‘Socially just’ publishing by, and for, geographers: what can we do?

Prof. Simon Batterbury1

1University of Melbourne/Lancaster University


Ethical questions pervade the conduct of contemporary geographical research, but are rarely applied to the publication stage. Major journals are published by for-profit corporations like Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor-Francis and Springer, charging libraries and [increasingly] authors. Plan S, a European initiative, may provoke the demise of many ‘paywalled’ journals and a shift to OA author-pays models in 2020. This improves public access to articles but commercial dominance will be untouched. I present data on the political economy and ethics of publishing, and make three appeals for change. 1) we need to be more aware of ethical knowledge production in the discipline – changing the way we publish 2) academics and librarians can take back some control from the for-profit sector through community-run, no-author-fee journals  using their existing skills, tools and networks 3) for this to happen, hiring, promotion and workloads in the discipline need to fully acknowledge and reward ‘socially just’ publishing, not just ‘excellence’. This starts ‘at the top’ in our institutions. I reference my participation in various alternative publishing networks like freejournals.org, editing the OA ‘Journal of Political Ecology’ [free, indexed, and academic-led];   and a new Australian academic network, ‘Public or Perish’ inaugurated in Melbourne.


Professor, Lancaster University (Chair of Political Ecology 2017-2019) and A/Prof Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne (2004-2016, 2019>). Editor of Journal of Political Ecology since 2003.

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