SpringerOpen, Egypt, and academic freedom

SpringerOpen 2019 and the Government of Egypt

by Dr. Heather Morrison

SpringerOpen is currently publishing 13 journals sponsored by the Government of Egypt. This is an opportunity to discuss some issues of relevance to the goals and sustainability of open access, starting with academic freedom. As described by Holmes and Aziz (2019) there are very serious problems with academic freedom in Egypt, ranging from tight government control over what is studied and published to extrajudicial killings of 21 students in the last few years. The University of Liverpool considered, then rejected, a lucrative offer to set up a campus in Egypt due to concerns about reputational damage. This raises some interesting questions. Academic freedom is critical to any kind of meaningful open access. Nothing could possibly be more in opposition to open access than a dead student whose research was destroyed because of what was studied. Why is SpringerOpen partnering with the Government of Egypt? Should academics boycott SpringerOpen because of this partnership? What, if anything, can academics do to support academic freedom in a country like Egypt? Some believe that the Creative Commons license CC-BY (attribution only) is the best for open access (I don’t agree, but this is a separate topic). If your research could get you killed, attribution might not be a good idea. Today, some of us might assume that these kinds of problems would never happen in our own countries; but times change, and it has happened that places that enjoyed freedom at one point in time came under the control of a dictator.

Following is the list of titles which state on the SpringerOpen site that they are supported by the “Specialized Presidential Council for Education and Scientific Research (Government of Egypt), so author-payable article-processing charges do not apply”.

Journals supported by the Government of Egypt published by SpringerOpen as of July 2019
Ain Shams Journal of Anesthesiology
Bulletin of the National Research Centre
Egyptian Journal of Biological Pest Control
Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics
Egyptian Journal of Neurosurgery
Egyptian Journal of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine
Egyptian Pediatric Association Gazette
Journal of the Egyptian Public Health Association
Middle East Current Psychiatry
The Cardiothoracic Surgeon
The Egyptian Heart Journal
The Egyptian Journal of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery

Holmes, A. & Aziz, A. (2019). Egypt’s lost academic freedom. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved August 9, 2019 from https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/78210