In recent decades, academic publishing has been transformed into a highly profitable business. In the past, scholarly journals were primarily published through professional associations or academic institutions; now many are operated by commercial publishers with large profit margins. Their profits are achieved through a system of academic exploitation—not only is the writing and peer-reviewing provided free to the publisher, but authors are now also regularly required to pay an open access fee to avoid their work being placed behind expensive paywalls. As publications in ‘high-ranking’ journals operated by commercial publishers are required for jobs, tenure, funding, and promotion, academics feel under increasing pressure to ‘play the game’. This has serious implications for early career academics, and is particularly punishing for women who are still usually the main carers for children. Over the past year, a number of high-profile incidents have further exposed the corrosive influence of profit-driven academic publishing, including the willingness to censor content in order to maintain access to the Chinese market.
The current academic publishing landscape, thus, presents serious threats to academic freedom through the spectre of censorship, and to academic integrity by delimiting the types of publications that ‘count’ for research assessment exercises. However, disquiet with the status quo is growing, and numerous projects are experimenting with alternative publishing models. This roundtable brings together representatives from high-quality, non-profit, open access outlets publishing on Asian contexts: Keila Diehl, managing editor of Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review; Nicholas Loubere, co-editor of Made in China: A Quarterly on Chinese Labour, Civil Society, and Rights; Christopher Nelson, co-editor of Cultural Anthropology; Gerald Roche, former editor of Asian Highland Perspectives; and Gerda Wielander, co-editor of the Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies. Marina Svensson, director of the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University, will chair.
Each discussant will give a 10-minute presentation on their publication, followed by a thematic discussion focussing on challenges involved in open access publishing—e.g. funding, organisation, and recognition—and strategies to develop sustainable alternatives that ensure academic freedom, integrity, and equal opportunities in Asian Studies.