The increasing concentration of scholarly communications, courseware publishing, and data analytics into the hands of fewer commercial vendors continues to raise concerns, particularly in the absence of evidence that publishers have any interest in mind other than their short-term revenue and profit growth. The focus on protecting revenues even in the face of deep academic budget cuts, the relentless lobbying to protect “inclusive access” practices that limit student choice, and the reluctance to abandon practices that disadvantage researchers point to the conclusion that the academic community can protect its values only by increasing control of its own content and infrastructure.
The past year has seen more deals that led to more concentration, loss of diversity, and ultimately to the academic community’s lessening control over its own destiny. However, there are also positive signs: a large merger failed, Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) was launched as a concerted effort to build a community-owned infrastructure, and some legislative progress was made. Much remains to be done, but the opportunity to tip the scales in favor of the interests of the knowledge community is significant and must be pursued.
This 2021 Update to the SPARC Landscape Analysis further explores these trends. Supplementing observations first published in the SPARC 2019 Roadmap for Action (INSERT LINK), this document suggests organizational changes in academic institutions to both (1) manage increasing strategic and ethical challenges and (2) deploy tools and analyze data to better understand the needs and protect the interests of individuals and communities.
The recommendations underscore the need for the academic community to take control of its own content and infrastructure both to best serve its own interests and to protect and further its values of equity, inclusiveness, and academic freedom.