Friday, July 17, 2009

The Privatization of Academic Journals: "The Dark Side of Online Journals"

Scholars are not exempt from dealing with materials and conditions that subsume the production of knowledge at the university to particular interest groups. This, obviously, occurs in private universities, where private funds are used to establish departments, purchase materials, employ intellectuals and support staff. Nonetheless, it also occurs in public universities, where high officials that respond to private interests (syndics, presidents, chancellors, etc.), channel public funds and, in general, direct the bureaucracy. Even in the case of the so-called public universities, aside from the control over top level bureaucrats that subsequently gives them control over the organization, private companies colonize the production of knowledge by controlling the materials needed by academics to do their jobs efficiently. Thus we see that students' access to universities more and more often depends on higher tuitions, which force students to take private grants and loans. Similarly, intellectuals access their materials through grants created by private companies for their own purposes.

One of the best examples of de facto privatization in public universities is the case of the academic journals, which are now controlled by big publishing companies. The article “The Dark Side of Online Journals”, by Lisa Richmond, explains how the privatization of journals--which are a very important instrument in the production of knowledge--ultimately directs researchers into considering certain problems while excluding others, consequently, leading them to work to generate a prestigious journal so that it can be sold back to the academy by the publishing companies at extravagant prices, as opposed to working to produce the knowledge we all need to solve our problems.

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