Open Access

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Open but Unfair- The role of social justice in Open Access publishing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 6:00pm in

Stage one of the Open Access (OA) movement promoted the democratization of scholarly knowledge, making work available so that anybody could read it. However, publication in highly ranked journals is becoming very costly, feeding the same vendor capitalists that OA was designed to sidestep. In this Q&A, Simon Batterbury argues that when prestige is valued … Continued

Why publish books open access?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 2:50am in

This week is the 2020 Open Access week. I’m using the occasion to share my experiences with publishing a book open access, now almost 3 years ago. I’ve had multiple emails since publishing that book, mainly from established scholars who had earlier published with world-leading academic publishers, and who were wondering whether or not they should opt for a genuine non-profit open access publisher for their next book project.

My book, Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-examined was published with Open Book Publisher (OBP), a non-commercial academic publisher founded and currently run by scholars from Cambridge University. OBP’s motto is ‘Knowledge is for sharing’, and hence all books can be read on their websites or downloaded as a PDF for free; the prize for printed copies are also very reasonable (often under 20 UK Pounds).

I took the decision to send a bookproposal to OBP after I went to the University of the Western Cape in 2011 to teach a course on the capability approach to PhD students as well as lecturers/professors who would also use it in their teaching. I asked my host, Ina Conradie, what would be best for her students: to have a book published by an academic publisher that had offices in many parts of the world, or to have a book available on the internet by a relatively unknown publisher. She responded “Definitely the latter!” So that’s what I did.

The academics who wrote to me all wanted to know what my experience was. Well, it was excellent, and resonates much with the praise that can be found on OBP’s website in the section with comments from authors. The friendliness of the editors; the refereeing process that is at least as high-quality and helpful as with the traditional university presses; the almost maximal control you keep as author over the title as well as cover (which for me personally was very nice, since I used as the front cover a fabric my son wove, which I’m still very happy about); the excellent editing; and above all, the incredibly fast publishing itself – about one month after handing in the final manuscript, the book is published. And that is truly amazing, and in sharp contrast with the 6-12 months that this might take with traditional publishers.

And then there is the #1 argument for me: open access is open access is open acces, so anyone having access to the internet can access the book, no matter where they are living and how rich or poor they are. It’s the most democratic way to make knowledge accessible (together with blogging-without-paywalls-or-memberships). And the Metrics report page of my book clearly confirm that people do read it; less than 500 copies have been sold, but the book was accessed online more than 14.000 times, and downloaded from the official pages more than 8.000 time (and I don’t doubt it will also have been sent simply as an attachment or downloaded from other sites, since all of that is allowed). So, whatever the ‘true’ numbers, that makes for a lot of readers. Moreover, the readers are based in many countries, as the map at the bottom of the Metrics Report page shows, which to me is most pleasing. The global knowledge gap at the level of tertiary education is very large, and huge inequalities in access to resources is an important cause; Open access can help to reduce these inequalities, with one click.

Are there then no disadvantages to publishing with OBP (or another non-commercial open access book publisher)? There are three, as far as I can see.

One is that one doesn’t receive any royalties. Yet anyone who published an academic book with an academic publisher knows that, after taxation, it amounts to almost nothing. (Trade books might be different, but then we’re talking about a different game). Hence, I don’t think this disadvantage counts for much.

The second disadvantage is marketing: OBP doesn’t send out glossy-looking bi-annual catalogues, that are lingering around in departmental common rooms (if such rooms have survived budget cuts, that is). Marketing is to some extent in the author’s hands, which not everyone may feel comfortable with (or have a clue how to go about it). I’m not sure to what extent this is a significant disadvantage, though.

The third disadvantage is status and prestige: it is prestigious to published with Princeton University Press, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Harvard University Press (and so on, and so forth), and arguably OBP and similar publishers don’t have that prestige. For scholars on the job market or without tenure, or those still seeking promotion, as well as for some research assessment exercises, the prestige of the publisher does matter. And I suppose there are additional indirect (or derived) benefits from publishing with a major academic publisher, such as being part of a catalogue in which many people browse on a regular basis, and discover new books they didn’t know, and then buy them.

Is there “the best of both worlds” possible? Yes, there is, if you have a lot of money. Because the (European) traditional academic publishers by now know that there is a very strong push in the EU for open access, and grants from the European Research Council (ERC), and possible some national research councils too, can be used to make books open access. So if you’re able to put a sizeable amount of money on the table (ballpark figure: 10-12.000 UK pounds), then you might be able to publish with a prestigious publisher and publish open access.

Another solution would be difficult to realise and might pose a collective action problem, but is also much cheaper – and that would be if we would increase the prestige of publishing with publishers such as OBP. How can that be done? I recall that Harry here once mentioned that only if established scholars published with OBP, others will do so too, and their prestige will go up. So, I am hereby calling upon professors in the Ivy League universities, the British Russell group, and anything similar in other countries, to consider what role you could play in giving publishers run by academic for academics (and the readers!), the prestige they deserve. Perhaps the question I’d like us to consider is: if we have tenure, why don’t we publish open access?

Open Science- Who is left behind?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 6:38pm in

Open Access initiatives promise to extend access to scholarly conversations. However, the dominant model of Article Processing Charges, whilst lowering financial barriers for readers, has merely erected a new paywall at the other end of the pipeline, blocking access to publication for less-privileged authors. In this post, Tony Ross-Hellauer, Angela Fessl, and Thomas Klebel, ask … Continued

Open Access is here to stay. But who will pay?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 5:52pm in

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the already steady transition towards Open Access publishing. However, precisely what this future looks like and how it will be paid for by smaller, independent publishers is less clear. In this post, Danielle Padula outlines key findings from a report into the current state of Open Access among scholarly society and universities publishing … Continued

Elsevier’s Mendeley Creates Open Data Research Resources

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 10:05pm in

Scholarly open science has long been practiced effectively by SSRN and thereof our mantra: “making early-stage research available helping researchers create better research, faster”. It’s only natural SSRN’s sister company, Mendeley Data adds curated content by creating ongoing collections available in a one-stop repository for researchers to discover.

All for free.

If you are looking for specific data resources to continue your research, Elsevier has created collections available to freely view and download:

Explore and download the research you want, when you want it.

  • Elsevier OA CC-BY Corpus
  • ChEMU dataset for information extraction from chemical patents
  • The researcher journey through a gender lens
  • Data for: Build it and they will come:
    The convening power of the SOLEIL Synchrotron facility
  • Covid-19 Relevancy Algorithm Data Set for Identification of Core Scientific Articles
  • Analysis of research data for 11 Institutions – Data Monitor
  • Protein regulatory relationships in COVID19
  • 3D reconstruction data used to perform selection task
  • Media and Cell Line Dictionaries
  • Data for: Accept me, accept me not:
    What do journal acceptance rates really mean?
  • … and many more

These collections are curated to keep you informed of the latest research in these most popular fields of study.

Here are just some of the benefits of open research data for authors and readers:


  • Get credit for all your research outputs, not just the paper
  • Potentially attract more citations
  • Comply with funder mandates data sharing
  • Start sharing your datasets


  • Easily access the data which underpins a paper
  • Facilitates evaluating and attempting to reproduce the paper’s findings
  • Use the data in your own research and meta-studies

Your data is FAIR with Mendeley Data

  • When collaborating with the research community to develop Mendeley Data, we followed the FAIR data principles to increase the exposure of research data.

Data Defined

When we talk about data, we mean all forms of research data inclusive of everything needed to reproduce the research. So, raw data, processed data, protocols, methods, workflows, machine & environment settings, scripts, analyses, algorithms, and a plethora of other types of analysis tools.

Benefits within an Open-Access Culture

Reusing research data improves the research data life-cycles with the lab and to the world-wide researcher audience.

In turn, researchers benefit with time savings when searching, collecting, and sharing data by using the Mendeley Data datasets and SSRN tools to disseminate their early-stage discoveries. There’s compliance with funders’ mandates and improved impact to increase data reuse.

Start discovering new datasets on Mendeley Data, today!

Interested in adding your work to SSRN? Set up your free account, today.

Are you a research leader interested in achieving more visibility for your research output? A Research Paper Series could be your answer. Let us provide a 30-minute complimentary demo of the online tools to support your faculty and students to showcase research.


The Business of ‘Free’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 11:19pm in


Open Access

A few weeks ago I got an email from Wikipedia with the subject ‘This is a little awkward’. I knew from the header that they were going to ask for money. But I was happy to oblige. Wikipedia is one of the triumphs of the internet — a vast repository of knowledge that’s free for everyone. I use Wikipedia daily. So I was happy to support their work.

The Wikipedia email got me thinking about the business model of ‘free’. It’s something that, according to neoclassical economics, shouldn’t exist. Think about it this way. According to neoclassical economics, humans are selfish utility maximizers who act for their own benefit. Individuals part with money only if they receive something in return. But in the case of Wikipedia, donors part with money to receive information that was already free. That’s something a respectable utility maximizer would never do.

And yet Wikipedia continues to exist and thrive. Why?

The answer is that there’s more to human behavior than self interest. Humans are social animals who have an instinct to help others. Wikipedia depends on this instinct. It depends on people giving money to receive something that’s already free.

True, Wikipedia’s business model operates at the fringe. Most businesses don’t give away their product for free. In fact, they can’t imagine doing so. As a representative for Ebay China put it, “Free is not a business model”.1 To earn income, most businesses rely on the act of restriction. They restrict access to their product using property rights. So if you want what they have, you have to pay for it.

The dominance of this paywall model tells us that humans are not purely altruistic — far from it. Imagine that Microsoft started giving away its software for free. Would it continue to earn billions in profit? Doubtful. The majority of people would use the software without giving Microsoft a dime. So Microsoft’s revenue would collapse. This tells us that Microsoft’s income depends on selfishness. People want to use MS Office and so pay to get it … because they must.

To many people, this self-interest model seems like the only way to run a business. But it’s not. Some businesses operate solely on good will. Instead of paywalling their product, they give it away for free. Then they earn income by appealing not to selfishness, but to altruism.

Take, as an example, the free software movement. I’m typing this post on a computer that runs Linux Mint, a free operating system. (It’s a beautiful OS — fast and stable. I highly recommend it.) Like Wikipedia, Linux Mint gives away its product for free. And yet it still earns an income (albeit nothing like Microsoft). Linux Mint earns income because some users give money for software that’s free. It’s a business model based on altruism.

Free knowledge

The email from Wikipedia got me thinking about what I’m doing on this blog. According to neoclassical economics, my behavior is exceedingly naive. I spend hundreds of hours doing research, and then I give away my results for free on the internet. What am I thinking?

I give away my research because I believe that knowledge should be free. Knowledge is our species’ greatest asset — the accumulated wisdom of countless generations. It’s a travesty, in my opinion, to restrict access to this shared inheritance.

If knowledge is free, then how do researchers earn a living? One way is to rely on the power of government. In this model, the government collects taxes (coercively, if necessary) and uses this income to fund research. The resulting knowledge is then given away for free. This is how the public university system works … in principle. But in practice, most publicly funded research gets paywalled by private publishers.

This paywalling of research is a kind of reverse tragedy of the commons. Instead of over-exploiting a common-pool resource, we under-exploit it. Knowledge that could be free for everyone is instead restricted to the few who have journal subscriptions. (Fortunately we have Sci-Hub, which, to the chagrin of publishers, has liberated most scientific articles.)

Besides relying on government, how can researchers earn a living while creating free knowledge? The other option is to use the Wikipedia model: give away knowledge for free and then rely on the kindness of strangers for support.

This is a little awkward

Speaking of the kindness of strangers, that brings me to you, dear reader. On this blog, I give away my research for free. In return, I hope that readers like you will support my work.

If you’re already a supporter, thank-you! If you’re a new reader, here’s a little bit about this site. I started Economics from the Top Down on a whim. I was tired of writing academic papers and wanted to communicate my work to a general audience. So in April 2019, I started this blog.

What happened over the next year and a half surprised me. Economics from the Top Down became far more than a hobby. It’s now my primary research outlet. Since April 2019, I’ve written over 200,000 words here — enough for a sizable book. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because this is a blog about new research, the underside is that I’ve done a ton of analysis. I’ve written about 18,000 lines of code and made over 300 charts to communicate my results.

I’ve been driven to do this by you, the reader. Over the last year and a half, Economics from the Top Down has had 150,000 views. Given that I’m writing primarily about new research, I’m thrilled with this attention. So thank-you, readers, for joining me on this journey.

If you enjoy my research, consider becoming a patron. Yes, you’ll be paying for something that’s free. And that’s exactly the point. Your altruism will help me keep my research where it belongs — in the public domain.




P.S. My next post is going to analyze word frequency in economics textbooks. As part of that post, I’ve been asking people on Twitter to guess the most popular English word that’s missing from econ textbooks. Join the discussion here and here. If you’re not on Twitter, you can send me your guess using the contact form. (No one’s guessed correctly yet.)

[Cover image source: American Libraries Magazine]


  1. Hat tip to Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler for finding this quote from Ebay.↩

Support this blog

Economics from the Top Down is where I share my ideas for how to create a better economics. If you liked this post, consider becoming a patron. You’ll help me continue my research, and continue to share it with readers like you.


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Three lessons COVID-19 has taught us about Open Access publishing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 5:57pm in


Open Access

This post is part of a six-week series: Rapid or Rushed? exploring rapid response publishing in covid times. COVID-19 has seen an unprecedented focus on research and an acceleration in the availability of its outputs. But this open approach shouldn’t be an exception. Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research at Wellcome, outlines three lessons for … Continued

Review of Capital as Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 9:00pm in

Exciting news! As of this month, I’m the new editor of the Review of Capital as Power. What is this journal? Why am I editing it? Read on to find out.

The Review of Capital as Power (RECASP for short) is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes research that engages with the idea of capital as power. Created by political economist Tim Di Muzio in 2012, the journal has published work on a variety of topics, including the ownership of public debt, the management of risk in Hollywood cinema, and the power trajectory of Walmart.

You can read the entire RECASP catalogue here.


The goal of the Review of Capital as Power is to provide a forum for research and debate about the idea of capital as power. Do we really need this forum? The answer is yes.

Debate is essential for science. When new ideas are proposed or new evidence is unearthed, that should begin a conversation. The evidence should be examined and retested. The ideas should be reviewed and critiqued. The degree to which this debate does not happen signals the degree to which science is failing.

To see science fail, we need only look to the top five journals in economics. A few years ago, political economist Joe Francis set out to measure debate in these journals. He looked at the percentage of articles that contained the words ‘comment’, ‘reply’, and/or ‘rejoinder’ in their titles. His results were shocking.

Economists, Francis found, have largely stopped debating. Figure 1 shows his findings. Debate rose until the 1970s, but then collapsed thereafter. What you’re seeing, after 1970, is economists consolidating neoclassical ideology. Today, economists don’t debate because they’ve arrived at an ideological consensus.

Figure 1: The rise and fall of debate in economics. This figure shows the percentage of articles published in the top five economics journals containing the words ‘comment’, ‘reply’, and/or ‘rejoinder’ in their title. Source: Joe Francis.

To be fair, there is no shortage of neoclassical critics. It’s just that these critics don’t publish in mainstream economics journals. The reason is simple. Mainstream journals act as neoclassical gatekeepers. If you challenge neoclassical theory, your work is unpublishable in these journals.

That’s where the Review of Capital as Power comes in. The idea of capital as power is a radical challenge to neoclassical ideology. It’s an idea that, unfortunately, is difficult to get past neoclassical gatekeepers. I speak from experience, as can many capital-as-power researchers. We’re used to rejection.

If the idea of capital as power is to be researched and debated, we need an open, scientific space to do so. The Review of Capital as Power is such a space.

RECASP will not, however, be a venue where the idea of capital as power is to be praised without question. The worst thing that can happen in science is for an idea to become sacred. This, in my view, is where many heterodox economics schools go wrong. They enshrine certain texts (say Marx’s Capital) as sacred. From then on, the field comes to increasingly resemble not science, but theology.

I plan nothing of this sort for the Review of Capital as Power. I want it to be an open scientific space in the sense of being a place for hard-nosed science — a place where ideas are judged openly by their scientific merit, not their ideological shade.

Given the ideological nature of political economy, achieving such objectivity is a tall order. Still, it’s something that I’ll strive for.

Publishing model

All articles in the Review of Capital as Power are published open access under the Creative Commons (licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). That means you can read all articles for free. And authors can distribute their published work freely.

Importantly, this open-access model has no fees. You can publish in the Review of Capital as Power for free.

Actually, you can possibly get paid to publish in the journal, which brings me to my next point …

The capital as power essay prize

With the aim of fostering new research and debate, the Review of Capital as Power is holding an essay contest. The winner will receive $1000 CAD and have their article published in the journal. You can read the details here.

Essay restrictions are minimal. Basically, you need to write an essay that engages with the idea of capital as power (either positively or critically). And your essay should be previously unpublished in a refereed journal or book. (Posting it as a preprint beforehand is fine … actually encouraged).

We’ll judge the essays using blind review. So make sure you submit a version that masks your identity.

The deadline for this year’s competition is January 31, 2021.

Conflicts of interest

I encourage authors to disclose any conflicts of interest. With that in mind, please notify me in your submission if you are a patron of Economics from the Top Down. I’ll recuse myself from reviewing your paper and give the job to a guest editor.

Comments? Questions? Ideas?

If you have an idea for an article and want to know if the Review of Capital as Power is an appropriate venue, please contact me. (Contact details here.)

Do you have ideas for a special issue? Questions about the journal? Again, please contact me.

I look forward hearing from you.

Support this blog

Economics from the Top Down is where I share my ideas for how to create a better economics. If you liked this post, consider becoming a patron. You’ll help me continue my research, and continue to share it with readers like you.


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COVID-19 has profoundly changed the way we conduct and share research. Let’s not return to business as usual when the pandemic is over!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 4:59pm in

COVID-19 has led to rapid and open sharing of research outputs. But will this new, radically open research communications paradigm result in permanent change? Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) executive board members, Kathleen Shearer, Eloy Rodrigues, Bianca Amaro, Wolfram Horstmann, William Nixon, Daisy Selematsela, Martha Whitehead and Kazu Yamaji, argue that the new research … Continued

Science by press conference: What the Heinsberg Study on COVID-19 demonstrates about the dangers of fast, open science.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 7:55pm in


Open Access

COVID-19 has accelerated calls for fast, open science to inform policy responses. However, when contradictory or false results become public, the negative consequences of this becomes hard to contain. Nate Breznau discusses the Heinsberg Study into COVID-19, outlining how the lack of appropriate scientific scrutiny led to policy responses that were misinformed and dangerous. Breznau … Continued