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June 28, 2018

Radicalising OA: Initial Post–Conference Thoughts

Writing about web page http://radicaloa.disruptivemedia.org.uk/conferences/roa2/

Theatre signThis week I attend the 2nd Radical Open Access (OA) Conference: The Ethics of Care (#radicalOA2), hosted by The Post Office (no, not that one) at Coventry University [1]. I was a little surprised to discover this was only the second radical OA conference, as I had attended the previous one a few years earlier during my PhD journey. I had rather assumed I’d missed a few in-between events during, but turns out I hadn’t, which was to my considerable delight. I was attending in part to support my ongoing research interests in the open academic publishing field; alongside seeking inspiration, insight and stimulation as an editor. In both these respects the conference delivered.

As with all good conferences, I made and renewed acquaintances with valuable peers, alongside being able to remind myself I’m not the only one railing at inequities within legacy and open access publishing environs [2]. It was also refreshing to be reminded how much I still don’t know about this evolving field and how much there is to understand, alongside uncovering some great practice and theory around OA along the way. I have the slight advantage that I came to OA as a practitioner first and a researcher second, and continue to have a foot in both camps. It certainly helps to have my more pragmatic, workaday instincts talking to me, alongside my idealist and ideological ones, when decoding and reflecting on what was discussed.

That said, I’m still in a process of post-conference reflection. There was so much good stuff packed into the two days, I suspect it will be a while before I fully process this into an enriched understanding of the discussions. One advantage which will help with these intellectual processes, alongside my own copious notes and extensive tweeting via personal and professional avatars, were the session pamphlets published alongside the conference. These were available for purchase during the event, but naturally are also freely available on the web. I’ll be going back over these pamphlets with some not inconsiderable interest over the next few days, along with following up on more than one of the articles and texts speakers recommended.

Key takeaways were many, but the few which really resonate in my memory are:

  • The terminology ‘predatory publishing’ is increasingly considered either weasel words, pejorative or quite simply loaded with culturally intolerable semantics. The impact of some ‘predatory OA’ tools in diminishing non-global north or non-Anglophone OA publishing and research discourse, is a lamentable outcome. Terming them trash or fake journals seemed more acceptable labelling.
  • The intertwined abuse of ‘authoritative’ metrics and trash titles, was an utter eye opener. I’ve never been a fan of metrics [3], but the conference has introduced me to a greater conceptual lexicon and rationale for their inadequacy as proxy measures.
  • Exciting, non-linear, multi-media and iteratively quality assured publications are a possibility (although there’s considerable work ‘under the hood’ required to make a ‘definitive’ output, where one is desired).
  • Skype presentations can broaden your speaker geographic reach while making limited demands on travel budgets and individual time. However, as an approach it diminishes the opportunity to engage with the speakers informally for delegates. And the less said about the technical risks of degraded audio-visual playback the better.
  • I still am no clearer what the term ‘poethics’ actually means after 90 minutes of discussions! [4]

    Once I’ve been back over my notes, I’ll attempt to draw together some deeper conclusions on how all of this ‘radical’ discourse might have some direct and concrete implications on how/why/where we take Exchanges over the coming years. As always, watch this space as I continue to explore our own corner of the scholar-led OA publishing field.

    ---

    [1] In what was the hottest location I’ve been to in this country for some time. 27C outside, was a refreshing change from the interior temperature. However, the food was excellent and the conference content well worth enduring the slight discomfort.

    [2] I talked a bit about the ‘subversion of OA by the neoliberalised university’ in my thesis.

    [3] To the degree that I once talked myself out of a promising post during the interview when asked my opinion on the measurement of academic esteem.

    [4] File this alongside my derth of comprehension on hermeneutics, structuralism and phenomenology


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