The New Gatekeepers

The new gatekeepers have to earn our trust, and they are not behaving as if they care

The New Gatekeepers

OA publishing has elevated or generated new gatekeepers for the system of scholarly and scientific publishing. These players have power over what reaches practitioners, other scientists, and the public, yet lack the transparency and accountability we ascribe to traditional gatekeepers, and may be gaining power and positional advantages.

It’s important to remember that these are additional gatekeepers, adding complexity to a system without necessarily adding clarity or confidence. Some have strayed from their lane to meddle in publication decisions, while others are new, untested, and operating under questionable premises.

One expectation of traditional scholarly and scientific information gatekeepers is that they state their points of accountability, and are transparent about their processes. These expectations have rightfully increased over the past 20 years, and publishers, editorial offices, and administrative teams at journal and book publishers have responded by making many aspects a little more clear and approachable. It’s not perfect, a work in progress, and some attempts to add clarity add clutter, but the expectations and intentions align.

Another expectation is that these intermediaries will strive to make objective assessments of claims and submissions, utilizing outside review, their own expertise, and disclosures from authors obtained during the submission process to assess competence, measure claims, and help to ensure relevance and novelty.

Expectations around the new gatekeepers haven’t really been considered or had time to form — in fact, these may not even be viewed as gatekeepers. Despite this, each has a role in determining what research and scholarship is published, and each brings new concerns of their own making.