Academic publishing has been transformed by digitisation over recent decades, with the review process now able to be comprehensively tracked and transparent. But despite such progress, is our publication infrastructure actually more transparent, inclusive, and with less conflict? Or are practices of exclusion and gatekeeping merely now being hidden? Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Santi Furnari, Albane Grandazzi, Marie Hasbi, Maximilian Heimstädt, Thomas Roulet and François-Xavier de Vaujany put forward three propositions that, while not fundamentally new, may be helpful in strengthening and promoting a culture of care and broad-mindedness in academic publishing.
Over recent decades the process of reviewing, revising, and rewriting research papers has been increasingly digitised, largely due to the development of new tools which aim to make the process more documented and transparent (see, for example, recent debate around open peer review practices). But as the process is developed, are actually we providing a publication infrastructure that is more inclusive, transparent, and with less conflict? Or are practices of exclusion and gatekeeping simply now being hidden beneath the guise of openness, while continuing to be legitimised? Elaborating on a previous online discussion, we would like to put forward three propositions that, while not fundamentally new, may be helpful in strengthening and promoting a culture of care and broad-mindedness in academic publishing.
Opening the review process to collective care: towards wellbeing indicators?
Our first proposition is to build an open peer review system where reviews are available online, alongside the published papers. Open reports will also allow comments from the wider community. This simple decision could help make visible the hitherto invisible efforts of reviewers, paying homage to the collective building of knowledge, acknowledging all contributions. Such transparency could also militate against the behaviour of those who would use their anonymity to suppress or diminish the work of others, either because it appears non-conformist or because its author does not display the typical attributes of academic status or success. The current peer review process, later validated by citations and bibliometrics, may actually reproduce wider power dynamics (see here, for example).
Allied to an open peer review process, we also suggest that journals publish annual statistics on the papers, authors, and institutions to have cleared each peer review hurdle. Uncovering such information is necessary to properly understand and assess current academic practices and, if necessary, refine or reform them. Another concrete idea related to this proposal could be to ask authors to assess their own levels of stress and wellbeing at different points throughout the process. Beyond impact factors, all journals would be encouraged or even required to share their wellbeing indicators with independent, public organisations or open communities.
Opening our minds to the rest of the world: towards connected journals and metanarratives?
Much of academic practice is viewed in binary terms; teaching versus research, building versus communicating knowledge, and so on. In particular, doing research and communicating research happen in different contexts, with the relevance of academic research to our fellow citizens continuing to be poorly explained, for the most part. This has resulted in numerous debates about the social, material, and temporal gaps between research and practice – for example, academic research is often said to be published “too late” to align with managerial or political rhythms.
Yet at the same time, an increasing number of conferences are experimenting with new forms of knowledge transfer and with alternative ways to communicate the results of research in a more timely and impactful manner. The number of social media platforms has exploded (e.g. Twitter, The Conversation, Medium, etc.), providing researchers with new ways to disseminate and translate their research into actionable propositions for practice and policy. In the midst of these changes, the academic journal has remained oddly petrified, continuing to offer only its static article PDFs.
With this in mind, we suggest opening existing journals to alternative digital formats that would enrich their content and broaden the impact of their articles. Journals have already started to include videos, cartoons, and practitioner summaries, for example. We propose to expand this transformation towards new protocols, such as new scientific media (see, for instance, the experiments around the OWEE protocol), video journals (see the special issue on filmic research by the Journal of Marketing Management), abstracts for both academics and practitioners (see the example of the Strategic Management Journal), new metanarratives (i.e. journals continuously mapping a field in a narrative way), etc. The core idea behind these changes would be to bring academics and practitioners together in hybrid practices, and to foster both continuities and discontinuities in the way we collectively write research.
Opening our field as a whole: towards publications open to all?
More and more open access journals, open peer review processes, and open events (i.e. events producing open access content) have emerged in academia over the last decade. Some are a reaction to publishers’ established political and business models. Drawing on open culture and the do-it-yourself and hacker movements, researchers have developed the capability to run all logistical aspects of the publication process. Using creative commons licenses, the legal property need no longer be the property of a publisher or a university but instead a common good, accessible to anybody. Universities and national funding programmes are increasingly requiring published papers based on publicly funded research to be made freely available on institutional repositories or other open platforms (e.g. REF open access policy in the UK, or the more recent Plan S).
Meanwhile, many academic journals, under the ownership of major publishers, continue to sell access to their content at exorbitantly high prices, necessitating the use of public funds to access research which is often already publicly funded. Faced with this hard-to-believe but nonetheless existing situation, one question remains: why do we let for-profit companies privately appropriate the value of the academic literature, a public good to which we have all made contributions as authors, reviewers, or editors?
Several solutions could be envisioned. First, we could engage in a collective conversation with publishers about their added value and the cost of this added value. Second, we could strengthen and prioritise journals published by our own academic organisations, which are governed and owned by their members – i.e. “us”. Finally, a more radical move could be to “flip” existing journals to open-access ones, through the collective resignation and reincorporation of entire editorial boards. If other disciplines have done it, why can’t we?
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About the authors
Diane-Laure Arjaliès is an interdisciplinary scholar, Assistant Professor at the Ivey Business School, Western University (London, Canada). An ethnographer, she investigates how the fashioning of new market devices and collective actions can help transform markets toward sustainability. She is currently working on the rise of financial technologies and their impacts on society and the development of Indigenous forms of business and accounting that accommodate the spiritual and cultural beliefs of Aboriginal communities.
Santi Furnari is Professor of Strategy at Cass Business School, City, University of London. He studies how new ideas, practices, and industries emerge, particularly in the context of creative industries and creative projects. To address these issues, he uses institutional theory, configurational approaches, qualitative methods, and fuzzy-set/qualitative comparative analysis (fs/QCA). His paper, “A Chemistry of Organization” (with Anna Grandori) was among the first empirical applications of the fs/QCA methodology in management studies.
Albane Grandazzi is a PhD student at Université Paris-Dauphine, PSL. Her research is about new work practices at the French railway. She explores in particular the spatial transformation of train stations from a phenomenological perspective.
Marie Hasbi is a PhD candidate in management studies at Paris 2 University. She is exploring the lived experience of organisational space in the trend of new ways of working. She previously worked as an engineer and a human resource manager in the finance industry.
Maximilian Heimstädt is a postdoctoral researcher in organisation and strategy at Witten/Herdecke University (Germany). He is interested in the role of digital technologies in new and more open forms of organising, particularly in the fields of open government, open innovation, and open strategy. As a performative practice, he currently works on an open textbook on organisational openness.
Thomas Roulet is University Senior Lecturer in Organisation Theory at the Cambridge Judge Business School and a Fellow in Sociology & Management Studies at Girton College, both at the University of Cambridge. His work focuses on negative social evaluations (stigma, disapproval, scandal) and critical realist methods to address those issues.
François-Xavier de Vaujany is a professor of management and organisation studies at Université Paris-Dauphine, PSL. He is particularly interested in digital innovation and new work practices (e.g. digital work, remote work, mobile work, co-working, distributed work, slashers, digital nomads, hacking, etc.), how they emerge and how they are legitimised in organisations and society. In late 2014 he co-founded an international academic network (RGCS: the Research Group on Collaborative Spaces) about collaborative communities and collaborative movements involved in new work practices (in particular coworkers, makers, hackers). This network organises events all over the world, in particular learning expeditions and other experimentations mixing academics, entrepreneurs, managers, activists, journalists and politicians. Those are opportunities for walked, reflexive, collective narratives and events which are connected to each other.