Private Companies and Scholarly Infrastructure – Google Scholar and Academic Autonomy – Tel Aviv University – document

Private Companies and Scholarly Infrastructure – Google Scholar and Academic Autonomy

Sebastian Benthall | Tel Aviv University

2019-11-04

“Google Scholar has become a critical piece of academic infrastructure. Not only is it used to search for academic publications, but its bibliometrics system has become central in the evaluation of scholars for hiring and funding. There have been numerous studies of Google Scholar that explore how the technology actually works (i.e. how it determines academic ‘relevance’ or ‘scholarliness’); what types of work, repositories, and authors it privileges or marginalizes; and how comprehensive its citations are. We take a different approach, however, and analyse the political and ethical dimensions of the shift in control over scholarly infrastructure from commercial academic publishers into “”Big Tech”” platforms. We discuss how this change, premised on Google Scholar’s usability, implicates and potential undermines certain norms and conventions traditionally associated with academic work. In particular, we discuss how Google Scholar’s centrality in evaluative bibliometrics is changing what academic knowledge looks like, further centralizes academic tools in Google service, undermines academic autonomy, and does so without transparency or accountability.”

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