The Publishing Trap: knowledge, impact and librarians

Publishing Trap materials 16 Mar 2016
The Publishing Trap – Chris Morrison and Jane Secker

Knowledge symbol

We have been thinking a lot about how scholarly communication works, mainly in the course of working to make a game to pitch at LILAC as part of the Lagadothon. Our game is called The Publishing Trap and it is aimed at early career researchers or PhD students. Despite its name, we are trying to make this game neutral about the ideology and stance it takes with regards to open access. It is going to help researchers see the benefit of open access, but also the advantages of traditional scholarly communication. The idea is for researchers to see how decisions they make about where to publish have an impact on how knowledge flows, on their reputation and impact and on where money changes hands and ultimately ends up.

Money symbolCopyright in the academic environment has been highlighted recently by an outpouring of writings about the website Sci-Hub which hosts millions of published articles downloaded through university subscriptions, but made available for free. For example, Princeton University Library write about ‘information apartheid‘ and here are some ‘radical thoughts‘ from Duke University Library. Less controversially, academics are increasingly  talking about using websites such as or Research Gate to share their publications with each other, although your institutional repository is perhaps a better way of doing this as Exeter University point out. Ultimately all researchers need to consider what their motivations are for doing their research, and how the choices they make about where to publish impact on their academic career, on the institutions they work for and on wider society. They also need to realise that signing away copyright is not something a researcher should ever do lightly, and that librarians and scholarly communications officers can offer valuable support and advice.

Impact symbolThe Publishing Trap is still a prototype but we hope that in pitching it at LILAC we get feedback on how it works and how to improve it. It has already involved a considerable investment in time, Velcro, cardboard and chocolate. If you want a chance to find out what owls, stars and coins have to do with publishing and are at LILAC next week then come along to the Lagadothon on Tuesday afternoon, play our game and vote for the Publishing Trap! If you are not at LILAC and want to find out more, then do get in touch with us.


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