For Open Access Week Oct. 25-31, WSU Libraries’ Talea Anderson will present on confronting inequities in academic publishing from 11 a.m.-noon Monday, Oct. 25, via Zoom. Anderson will discuss challenges for researchers who wish to publish in a way that supports equity and inclusion around the world and will suggest strategies to overcome them. Registration is available online.

“Academic publishing is driven by an idealistic vision, that no one would be prohibited from publishing or accessing research on the basis of their economic status, race, or ability,” said Anderson, WSU Libraries’ scholarly communication librarian. “However, in practice, this vision too often breaks down.”

Talea Anderson

Some inequities are economic in nature. For instance, a majority of academic papers are owned by a few publishers. With little competition on the market, cost inflation has been a serious problem, with the result being that even wealthy institutions cannot afford to maintain access to expensive journal packages.

Authors who wish to circumvent these issues may choose to publish open access, Anderson said, but they may find that their chosen journal levies an expensive article processing charge (or APC). Conversations continue worldwide about how to ensure that academic publishing remains accessible to both readers and authors. Meanwhile, WSU Libraries recently joined the PLoS Community Action Publishing model, which will allow WSU authors to publish articles, accepted by the flagship journals of the Public Library of Science, PLoS Medicine, and PLoS Biology, without paying APCs.

In addition to economic challenges, other inequities arise from lack of racial and linguistic diversity in academic publishing. Kirsten Bell and David Mills pointed out this issue in a recent article for the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“Bell and Mills explain how our perception of non-English, non-commercial journals is similar to our perception of the ‘uncivilized’ world outside of the colonized West in early cartography,” Anderson said. “There is the assumption that all non-western publications are ‘predatory,’ but much is still unknown about this publishing and what it could accomplish for advances in human knowledge.”

Inequities for accessibility are equally sobering. Fifteen percent of the world’s population has some form of disability (World Health Organization). Of these people, 56.7 million live in the United States (Census Bureau). Yet 90 percent of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology—and these sites include academic publishing (AbilityNet, 2018).

To address inequities, Anderson suggests these strategies: