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      Scaling Small; Or How to Envision New Relationalities for Knowledge Production

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      Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture

      University of Westminster Press

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          Abstract

          Within the field of open access (OA) publishing, community-led publishing projects are experimenting increasingly with new forms of collaboration and organisation. They do so by focusing on setting up horizontal alliances between independent projects within a certain sector (e.g., scholar-led presses), or vertically across sectors with other not-for-profit organisations (e.g., through collaborations with libraries, universities, and funders), in order to create multi-stakeholder ecologies within scholarly publishing. Yet at the same time, imaginaries for future modes of OA knowledge production are still controlled through demands for ‘scalability’ and ‘sustainability’, which are both seen as preconditions for scholarly communication models and practices to succeed and to be efficient. But they are also prerequi­sites to receive funding for publishing projects or infrastructure development. The scalability of open models is perceived as essential to compete in a landscape dominated by a handful of major corporate players.Drawing on our work with the Radical Open Access Collective, the ScholarLed consortium, and the Community-led Open Publishing Infrastructures for Mono­graphs (COPIM) project, this article outlines an alternative organisational prin­ciple for governing community-led publishing projects based on mutual reliance, care, and other forms of commoning. Termed ‘scaling small’, this principle eschews standard approaches to organisational growth that tend to flatten community diversity through economies of scale. Instead, it puts forward the idea that scale can be nurtured through intentional collaborations between community-driven pro­jects that promote a bibliodiverse ecosystem while providing resilience through resource sharing and other kinds of collaboration. Following Anna Tsing’s recom­mendations to keep in mind how reimagining our knowledge practices requires we pay particular attention to articulations between the scalable and the nonscalable (Tsing, 2012), what is needed to enable this is, first and foremost, a rethinking of existing systems and infrastructures and how they currently function – systems that have historically developed and been continuously remade to encourage fur­ther scalability. We further explore the possibilities of scaling small with particular reference to Anna Tsing’s work on the ‘latent commons’ and Massimo De Angelis’ discussion of ‘boundary commoning’, examining how these concepts are on display within the Radical Open Access Collective, ScholarLed and the COPIM project. As we will argue, reimagining the relations within publishing beyond a mere calcula­tive logic, i.e., one that is focused on assessing the sustainability of alternative models, is essential in not-for-profit OA publishing environments, particularly if we want new forms of collaboration to arise and to redefine the future of scholarly publishing in communal settings.

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          Most cited references 36

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          The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era

          The consolidation of the scientific publishing industry has been the topic of much debate within and outside the scientific community, especially in relation to major publishers’ high profit margins. However, the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers, as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines, has not yet been analyzed. This paper provides such analysis, based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013. It shows that in both natural and medical sciences (NMS) and social sciences and humanities (SSH), Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis increased their share of the published output, especially since the advent of the digital era (mid-1990s). Combined, the top five most prolific publishers account for more than 50% of all papers published in 2013. Disciplines of the social sciences have the highest level of concentration (70% of papers from the top five publishers), while the humanities have remained relatively independent (20% from top five publishers). NMS disciplines are in between, mainly because of the strength of their scientific societies, such as the ACS in chemistry or APS in physics. The paper also examines the migration of journals between small and big publishing houses and explores the effect of publisher change on citation impact. It concludes with a discussion on the economics of scholarly publishing.
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            ON NONSCALABILITY: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales

             A. L. Tsing (2012)
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              Duration and quality of the peer review process: the author’s perspective

              To gain insight into the duration and quality of the scientific peer review process, we analyzed data from 3500 review experiences submitted by authors to the SciRev.sc website. Aspects studied are duration of the first review round, total review duration, immediate rejection time, the number, quality, and difficulty of referee reports, the time it takes authors to revise and resubmit their manuscript, and overall quality of the experience. We find clear differences in these aspects between scientific fields, with Medicine, Public health, and Natural sciences showing the shortest durations and Mathematics and Computer sciences, Social sciences, Economics and Business, and Humanities the longest. One-third of journals take more than 2 weeks for an immediate (desk) rejection and one sixth even more than 4 weeks. This suggests that besides the time reviewers take, inefficient editorial processes also play an important role. As might be expected, shorter peer review processes and those of accepted papers are rated more positively by authors. More surprising is that peer review processes in the fields linked to long processes are rated highest and those in the fields linked to short processes lowest. Hence authors’ satisfaction is apparently influenced by their expectations regarding what is common in their field. Qualitative information provided by the authors indicates that editors can enhance author satisfaction by taking an independent position vis-à-vis reviewers and by communicating well with authors.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture
                University of Westminster Press
                1744-6716
                March 22 2021
                March 22 2021
                : 16
                : 1
                Article
                10.16997/wpcc.918
                © 2021
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