Resisting Surveillance in Scholarly Publishing

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Swartz, Mark
McElroy, Kelly
Slaght, Graeme
This presentation connects the concepts of surveillance capitalism, surveillance publishing, and the citation economy, mobilising scholars, librarians, and participants in library publishing towards viable alternatives. A small number of companies with dominance over academic publishing capture and use the surplus value created through the publishing lifecycle. This extraction – of academic labour, of information – is reinvested into proprietary data analytics products. This can be both literally, as the data collected by the publishing side can be incorporated into data analytics algorithms, but also financially, as the profit margins of these academic publishing arms have long been astonishingly high. Crucially, these profits, in turn, have been used to expand these companies’ portfolios of extractive data services across various industries, as academic publishers transition from information vendors to technology-driven data brokers. By providing their labour directly or indirectly to these companies, scholars are supporting data collection and analysis used for everything from advertising to law enforcement. This data is also sold back to universities who then use it to surveil the publishing practices of their employees, using proprietary metrics and methods counter to principles of academic freedom. All of this plays out against the backdrop of overlapping crises. In higher education, adjunctification, the erosion of academic freedom, and increasingly commercial models of education further burden faculty in terms of their scholarship. In addition, the data brokers who now own the majority of academic publishing venues sell data analytics products incorporating personal data to a range of state and private actors, such as Clarivate’s contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As has been well-demonstrated, the impact of increased surveillance disproportionately affects minoritized communities. The presentation was delivered at the 2024 Surveillance Studies Network Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and contributed to the research project titled "Resisting Surveillance in Scholarly Publishing."
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