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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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I'm very pleased to announce that I will speaking in the opening plenary session at the UK Scholarly Group conference on March the 26th, 2012 at the University of Glasgow. My paper will focus on the many problems in academic publishing through a typology of computer malware, arguing for a deep infection within the system.

In the complex interrelations of the researcher, the library and the publisher, each of these parties works, in one way or another, against their own interest. In this proposed paper I would like to present my work, which examines each of these autosubversive instances through a typology of computer malware; a botnet. In this paper, I will argue that our publishing practice has been infected at such a deep level as to render the infection invisible but that as a consequence, each of these actors in the publication cycle is compelled to work to defeat their own stated purpose.

The paper will take a tripartite structure. The first section will examine the motivations for a researcher's choice of publication output when considered as an autonomous agent within the contemporary audit climate alongside the current modus operandi of libraries and publishers. This takes account of the pressures brought to bear from sources such as the Impact Factor; economic interactions and the coming of age of Open Access; with particular reference to early career researchers and the humanities, my own immanent stance. The second brings focus to the interrelations of power between actors within this network and the constraints that compel agents to damage their own interests. Instances of this include: the outmoded system of prestige to which researchers subscribe, but which limits their own access owing to untenable journal subscription costs; the way in which libraries are used as a shield by publishers to mask their pricing schemes from researchers; how Open Access promises to save libraries, financially, but in the shifting balance of power that ensues, calls for a radical evaluation of their role. The final section examines the means by which such a network could be dismantled and the repercussions this action would have upon the academic landscape as it is known today.

As a new generation of researchers come into the field, researchers who will have always had Open Access journals with good Impact Factor ratings, the question that they will surely ask is: why should increasingly hard pushed academic institutions continue to prop up an outmoded commercial business model? I provocatively suggest here that it shouldn't and propose the means by which this could be achieved, perhaps at the expense of the publisher.

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