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Five years have passed since universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutions in Germany initiated terminating their contracts with the world’s largest scientific publisher, Elsevier (see also “‘The Garbage Strike Test’ Put to A Test in Germany: Already One Month Without Elsevier”). There are now almost 200 institutions that no longer have a contract and thus no direct access to Elsevier journals. The reason for this wave of cancellations was a combination of exorbitant price (increases) and the publisher’s refusal to switch to new open access publishing models.

However, it is precisely such new, quasi Germany-wide Open Access agreements that have been signed with the two next largest scientific publishing houses, Wiley (2019) and Springer Nature (2020), as part of „Project DEAL“. These agreements provide for all participating universities and research institutions to be granted access to the publishers‘ journals (archives) and for all articles written by their researchers to be freely and permanently accessible on the Internet worldwide. In turn, Publish & Read fees are charged for each published article. The contracts have been published in full on the web, including conditions (see contract with SpringerNature and contract with Wiley).

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In theory, publishing content financed by public and tax-like television licence fees under open content licenses should be a no-brainer. As with publicly funded research, open licenses improve distribution, allow for remix creativity and unlock access to popular free knowledge platforms such as Wikipedia.

In practice, however, advocates of open licenses in the realm of public-service media face several hurdles, such as:

  • Standard licensing procedures in the world of public-service media do not include open licensing options and are typically limited in time and in scope. Therefore, releasing material under an open license requires renewed rights clearing efforts with all right holders involved to reflect the conditions set out in open licenses — given the often high number of creators and right holders involved in video content production, this is a difficult, time-consuming, and costly task.
  • Standard remuneration rules can make open licensing unattractive for creators. One common provision, for example, requires public service broadcasters to pay repeated fees any time material is broadcast. With an open license, there are usually no required payments. As a result, remuneration schemes have to be changed to avoid or mitigate the loss of income for creators.
  • European Union competition law prohibits state subsidies that may distort competition. Usually, free and open licenses don’t pose a problem in terms of competition law as long as no special advantage for an individual market actor is associated with using an open license. Generally, public broadcasters act with great caution when it comes to competition rules and many have concerns regarding licensing arrangements that could potentially set off competition issues.
  • There are fears of information manipulation. In light of recent debates on disinformation and “fake news”, public-service media fear that the content they release might be deceivingly and fraudulently manipulated so as to misrepresent facts. While Creative Commons licenses generally permit the creation of derivative works or adaptations (unless the licensor chooses to release content under a NoDerivatives license) and attribution is a requirement for all CC licenses as is a link back to the original so users can see any changes made, they do not govern defamation, disinformation or fabrication of information, which are violations dealt with outside the scope of copyright. Still, there is a reticence in public media television to openly publish content due to such threats despite the aforementioned safeguards within the CC licenses.

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Screenshot of website for the course “Organizing in Times of Crisis”

Confronted with the need to adapt teaching in the summer term to the ongoing corona cris, my colleague Elke Schüßler, who is regular contributor to this blog, and I teamed up with six other organization scholars in Germany and Austria to design a collaborative open course on “Organizing in Times of Crisis: The Case of Covid-19”. From the course description:

The worldwide spread of the Covid19 virus poses a grand social challenge. Seriously threatening the health of the world’s population and accompanied by huge social and economic disruption, it is one of the largest immediate crises for Western societies since World War II and a humanitarian disaster for humankind around the world. Drawing on classic and contemporary organization theory, this course aims to illuminate many pressing questions surrounding the pandemic, such as how supply chains can be organized to ensure adequate supplies of health material, the strengths and difficulties of open science approaches to the development of a vaccine or capabilities of different forms of organization and coordination to quickly and adequately respond in times of crisis.

All course materials, readings, assignments and video lectures are available open access at and the corresponding YouTube channel respectively. Given that all is available under a Creative Commons license, we invite lecturers to use, adapt and build upon our materials. Where possible, we offer the course material in open, changeable formats to make adaptation as easy as possible (e.g., the standard course syllabus). Check it out!


Inspired by a post on this blog about the dangers of predatory publishing and open peer review as a potential response, Maximilian Heimstädt and I decided to dig deeper into the issue. Specifically, we were able to get access to some data on (potentially) predatory journals in organization and management studies. Based upon the analysis of this data we discuss the potentials of open peer review for our own discipline. The abstract reads as follows:

Predatory journals have emerged as an unintended consequence of the Open Access paradigm. Predatory journals only supposedly or very superficially conduct peer review and accept manuscripts within days to skim off publication fees. In this provocation piece, we first explain how predatory journals exploit deficiencies of the traditional peer review process in times of Open Access publishing. We then explain two ways in which predatory journals may harm the management discipline: as an infrastructure for the dissemination of pseudo-science and as a vehicle to portray management research as pseudo-scientific. Analyzing data from a journal blacklist, we show that without the ability to validate their claims to conduct peer review, most of the 639 predatory management journals are quite difficult to demarcate from serious journals. To address this problem, we propose open peer review as a new governance mechanism for management journals. By making parts of their peer review process more transparent and inclusive, reputable journals can differentiate themselves from predatory journals and additionally contribute to a more developmental reviewing culture. Eventually, we discuss ways in which editors, reviewers, and authors can advocate reform of peer review.

The article has been published in the journal Management Learning and is available as an open access full text.

At a workshop on “Intellectual Property Ordering Beyond Borders” hosted by the newly founded Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin I was invited to give a talk on issues of transnationality and territoriality in the realm of private regulation via standards. This invitation provided me with the opportunity to bind together insights from several previous papers I had co-authored on the case of Creative Commons. Please find the slides of my talk below.



To all of you who do research on organizational openness: please send us your paper for a Special Issue in Organization Studies on “Open Organizing in an Open Society? Conditions, Consequences and Contradictions of Openness as an Organizing Principle” (PDF) by Nov 30, 2019, and maybe also (but not compulsory) a short paper to the EGOS sub-theme (by Jan 14, 2019). From the call for papers:

The central objective of the special issue is to explore how societal demands for various dimensions of openness are realized in contemporary organizing. In so doing this special issue seeks to lay foundations for theorizing openness as a general organizing principle. Such theorization may not only have profound implications for conventional theories of organizations, but also enable us to understand and examine potentially paradoxical repercussions of applying openness as an organizing principle for both organizations and society at large. We welcome empirical and conceptual papers that cut across existing literatures, thereby extending previous literatures in three main ways: 1) Papers that systematically compare conditions of openness across specific domains or across open organizational forms. In particular, papers might explore demands for organizational openness at the societal level and compare them across literatures on organizational openness. 2) Papers that examine the consequences of openness as an organizing principle in specific domains on the various notions of organizational openness (fluidity, transparency, etc.) or on the process of open organizing. 3) Papers that assess contradictory trends and paradoxes associated with openness across literatures. In particular, papers could explore how the trend towards more organizational openness and/or openness in specific domains give rise to new closures and exclusionary dynamics. We also invite papers that address how organizational openness is connected or even contributes to the decline of certain democratic principles in contemporary societies. In short, papers could examine how openness as an organizing principle opposes or contributes to new types of closure and exclusion.

Please find more information and links over at the OS ConJunction blog.


Logo of the 35th EGOS Colloquium in Edinburgh, UK

The 35th EGOS Colloquium will take place from July 4–6, 2019 in Edinburgh, UK, and for the third time after 2015 in Athens and 2017 in Copenhagen Georg von Krogh (ETH Zürich), Richard Whittington (Oxford University) and I will convene a sub-theme on organizational openness. Please find the Call for Short Papers (about 3.000 words) of sub-theme 55 on “Open Organizing for an Open Society? Connecting Research on Organizational Openness” below, submission deadline is January 14, 2019:

Discussions around open organizing date back to the 1950s, when organizations were conceptualized as open systems interdependent with their environments (e.g. Boulding, 1956). However, recent developments have seen openness recast as an organizing principle in a wide range of domains. Indeed, Tkacz (2012, p. 400) describes contemporary advanced societies as undergoing a “second coming of openness”. Thus we see the apparent rise of phenomena such as open innovation (Chesbrough, 2006), open strategy (Hautz et al., 2017), open software development (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2006), open government (Janssen et al., 2012), open science (Nosek et al., 2015), and open education (Seely et al., 2008).

While there is growing reference to notions of openness across domains, these are largely disconnected from each other, show few signs of convergence and lack theoretical reference between domains. This fragmentation is even more marked when considering related notions such as organizational fluidity (Dobusch & Schoenborn, 2015), liquidity (Kociatkiewicz & Kostera, 2014), boundlessness (Ashkenas et al., 2002) and partiality (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011). Alongside these notions, advanced societies appear also to be seeing the emergence of more open organizational forms such as crowds (Felin et al., 2014), communities (Faraj et al., 2016), ecosystems (Baldwin, 2012) or meta-organizations (Gulati et al., 2012). A central objective of the proposed sub-theme will be to bring together discussions of various forms of open organizing in order to explore possible commonalities and significant distinctions, and to develop means for more connected theorizing across domains and dimensions. Read the rest of this entry »

Digitalization reduces technological and financial barriers to scientific publishing. Science can thus become faster, more inclusive and more plural. At the same time, the growing acceptance of specific forms of Open Access has also led to the rise of author-pays business models based on Article Processing Charges (APCs). The increasing publication pressure in the scientific system in combination with APCs provides incentives for creating “predatory” journals that only supposedly or very superficially conduct peer review in order to maximize their profits from such APCs. These manuscripts are at best inadequate and at worst deliberately tendentious and misleading.

How to stop predatory publishers? (Credit: SarahRichterArt, CC0)

Recently, an investigative report by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters WDR and NDR has revealed that even researchers from reputable academic institutions publish in or represent publishers of dubious quality. In their attempt to reveal “Fake Science” (using the English term in their German reportings), journalists easily accomplished the publication of a non-sensical article in an allegedly peer reviewed journal charging APCs. What they also show is how these unscientific practices not just harm the reputation of legitimate open access journals but are also a potential source – and allegedly scientific proof – for fake news more generally.

This blogpost discusses how reputable (Open Access) journals can defend their credibility against somewhat or even completely dubious Open Access journals. In our opinion, the most sustainable response, which however would only be possible in the mid to long-term, would be to abandon author-pays business models altogether and switch to publication infrastructures financed by universities and institutions (for an example of such an approach, check out the Open Library of Humanities). In the short-term, however, certain open-peer review practices might also be helpful to address the problem of predatory open access journals. Read the rest of this entry »

Screenshot of the impressively animated header image of »Orders Beyond Borders«

Recently the Global Governance Unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre led by Michael Zürn has launched a new blog entitled “Orders Beyond Borders“. The first post features an Interview with Michael Zürn, in which he also reflects on the rationale behind starting a research blog:

In particular, the Blog is meant to provide a means for those who are interested in our research to get the main messages without having to read 400-page books that some of the doctoral students write after finishing their PhDs. Secondly, the Blog is meant to be a way that we can convey some of the practical and political ideas that follow from the type of work we are doing. […] In addition, it is important to us that the Blog also acts as a platform for interacting and engaging with the community.

The interview is also available as an audio file, thereby constituting the first episode of what is going to be a series of podcast interviews. Of course, the team behind the blog is also on Twitter under @obbblog. We are looking forward to reading more from our fellow bloggers and recommend subscribing to it immediately.


The increasing number of collective open access deals either on the national level (e.g., Dutch open access deals) or between publishers and research institutions (e.g., agreement of the Max Planck Society with Springer) has some very practical consequences for scientific publishing processes. On a macro level, these deals make research strong countries and institutions stronger: their papers are better accessible worldwide with respective consequences for reception and citation counts.

But there are also consequences on the micro level. For example, in co-authored papers, the question of who acts as “corresponding author” suddenly becomes of utmost importance. Only if the corresponding author is situated at an institution with such an open access deal then an article will be immediately accessible to anyone worldwide. And it is the corresponding author who has to sign copyright forms on behalf of all the authors to “seal the deal”.

Publishers pushing for Non-Commercial Clause

What I have learnt only very recently is that publishers try to retain as much rights a possible even in cases where researchers are eligible for open access publication. SAGE Publications, for instance, tries to convince – if not force – authors to opt for a Creative Commons license with the restrictive non-commercial (NC) clause (full form as a PDF):

This is troublesome for a whole bunch of reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2021

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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.