Two quick notes about predictable consequences this Monday morning. The first involves Elsevier’s well-known-by-now success in the OA market, emphasized in their earnings call on June 30, 2021, and captured in a transcript released late last week. In it, Elsevier executives claim they are growing faster in OA articles and revenues than the overall market, suggesting they are stealing share from others. What’s also striking is that the battle has become — in Elsevier’s mind, and probably in actual fact — between Elsevier and “other major providers.” That is, the era of a diverse publishing ecosystem continues to wind down as the consolidation so many predicted decades ago — including yours truly — has now become the norm.
The irony of all this is that OA — which has always been willing to move the goalposts and has held out a litany of diverse goals, not all of which made sense or have ever been measured — once included the goal of gutting the large commercial publishers like Elsevier. Instead, the middle of the market has been gutted — just as in nearly every other media space since the introduction of broadband. Entirely predictable, often predicted, entirely avoidable, but here we are — a few major providers dominating the scholarly and scientific publishing landscape, with Elsevier taking pole position.
Speaking of entirely predictable outcomes, Florida’s surge in Covid-19 cases represents another instance. As with OA, the media’s fawning was early and excessive, and now we have consequences arriving without apology. In this case, rather than plumping the virtues of OA, the media celebrated what appeared to be a success story in Florida, with a Republican governor bucking federal guidelines and keeping his economy open and cases moderate to low. But this involved squelching a state-run data analysis team, raiding the director’s home to seize equipment and data, and essentially gaslighting the media and others.
Now, Florida is the nation’s hot spot/epicenter, with the highest per capita rate of hospitalizations and infections in the nation. Experts are calling out the media for brainlessly promoting Governor Ron DeSantis’ claims and numbers, noting that now, adjusted for population, Florida has the 9th most confirmed Covid-19 cases of any state, and that with 182 deaths per 100K residents, it’s in the middle of the pack for mortality, and racing toward the ugly top of the heap. Worse, DeSantis is doubling-down on his past approaches, banning mask mandates in schools, invalidating all Covid-19 restrictions, and so forth. Fortunately, Disney and Universal Studios are making vaccines mandatory for employees. Who would have thought public health leadership would come from theme parks?
Consequences don’t care about opinions. Markets will consolidate even if you think they won’t, and diseases will spread even if you believe you’re impervious.
Reality remains reality. The encouraging part is that if you live and work within reality, things tend to work out better. Just ask Elsevier . . . and Vermont.