Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 148 No. 0708 (2018)

Open access, data capitalism and academic publishing

  • Michael Hagner
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2018;148:w14600


Open Access (OA) is widely considered a breakthrough in the history of academic publishing, rendering the knowledge produced by the worldwide scientific community accessible to all. In numerous countries, national governments, funding institutions and research organisations have undertaken enormous efforts to establish OA as the new publishing standard. The benefits and new perspectives, however, cause various challenges. This essay addresses several issues, including that OA is deeply embedded in the logic and practices of data capitalism. Given that OA has proven an attractive business model for commercial publishers, the key predictions of OA-advocates, namely that OA would liberate both scientists and tax payers from the chains of global publishing companies, have not become true. In its conclusion, the paper discusses the opportunities and pitfalls of non-commercial publishing.


  1. Hagner M. Open access als Traum der Verwaltungen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 6, 2009.
  2. Hagner M. Gute Bücher benötigen Zeit und Papier. Neue Zürcher Zeitung. May 23, 2014.
  4. Hagner M. Zur Sache des Buches. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag; 2015. pp 63–130.
  5. Harari YN. Big data, Google and the end of free will. Financial Times Magazine. Aug 26, 2016.
  6. Holmwood J. Markets versus Dialogue: The debate over open access ignores competing philosophies of openness.
  7. Buranyi S. Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? The Guardian. June 27, 2017.
  8. Vogel G, Kuperschmidt K. A bald open-access push in Germany could change the future of academic publishing. News from Science. 2017;23.
  9. Jochum U. Die politischen Zahlen der MPDL.
  10. Bourdieu P. La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Les édition de minuit; 1979.
  11. Drucker P. The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to our Changing Society. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann; 1969.
  12. Bell D. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. New York: Basic Books; 1973.
  13. House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee. Bridging the Valley of Death: Improving the Commercialisation of Research. London: The Stationery Office; 2013. p 99
  14. Brown R, Carasso H. Everything for Sale? The Marketisation of UK Higher Education. London: Routledge; 2013.
  15. Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Nutzung verwaister und vergriffener Werke und einer weiteren Änderung des Urheberrechtsgesetzes vom May 8, 2013. p 9.
  18. Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat Condorcet. Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2012. p 72.
  19. Budapest Open Access Initiative.
  20. Drucker P. The Rise of Knowledge Society. Wilson Q. 1993;17(2):52–71. Available at:
  21. Moedas SC. Europe’s voyage towards an open global research area
  22. Schmoll H. Unterwegs zur Lügenwissenschaft. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Aug 26, 2016.
  23. [Full disclosure: I belonged to the working group, which has prepared this statement].
  25. Statement on scientific publications by three national Academies (Academie des sciences, Leopoldina and Royal Society).
  26. Davis SP. Future of the OA Megajournal. The Scholarly Kitchen. Jan 10, 2018.
  28. Elsevier R. Annual Reports and Financial Statements 2013.
  32. Duffy BE, Pooley JD. Facebook für Academics: The Convergence of Self-Branding and Social Media Logic on Social Media Society. 2017;January-March:1-11.
  33. Schimmer R, Geschuhn KK, Vogler A. Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access.
  35. Email from Bruce Allen (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics) to the author, January 22, 2018.
  37. Email from Ramon Khanna (Springer Nature) to the author, February 12, 2018.
  41. Machado SA, Hoppmann L, Knaus J, Palzenberger M. Analysis of the international journal publishing activities in Switzerland with special emphasis on gold open access publishing. Max-Planck Digital Library.
  42. de Solla Price DJ. Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia University Press; 1963. pp 7–11.
  45. Mittermaier B. From the DEAL engine room — an interview with Bernhard Mittermaier. LIBREAS Library Ideas. 2017;32.
  47. Merton RK. The Matthew Effect in Science. Science. 1968;159(3810):56–63. doi:].