The Commons and a New Global Governance
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The Commons and a New Global Governance

Edited by Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters

Given the new-found importance of the commons in current political discourse, it has become increasingly necessary to explore the democratic, institutional, and legal implications of the commons for global governance today. This book analyses and explores the ground-breaking model of the commons and its relation to these debates.
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Chapter 9: Knowledge commons and global governance of academic publishing

Maarja Beerkens


The issue of open access to scientific research has become a prominent policy topic over the last decade in Europe, in the United States and in many Western and non-Western countries. Although countries attempt to address the issue within their national boundaries, it is increasingly clear that scientific publishing is a global industry and regulating it within national borders can have, at most, only a limited success. We can observe increasing international coordination emerging in the field. The strive for open access has become a ‘typical’ global governance challenge with hundreds of actors involved, different entangled narratives and norms, and various policy solutions competing for attention. The terms ‘public good’ and ‘commons’ come up often in the discussions on knowledge and research, sometimes in a neutral sense, and often as a normative statement to justify a desired course of action. The phrasing matters, though, as it determines not only the definition of the problem but also the menu of possible solutions. While the ‘public good’ angle tends to focus on the right balance between sharing knowledge and protecting it via intellectual property rights, a framework of ‘commons’ inspires to seek out an alternative, more inclusive and community-based governance system for academic knowledge. The aim of this chapter is twofold. It will examine the use of the concepts ‘public good’ and the ‘commons’ in addressing the issue of restricted access to knowledge. Secondly, it will analyse the challenge for open access as a collective action dilemma on the global arena, and it will evaluate the potential for replacing the current market-based structure of academic publishing with a self-governing system organized by a global (academic) community, as increasingly proposed within academia.

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