field and sharing our ideas with others, instead of talking among ourselves, that we
can pay forward the loan that we have been so generously given. (355)

YES. I think knowledge implies relationality. This is typical epistemology/metaphysics question in philosophy about what does it mean to know and can we know anything without other people? Is knowledge intrinsically social? Can we teach knowledge? Socrates suggested in the Meno that knowledge is actually innate and that the role of the scholar is to help people remember what they had forgotten during their transition from a free pure sole into an embodied human being. This is a pretty ancient and frankly spiritual understanding of what it means to be human and to know, but nonetheless it is one conversation among many about the nature of relationships and knowledge. I do argue that knowledge is culturally and socially embedded such that it cannot be extracted from these contexts. Bearing this in mind, Parry and Fitzpatrick’s arguments ring with a certain clarity: “knowledge which is not public is not knowledge.” This then lends itself to a discussion about what constitutes “public.” I am guessing that traditionalists in publications, tenure requirements, and knowledge-generation are strong brick-layers of the ivory tower and would argue that the general masses are not an experienced, informed audience such that “public” need only be the tight-knit academic community behind those walls. I agree with Fitzpatrick when she appears to push against this perception of the public, advocating for a generosity, sharing, and reciprocity as leading values in knowledge generation and distribution. These questions encapsulate what I think her mains points are:

So rather than giving our work away to corporate entities that will profit at our expense, might we instead find a way to make a virtue of our market failures? What if we understood sustainability not as the ability to produce revenue but the ability to keep the engine of generosity running? What if we were to allow the engine of generosity on which so much of the enterprise runs to affect the final point of distribution? What if we were to embrace the gift economy of scholarly communication and make a gift of our work to others? What might happen if outreach, generosity, and ‘giving it away’ were our primary values? (356)

Wow would academia be so much better, I think, if these questions were addressed, realized…

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