On June 20 of 2009, I gave what I consider my most significant speech to date, at the Association of American University Presses’ annual meeting, entitled “Scholarly Publishing in the New Era of Scarcity.” It was the last presentation in the last Plenary session of the meeting, and allowed me to talk about the two issues that matter most to me:
Saving scholarly publishing, and saving civilization.
In 16 minutes.
The full text, and the YouTube videos, are at:
or you can watch Part I (missing my preface, that’s available in the full text):
and Part II:
A few segments from the text:
The realities I see ahead of us, in the next ten to fifteen years, militate for some radical strategic choices, in the next three years.
I believe that we must shift our business models — publicly, transparently, intentionally, thoughtfully, but radically — to a digital one, with open access as the backbone of scholarly publishing. We must do this to survive a tremendously turbulent next decade, and to ensure that our mission, and its survival, continues to be fulfilled.
But CO2 does something much worse. While we bicker with global-warming deniers, the ocean is getting more acidic. Excess CO2 plus ocean produces carbonic acid. Ocean acidification is a clear and present danger. A slight rise in acidity dramatically affects calcium-carbonate-based lifeforms, like most plankton, shellfish, and coral, the cornerstones of the ocean biosphere.
If humans do not drastically reduce our CO2 output in the next ten years, our rich, biodiverse ocean will become an acidic, jellyfish- and algae-filled cesspool, in our lifetimes.
If, over the next decade, humans continue doing what we have done for the last fifty years, then we will construct our own hell, and our grandchildren will curse our names.
Within the context of a world in crisis, we *must* demonstrate that we’re radically rethinking our relationship to the future. We must demonstrate that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. We must seize initiative now, and start making changes as fast as we can.
Open access + digital publishing will help get us to a sustainable world, and keep us in the mix.
Imagine, in five years, a different income stream where 50% of your income comes from some kind of value-added digital sales, and 25% from print-on-demand, and 25% through institutional support of fixed costs. Dissemination and societal impact will increase 50x, because the material is openly available and promoted online.
With that kind of documented dissemination of scholarly value and University brand, to the broadest public, no dean would be motivated to cut the support that enables scholarship to thrive online. And, our CO2 production will be radically decreased.
The presentation was controversial, and raised both some hackles and some hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck. Far more congratulated me than condemned my analysis — and many said they were rethinking strategy in light of what I showed them.
It was risky, but knowing what I’ve learned over the last two years doing the Apocadocs project, it was a risk I needed to take. Time’s a-wasting.
I’ve been interested to see the responses, and this post can become a response locale — I’m linking back here from the fulltext, in hopes that some discussion can ensue.