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  • Rashid

Open access science is the only way

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Here is a short interview I gave for the University of Groningen Library about my view on open access science. The interview concerned my recent publication:

Gabdulhakov, R. (2021). Media Control and Citizen-Critical Publics in Russia: Are Some “Pigs” More Equal Than Others? Media and Communication, 9(4), 62–72. doi:10.17645/mac.v9i4.4233

However, it also became a nice opportunity to share some thoughts on the torubles of academia. The original text can be found here.

"This article was published open access, was open access a deliberate choice?

Yes, it was. This article makes up a chapter in my PhD dissertation that I recently defended at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The project I was working on was funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), meaning that all the works I published throughout this PhD trajectory - five single-authored articles, three co-authored articles, one co-authored book chapter, and a co-authored edited volume - had to be open access.

Publishing open access is the only option for me, I find it very important. I cherish what the Dutch universities have been able to achieve in this domain. For instance, it was refreshing to learn about the so-called “Taverne Amendment”, or Article 25fa of the Dutch Copyright Act, which allows the authors to make their articles and book chapters open access after a short embargo period regardless of the agreements made with the publisher. This is fantastic. While I know that I have this option, I still make a conscious choice of collaborating with publishers who value open access. Legal options are fundamentally important, but I also need to see the shared appreciation of open access from the publishers’ side; otherwise, I don’t want my work to be affiliated with them.

How did you select the journal in which to publish? Were you aware that publisher Cogitatio has an open access agreement with the University of Groningen?

This was my second time publishing with Cogitatio. I was aware of their agreement with the University of Groningen (UG) and I appreciate the various options that this publisher offers to the authors in support of open access. This is exactly the example of values I mentioned earlier. Of course, working at institutions that have a direct open access agreement with the publisher makes things so much easier. Yet Cogitatio offers individual solutions for the authors who may not be in this position. Working with Cogitatio’s Media and Communication journal has been a joyful and rewarding experience.

On your profile page you mention that: “Through my work, I aim to spotlight people, places, and cases that are underrepresented, misrepresented, or simply ignored in academia”. Why did you choose this perspective?

As much as I love being in academia, I have a sober view of its various problematic sides. Sadly, there are gendered, ethnic, economic, linguistic, and many other biases and injustices in academia. Some steps are being taken here and there to decolonize and de-Westernize education, yet plenty of work is yet to be done. We need to ask ourselves the important questions: who gets to produce knowledge? Whose literature and perspectives penetrate class discussions? What are we doing to diversify and enrich the scholarly debate? As an academic from the so-called ‘Global South’ [Uzbekistan], I consider it my duty to make a difference to the extent possible. Yet sometimes I feel that the existing system is too powerful to conquer. For example, in the field of media, you may want to spotlight a given case from, say, Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, but journal editors would tell you that the focus is too narrow, while the same phenomenon in the context of the United States would be perceived as broad enough and universally applicable.

Here I would again return to the issue of values. Some journals embrace underrepresented cases, but even amid all of the buzz about filling the gaps, this is more often an exception than the rule. Moreover, there needs to be a multi-level approach to the ‘diversity objective’ at all the various stages – from student and staff recruitment to research idea development, research funding allocation and curriculum design. At the Faculty of Arts here at the UG and at the Research Centre for Media and Journalism Studies I feel the important support and encouragement to push forth my objective to spotlight people, places, and cases that are underrepresented, misrepresented, or simply ignored in academia. I hope more departments, universities, and publishers would share this vision. A university is THE place to discuss diverse ideas. When there is no diversity among students and staff, and when we focus on the select number of countries and cases, we go fundamentally against this core principle.

Could you reflect on your experiences with open access and open science in general?

When I was a student at the bachelor and master levels, it was so frustrating to see academic literature hidden behind a paywall. When institutions that I was affiliated with could not grant me student access, there would be no other options as I could not afford to pay the high price per article. This is another aspect that goes against the principles of open academia and knowledge production. It is exactly these practices that perpetuate centuries-long traditions of privilege and inequality in academia. Scholars affiliated with institutors that are rich enough to purchase access are consequently able to create new works and get published, build their careers, and influence academic discourse, while those without the access remain at the outskirts of academia. This is unacceptable."

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