DOAJ: handmaiden to despots? or, OA, we need to talk

As any movement grows and flourishes, decisions made will turn out to have unforeseen consequences. Achieving the goals of the movement requires critical reflection and occasional changes in policy and procedure.The purpose of this post is to point out that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) appears to be inadvertently acting as a handmaiden to at least one despotic government, facilitating dissemination of works subject to censorship and rejecting open access journals that would be suitable venues for critics of the despotic government. There is no blame and no immediately obvious remedy, but solving a problem begins with acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion of how to avoid and solve the problem. OA friends, please consider this such an invitation.

As I posted recently, SpringerOpen is currently publishing 13 journals that are sponsored by the Government of Egypt, a government that has been criticized for numerous major violations of the human rights and academic freedoms of scholars (by “major” I mean consequences up to and including murder). These journals are listed in DOAJ.

In contrast, a number of journals that welcome global authors that would be suitable venues for critics of the Egyptian government (a number of the Global Communication Journals network journals and the International Journal of Communication) are no longer listed in DOAJ, in spite of the facts that these journals are fully open access and meet the quality criteria for DOAJ, as discussed here.

It seems very unlikely that anyone in the OA movement deliberately decided on a strategy of facilitating the inclusion of works sponsored by a despotic government and suppressing venues suitable for critique of despotic governments. But in effect this is what is happening. I do not know if this scenario is unique. There are reasons to think that it is not. As reported in previous posts on this blog, large commercial companies partnering with various sponsors is not unusual. A large company with dedicated staff and a number of open access journals is in a better position to ensure that their journals are included in DOAJ than a small one-off not-for-profit journal.

There is no blame and no instant remedy, but to achieve the vision of the global sharing of the knowledge of humankind, solutions must be found. The first steps in solving a problem are acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion and brainstorm on potential solutions. OA friends, please consider this an invitation.

Links to posts referred to:

https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/07/springeropen-egypt-and-academic-freedom/

https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/13/no-fee-inclusive-journals-and-disappointment-with-doaj/

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2019). DOAJ: Handmaiden to despots? or, OA, we need to talk. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/14/doaj-handmaiden-to-despots-or-oa-we-need-to-talk/

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

Cite as: Morrison, H. (2019). SpringerOpen, Egypt, and academic freedom. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/07/springeropen-egypt-and-academic-freedom/