Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

Five: The University

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 To imagine that funding infusions from ACLS, NEH, and Mellon will stem this tide is to imagine that sandbags will hold back a tsunami. — Jerome McGann, “Information Technology and the Troubled Humanities”

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The bottom line is that scholarly publishing isn’t financially feasible as a business model — never was, never was intended to be, and should not be. If scholarship paid, we wouldn’t need university presses. — Cathy Davidson, in Crises and Opportunities: The Futures of Scholarly Publishing

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Recognize that publishing is an integral part of the core mission and activities of universities, and take ownership of it. — Laura Brown et al, “University Publishing in a Digital Age”

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Everything that I’ve suggested up to this point — the need for a revitalized peer-to-peer mode of open, post-publication review of texts; the need for new understandings of authorship as dialogic, diffuse, and mobile; the need for new publishing structures that reflect a turn from focusing on texts as discrete products to texts as the locus of conversation; the need for new social modes of distribution and preservation for the texts produced within these new structures — all of these changes are aimed at the project of helping scholarly publishing in general, and university press publishing in particular, become viable within the digital environment that is becoming its inevitable future. None of these transformations, however, directly addresses the key problem with which this project began: the wholly unsustainable economic model under which such publishing currently operates. Unless that model is transformed, none of the recommendations that I’ve made thus far will have much effect. Digital publishing will not, as I noted in the introduction, do enough in and of itself to assuage the financial crisis that scholarly publishing finds itself in — if anything, digital publishing will require significant investments of labor and other resources to create, preserve, and filter the new textual structures that we will be working in into the future. The bottom line here is clear: the current system of scholarly publishing is fiscally impossible, and building the new system necessary for the revitalization of the academy will require real investment. Where will this investment come from, and why should we be driven to make it?

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 This chapter is likely to be the most speculative of this volume. I am not an economist, nor have I done time in the higher reaches of university administration. What I argue here may therefore be the most subject to rebuttal or easy dismissal, though I suspect that the majority of such objections may come less from my fellow academics than from the university administrators who I hope form part of this book’s audience, administrators who are far more painfully aware than I of the fiscal realities of higher education in the era of the Great Recession. I do want, however, to propose a few ways that might help us begin to climb out of the morass we’re currently in, if only to suggest that thinking creatively about the future of publishing will require thinking creatively about the future of the academy as a whole. I do not claim that the paths I recommend are the only fruitful directions in which the academy might proceed, but I believe that they represent one potentially rich future; furthermore, the recommendations I make here are backed up, in large part, by similar recommendations contained in reports by groups including the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and numerous other groups and institutions. While these reports differ in many of their details, and in the pathways they propose toward the desired outcome of revitalizing scholarly publishing, the convergence of the opinions in these reports reveals one certainty: There is no going back; the only way forward is through.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/plannedobsolescence/five-the-university/