Sociological implications of scientific publishing: Open access, science, society, democracy, and the digital divide


Work data:

Type of work: Article (academic)


Intellectual Property | Open Access


Claims for open access are mostly underpinned with

  1. science–related arguments (open access accelerates scientific communication);
  2. financial arguments (open access relieves the serials crisis);
  3. social arguments (open access reduces the digital divide);
  4. democracy–related arguments (open access facilitates participation); and,
  5. socio–political arguments (open access levels disparities).

Using sociological concepts and notions, this article focuses strongly on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of (scientific) capital and its implications for the acceptance of open access, Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis and the implications of open access for the concept of the digital divide. Bourdieu’s theory of capital implies that the acceptance of open access depends on the logic of power and the accumulation of scientific capital. It does not depend on slogans derived from hagiographic self–perceptions of science (e.g., the acceleration of scientific communication) and scientists (e.g., their will to share their information freely). According to Bourdieu’s theory, it is crucial for open access (and associated concepts like alternative impact metrics) to understand how scientists perceive its potential influence on existing processes of capital accumulation and how open access will affect their demand for status. Foucault’s discourse analysis suggests that open access may intensify disparities, scientocentrism and ethnocentrism. Additionally, several concepts from the philosophy of sciences (Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend) and their implicit connection to the concept of open access are described in this paper.