Published May 26, 2023 | Version v3
Journal article Open

Mastodon over Mammon - Towards publicly owned scholarly knowledge

  • 1. Universität Regensburg
  • 2. Rice University
  • 3. University of Cambridge
  • 4. University of Toronto Scarborough
  • 5. Institut Teknologi Bandung


Twitter is in turmoil and the scholarly community on the platform is once again starting to migrate. As with the early internet, scholarly organizations are at the forefront of developing and implementing a decentralized alternative to Twitter, Mastodon. Both historically and conceptually, this is not a new situation for the scholarly community. Historically, scholars were forced to leave social media platform FriendFeed after it was bought by Facebook in 2006. Conceptually, the problems associated with public scholarly discourse subjected to the whims of corporate owners are not unlike those of scholarly journals owned by monopolistic corporations: in both cases the perils associated with a public good in private hands are palpable. For both short form (Twitter/Mastodon) and longer form (journals) scholarly discourse, decentralized solutions exist, some of which are already enjoying some institutional support. Here we argue that scholarly organizations, in particular learned societies, are now facing a golden opportunity to rethink their hesitations towards such alternatives and support the migration of the scholarly community from Twitter to Mastodon by hosting Mastodon instances. Demonstrating that the scholarly community is capable of creating a truly public square for scholarly discourse, impervious to private takeover, might renew confidence and inspire the community to focus on analogous solutions for the remaining scholarly record – encompassing text, data and code – to safeguard all publicly owned scholarly knowledge.



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