Reflection assignment on academic publishing models and research gatekeeping

Member: Kristen S. Slack
(University of Wisconsin - Madison)
View more resources by Kristen S. Slack
Endorsements: 2

I admit, I never really thought much about the business models of academic publishing when I was a graduate student, or even during the whole first half of my career as a faculty member.  However I have been thinking about it A LOT in recent years.  One thing is for certain, academics and academia are not in the driver's seat with respect to envisioning a research publishing model that ensures equitable access by both authors and readers.

The first link is to a piece I wrote on LinkedIn to summarize my thoughts on the topic. The second is a link to the film "Paywall", about the academic publishing industry. The film is unabashedly one-sided, but the counterpoint to the film's main message to consider and discuss is that it does actually cost money to publish research, and that labor and infrastructure needs to be funded somehow.  So how should this best be accomplished? There have been numerous articles written about the open access dilemma (and I use the word dilemma because the open access models being introduced in recent years do not solve the problem of inequitable access, and in fact potentially create wider inequities in terms of who is able to afford publishing their work).  Simply go to and search the term "open access". You might also search "Elsevier", as this company is arguably the prime example of a large corporate publisher with hefty subscription prices and large profit margins. There should be some pieces that present the Elsevier side of things if not on IHE, then findable through google searches.  

To encourage doctoral students to learn and think about the academic publishing industry, consider assigning any combination of the IHE news articles along with my LinkedIn piece, and ask students to watch the film.  Discussion questions could include:

1. Which "bad actor" elements of Elsevier, raised in the film/articles, do you find most concerning and why?

2. Are there legitimate arguments to be made for Elsevier's business model?

3.  If peer review remains a core aspect of academic publishing, is there an argument to be made for academics to treat review work as service? Is there an argument to be made to compensate that labor? What are the costs and benefits of each approach? 

4.  What are the benefits and costs of the newer "open access" models that are being implemented by publishers, which charge authors a fee for publishing their work?   

5. Brainstorm about what an equitable and sustainable (i.e., costs need to be covered) academic publishing model might look like.

6.  Has this assignment changed your perspective on how you might make decisions about where and how to publish your work? In what ways?

Last Revised Date 
Sun, 01/30/2022 - 09:58
Keywords / Tags 
open access
academic writing
research publishing
peer review
academic publishing
Professional Development
Type of resource 
Resource Institution 
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Institution Type 
4 or 4+ year College/University