Inequality in Knowledge Production: The Integration of Academic Infrastructure by Big Publishers

Authors : Alejandro Posada, George Chen

This paper attempts to illustrate the implications of a simultaneous redirection of the big publishers’ business strategy towards open access business models and the acquisition of scholarly infrastructure utilizing the conceptual framework of rent-seeking theory.

To document such a transformation, we utilized financial databases to analyze the mergers and acquisitions of the top publicly traded academic publishers. We then performed a service analysis to situate the acquisitions of publishers within the knowledge and education life-cycles, illustrating what we term to be their vertical integration within their respective expansion target life-cycles.

Implications of higher education institutions’ increased dependency towards the companies and increased influence by the companies on the institution and individual researcher were noted from the vertical integration of products.

Said vertical integration is analyzed via a rent theory framework and described to be a form of rent-seeking complementary to the redirection of business strategies to open access. Finally, the vertical integration is noted to generate exclusionary effects upon researchers/institutions in the global south.