Academic Freedom: the Role of Academic Publishers
Pietro Damiani 19 October 2021

In 2017, it was revealed that the Cambridge University Press (CUP) capitulated to the Chinese government, removing hundreds of articles from the renowned journal The China Quarterly. All of this to comply with regulations set by the leadership in Beijing that otherwise would have prevented CUP to sell its journal to the very profitable Chinese market. In the following months, similar news regarding major publishers came to light and showed that complying whit the Chinese censorship is much more common than people used to think. In this essay, I first report some of the major incidents due to the Chinese influence on academic freedom abroad and examine how different publishers tried to justify their actions in different ways. Subsequently, drawing from the examples of publishers selling in China, I will analyse the commercial nature of the publishing industry and its contradictions, as well as the problems that arise from its incompatibility with academic freedom. What does it mean to lock articles behind a paywall? And what does it mean to make them freely accessible by everybody? After answering these questions, I will finally put forth a number of possible solutions in order to counteract the trends that endanger academic freedom nowadays.



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