I don’t read “The Scholarly Kitchen” anymore, but yesterday a friend of “The Geyser” forwarded a post entitled, “Intended Audience and Actual Distribution: A Growing Mismatch?” by Roger Schonfeld and Dylan Ruediger of ITHAKA. Because I know this reader doesn’t mess around, I read the post.
The idea of the post is that a system of distribution focused on expert communities — subscription journals — has been replaced with a chaotic OA model spraying content all over the place, possibly making it harder for experts to discern what information is for them and its relative quality and trustworthiness, while the public is inundated with information that could mislead or frustrate them in a variety of ways.
Where have we heard that before?
If experts in publishing had been consulted before academic ideologues, cynical authors, and well-heeled funders bullied the market into accepting OA, what Schonfeld and Ruediger describe would have been assigned the category of “a priori knowledge” — things professionals could have predicted (and did), and which therefore could have been avoided due to the potential downsides and the lack of demonstrated upsides of any consequence.
Not to mention the blatant conflict of interest inside every instance of author-pays publishing . . .
The result has been far worse than many anticipated, and things are still deteriorating. If you haven’t heard a few conspiracy theories lately, you’re not mixing with enough different people. If you haven’t clocked that authoritarians are still hanging around, waiting to strike again, you might want to recheck the perimeter.
Being cloistered and over-confident, OA advocates decided to conduct a decades-long, society-wide experiment with no controls, one which explicitly rejected and denigrated publishing expertise. Now that things have started to go haywire in increasingly obvious ways, some are beginning to slowly, grudgingly accept there may be a problem.
Yet, it seems even they remain convinced they can solve it, while to publishing experts it’s clear they are out of their depth when it comes to rendering actual solutions — a situation we might see endure for another couple of decades because of how slowly this is grinding along.