'The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation'
Dear friends, peers, and colleagues,
We are excited to share with you our vision for a more fair and sustainable future for independent open access publishing. In our white paper, we describe our learnings about the challenges of Open Access publishing and propose a new, cooperative, route to OA: Quartz Open Access.
Quartz OA is a bold proposal for a new platform cooperative that brings new channels of funding and support for independent open access publishing. We seek to create an ecosystem that would help retain the value in the hands of the academic community and re-distribute the flows of funding fairly and transparently among its members.
For many fellow academics – and some of us at Quartz OA – the workings of the academic publishing system have been one of the major surprising discoveries, no less intriguing than our research subjects. Moving on with our PhDs and postdocs, we have become increasingly aware of the failures of academic publishing. We asked ourselves and anyone who would listen - how come I should pay 30$ to access an article (for those of us without institutional subscriptions)? Why do I need to publish in these journals to be considered ‘worthy’ of a career in academia? How come the commercial publishers have 30% profit margins while we produce and review articles for free and many scholars can hardly make both ends meet? And how (and why?) am I expected to pay to have my article published in open access?
We did our research and found the answers to our questions in many discussions and research pieces produced by our fellow academics as well as journalists. As we researched our way through the intricacies of the scholarly communication ecosystem, we became avid supporters of the open science movement and open access publishing. We also found that open access is not the same experience for everyone and some of the questions we asked above are more relevant for early-career researchers, those in the humanities and social sciences and those coming from less well-funded institutions as well as low- and lower-middle-income countries. We became increasingly aware of the existence of unintended consequences of the various OA policies resulting in increasing inequalities or perpetuating the same systems that have led to creating these inequalities in the first place. Independently, we came up with similar ideas to address these issues and then came together as a team to try and develop a solution to some of the barriers hampering the transition towards just, fair and sustainable open access publishing.
As newcomers, we looked into the different successful - and less so - initiatives, we explored the values associated with scholarly communication and academic research, we dug into the related publishing fields and found inspiration in some of the business models now applied in journalism and creative industries. We explored new technologies such as peer-to-peer networks and blockchain to see how these can help solve some of the problems in the transition towards open access academic publishing. We also drew inspiration from the proposed solutions to the crisis of accountability in big tech and the responsible innovation and value-sensitive design approaches to developing technological systems.
Our proposal to face these challenges is powered by three key components: 1) a platform cooperative allowing exchanges within the OA ecosystem, 2) a browser extension allowing readers to support open access content and communities, and 3) a crowdfunding infrastructure for OA.
Hoping that you will find this white paper an interesting read, we look forward to your comments and feedback.
Quartz OA team