In this collaboratively-written essay, the editorial team of an open-access journal explores how open access must necessarily extend beyond technological infrastructure to a set of ethical practices based on collaboration, mentorship, dialogue, and engagement. These practices, we argue, provide a foundation for ethical action and knowledge-making – not just informational sharing – essential to open access. Through analyzing the lessons we have learned in creating and publishing an open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal for the last five years, we use concrete examples to detail the challenges and successes we have experienced in building a journal infrastructure with an open-source ethics.
Our argument suggests that such an ethics must range from production (including editorial structure and decision-making, identification and mentorship of diverse authors), to dissemination (promoting and preserving open access information, including partnering with corollary technologies such as CLOCKSS and metadata-based indexing services), to productive circulation and exchange (including engagement and dialogue with both academic and non-academic audiences through structural features of the journal such as symposia and special issues). For us, the goal of open access then is not only to make information freely available, but to also encourage engagement beyond consumption, engender substantive dialogue that supports transformation, and make visible the collaborative nature of scholarly production.
Although academic publishing is just one small part of the infrastructure needed to support the productive networking of people and ideas, communities and institutions, academic publishing has an important role to play in illuminating, championing, problematizing when needed, and engaging in open education and knowledge. Access to open education and knowledge depends on constantly making and remaking infrastructures to ensure ethical and productive sharing beyond cloistered groups. Analyzing how and why we have been able to achieve these goals, and how and why we have sometimes not, offers a valuable window into how readers might think critically about the spectrum of access open access platforms actually promote and/or undertake the work of generating open access scholarship themselves.