Should I Stay or Should I Go? Alternative Infrastructures in Scholarly Publishing

Carl Lagoze, Paul Edwards, Christian Sandvig, Jean-Christophe Plantin


For more than three-and-a-half centuries, the scholarly infrastructure—composed of commercial publishers, learned societies, libraries, and the scholars themselves—has provided the foundation functions of certification, registration, access, preservation, and reward. However, over the last two decades, the stability of this infrastructure has been disrupted by profound changes in the technological, economic, cultural, and political climate. We examine the actions of scholars in response to this infrastructure instability through the lens of Hirschman’s “exit, voice, and loyalty” framework. We describe the motivations and actions by scholars, especially those with tenure, who have chosen exit from the mainstream scholarly communication infrastructure to a proliferation of newly available alternative infrastructures. However, this option is not practical for all scholars due to the “enforced loyalty” imposed by reward systems based on metrics that are intricately tied to the traditional infrastructure. We examine the alternative of voice exercised by these scholars, combined with the threat of exit that has changed policies that are the source of dissatisfaction with the system.


infrastructure, scholarly communication, disruption

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