Why Do the Powerful Like OA?

A 2018 paper puts the OA movement in a wider frame — and the look is very unflattering

Here’s a little story to read tonight before you go to bed . . .

One thing that always attracted me to journalism, writing, and publishing of all sorts was a devotion to the truth, an embrace of independence, and the resulting correlate of “speaking truth to power.” The Fourth Estate’s health and vitality — including an independent, vibrant, and robust journals ecosystem in science and scholarship — are fundamental to a truth-seeking, reality-based society.

A founding premise of the OA movement — and the “open” movement generally — was to disrupt existing power structures, “democratize” access to science, and essentially “stick it to The Man” by unraveling large, commercial publishers. However, these goals were rather fuzzy, petty, and pecuniary — and generally very poorly conceptualized.

The goals were also shaped by a larger economic and philosophical shift those propounding OA barely registered they were importing — namely, market economics. If they had realized this, they may have stopped to wonder why support was coming from certain camps.

For instance, it’s always been a little suspicious to me that powerful, entrenched entities not only support OA and “open” things of various kinds, but actually spend relatively large sums advancing them — from lobbying firms to technology giants to rich funding entities.

Why is this?

It’s an especially salient question now that we’re deep into a real mess.

Evidence of this mess is all around us:

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