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Published September 24, 2021 | Version v2
Journal article Open

Replacing academic journals

  • 1. Universität Regensburg, Germany
  • 2. IHPST, CNRS, Paris, France
  • 3. LMU Munich, Germany
  • 4. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
  • 5. University of Vienna, Austria
  • 6. Reutlingen, Germany
  • 7. Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
  • 8. University of Thessaly, Larisa, Greece
  • 9. University College Dublin, Ireland
  • 10. Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain


A major factor underlying several of scholarship's most pressing problems is its antiquated journal system with its trifecta of reproducibility, affordability and functionality crises. Any solution needs to not only solve the current problems but also be capable of preventing a takeover by corporations. Technically, there is broad agreement on the goal for a modern scholarly digital infrastructure: it needs to replace traditional journals with a decentralized, resilient, evolvable network that is interconnected by open standards under the governance of the scholarly community. It needs to replace the monopolies of current journals with a genuine, functioning and well-regulated market. In this new market, substitutable service providers compete and innovate according to the conditions of the scholarly community, avoiding further vendor lock-in. Redirection of funding from the legacy publishers to the new framework may be realized by a tried-and-tested incentive system: Funding agencies have ensured minimum standards at funded institutions by requiring specific infrastructures. These requirements, updated to include the new framework, provide exquisite incentives for institutions to redirect their infrastructure funds from antiquated journals to modern technology. At the same time and enabled by this plan, new, modern and adaptable reputation systems, long demanded by the scientific community, can finally be implemented.

Ownership involves socially recognized economic rights, first and foremost the exclusive control over that property, with the self-efficacy it affords. The inability to exert such control over crucial components of their scholarly infrastructure in the face of a generally recognized need for action for over three decades now, evinces the dramatic erosion of real ownership rights for the scholarly community over said infrastructure. Thus, this proposal is motivated not only by the now very urgent need to restore such ownership to the scholarly community, but also by the understanding that through their funding bodies, scholars may have an effective and proven avenue at their disposal to identify game-changing actions and to design a financial incentive structure for recipient institutions that can help realize the restoration of ownership, with the goal to implement open digital infrastructures that are as effective and as invisible as their non-digital counterparts.



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