An ecosystem is a compelling metaphor. A healthy ecosystem is complex, balanced, and interdependent. It lives, thrives, grows, etc. As such, the ecosystem metaphor is a good way to warn against extraction, factory farming, pollution, over-fishing, ‘invasive’ phenomena, and even ‘disruption.’ When I talk about copyright, I often talk about a “cultural” or “expressive” ecosystem, which copyright is supposed to foster, and which consists not only of “creators” and copyright holders, but also of teachers, students, critics, scholars, politicians, and any number of other organisms whose well-being depends in part on being embedded in a healthy ecosystem.
The metaphor works quite well for scholarly publishing, too, and there’s even a term, “bibliodiversity,” to describe the degree to which the publishing ecosystem is comprised of a healthy balance of different systems, approaches, and actors (and different kinds of systems, approaches, and actors). Just as biological diversity is good for a living ecosystem, and cultural diversity is good for a living culture, bibliodiversity is good for the culture of scholarly publishing. A system dominated by a few extractive oligopolists, OTOH, is decidedly unhealthy, and can lead only to ecosystem collapse.
This week’s Big Deal Longread is “Fostering Bibliodiversity in Scholarly Communications: A Call for Action,” a white paper published by the Confederation of Open Access Repositories. The authors write in the accompanying blog post:
Diversity is an essential characteristic of an optimal scholarly communications system. Diversity in services and platforms, funding mechanisms, and evaluation measures will allow the research communications to accommodate the different workflows, languages, publication outputs, and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of different research communities. In addition, diversity reduces the risk of vendor lock-in, which inevitably leads to monopoly, monoculture, and high prices.
We are living through unprecedented times, with a global pandemic sweeping the world, leading to illness, death, and unparalleled economic upheaval. Although our concerns about bibliodiversity have been growing for years, the current crisis has exposed the deficiencies in a system that is increasingly homogenous and prioritizes profits over the public good.
Read the entire white paper, which includes several specific actions that different stakeholders can take. Perhaps the most direct one is to sign the Jussieu Call, which lays out a set of principles devoted to protecting and advancing bibliodiversity as the scholarly ecosystem continues to evolve.
And have a great weekend!