Gold open access and reaching social theorists

The Source
By: undefined, Mon Oct 25 2021

This year, we are celebrating open access week by talking to a number of researchers who have chosen to publish their work openly. We are discussing the reasons behind their choice, and the benefits they have seen for their research and career, and the role that institutions as well as Transformative Agreements can have in assisting with funding. In this interview, Dr. Bridget Fowler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Glasgow shares her thoughts.

This year’s OA week theme is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.” What role do you see for OA in addressing equity and inclusion?

We have heard a lot about the baneful instrumental reason of Facebook and Instagram, as Frances Haugan exposes to the world the algorithms which they operate with. These corporations clearly put their mega-profits from advertising before adolescents’ mental health. It would be easy to think we should all go back to the status quo ante - before the internet era, for example. However, the picture is in fact more complex than that. 

We should not lose sight of the advent of new technology for highly progressive ends, like the Creative Commons, amongst them the invaluable Wikipedia. Open access publishing, if it works well, should allow the diffusion of publications in journals – which at present are mainly used by academics, often only in a small field – to a much greater public. Who knows, they might even break beyond the “professionals” categorisation, to be used by all reasonably literate people. That would be an extension reminiscent of the Gutenberg Printing Press in the 15th Century and an outcome very much to be hoped for. 

Please tell us more about your research and why you chose to publish your research Gold OA.

This publication, on Pierre Bourdieu and Social Transformation – is published in Theory and Society. I had been brewing the basic ideas for 5 years or so, distressed to see writer after writer refer to Bourdieu as a theorist of reproduction alone, and not also of transformation. Having gained certainty, by close reading, that I was following the right track, I went out of my way to make this as good an article as it could be.

I wanted to publish it in Theory and Society, partly because this journal was originally started and edited by Alvin Gouldner, whom Pierre Bourdieu would have known, partly because it is still edited by Janet Gouldner and lastly because it has David Swartz on the Editorial Board, an eminent Bourdieu scholar. I was also keen to publish in Theory and Society because it has a worldwide readership. Gold OA enhances my chances of making social theorists and others aware, globally, that the article exists and possibly deciding to read it. The fact that there is no barrier financially to them doing this greatly appeals to me, since Bourdieu’s scholarship was undertaken on the part of ordinary people, whom he regarded as having less chance of getting access to influential ideas.  Hence at the end of his life – in the 1990s – he published shorter and simpler versions of his thought, to try to diffuse his ideas more widely.  

These OA articles will be particularly appreciated by universities in the South who are much less well-funded than those in the UK and the US. It will allow them to participate in the uptake of knowledge without the usual long time lag. 

What has been the impact of publishing your work via open access? Has publishing OA affected the reach/reception of your research among colleagues, other disciplines, or non-academics?

It has been the article that has been most quickly taken up of all the articles I have published, that is, in a period of publishing since the early 1970s.

Do you feel that OA options and benefits are understood well in your discipline? What are the OA publishing barriers/challenges specific to your discipline?

I would expect sociologists to be well acquainted with the attractions of this OA option, since they tend to be radical democrats and opposed to financial barriers in general. But I have no specialised research data to support this, I’m afraid. 

Tell us about your experience publishing open access under the JISC Transformative Agreement with Springer Nature. What were the key benefits?

Springer Nature has been a good firm to work with, re copy-editing etc. experiences. Moreover, the open access arrangement instituted by Springer Nature has suited me very well. It did worry me that I might lose the copyright, but I now understand that this has been retained for me as the author.

I have certainly noticed that my statistics for the number of readers and citations have improved over previous experiences of journal publication: I can’t say definitively that this is due to open access as opposed to the subject of the article, but think that it’s quite likely to be this new form of access. This should help in the future if I decide to seek funding for more research.

What would be your advice to others thinking of publishing OA?

Go ahead – you have nothing to lose and a world to win…! 

Dr. Bridget Fowler’s article was published OA under the UK Transformative Agreement between Springer Nature and JISC. This agreement means authors affiliated with participating institutions can publish OA in more than 2,000 Springer hybrid journals with their fees covered.

Learn more about open access and open research and discover the options offered at Springer Nature.

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About Dr. Bridget Fowler

Dr. Bridget Fowler is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology (Glasgow). She is particularly interested in sociological theory, Marxist-feminism and the sociology of culture. Her publications include amongst others, Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory (1997); The Obituary as Collective Memory (2007); and Pierre Bourdieu: Unorthodox Marxist? in ed. S. Susen and B.S.Turner, The Legacy of Pierre Bourdieu (2011). Her most recent work is Writers and Politics, Gisele Sapiro’s Advances within the Bourdieusian Literary Field, Theory and Society.