When Institutions Bend But Do Not Break: The Institutional Accommodation of Open Access in Scientific Publishing

  • Author / Creator
    Micelotta, Evelyn R
  • Over the past two decades, institutional scholars have been fascinated by the processes and mechanisms through which institutions -- the durable socio-cultural structures that “provide meaning and stability to social life” (Scott, 2008: 48)-- change. The literature on institutional change is vast and insightful; nonetheless, I suggest that theoretical advancements in this area have become increasingly incremental because of the fragmentation of the accumulated research and its crystallization around a set of defined analytical dimensions. This dissertation addresses these limitations by putting the spotlight on a neglected attribute of change processes – the scope of change. The overarching goal of the thesis is to demonstrate that novel insights can be yielded by distinguishing change processes whose scope is radical from processes whose scope is convergent. I elaborate my argument in three steps. First, I develop a typology of institutional change processes that combines the scope of change (radical or convergent) with the pace of change (revolutionary or evolutionary). The typology identifies four pathways (i.e. institutional displacement, institutional alignment, institutional accretion and institutional accommodation), sheds light on undetected sources of variation in change processes, and illuminates the specificities of the mechanisms that underpin each process. Second, building on the typology, I ask two research questions: (1) How and why does a revolutionary process of change aimed at radical field-level change (institutional displacement) fail? (2) How and why does failure of institutional displacement result in convergent field-level change (institutional accommodation)? Third, I report the findings of an empirical investigation that directly addresses these questions. The institutional change precipitated by the emergence of a collective mobilization for Open Access in the field of scholarly publishing offers an ideal setting. To conduct my inquiry, I followed a field analytic approach that draws on multiple sources of data: archival materials, interviews, notes from nonparticipant observation and descriptive bibliometric network analysis. The findings are used to develop a process model of institutional accommodation. Overall, the dissertation nuances and extends previous research in three ways First, by focusing on the scope of change, my research pushes investigations of institutional change processes beyond well-known dimensions of analysis. By doing so, I hope to counterbalance the tendency of researchers to crystallize inquires around established analytical dimensions. Second, by offering an integrative typology that enables the comparison of change processes, my thesis addresses the issue of fragmentation and offers scholars a lens to appreciate how triggers, trajectories, mechanisms and outcomes variously interrelate. Third, by theorizing and empirically exploring a relatively under-examined pathway – institutional accommodation – my work extends knowledge on change processes and elucidates specific mechanisms that lead to convergent change. Specifically, my thesis addresses important questions about accommodation. It answers How institutional accommodation occurs by presenting two accommodation mechanisms: institutional arbitration and institutional anchoring; it answers Who engages in institutional accommodation by elaborating the role of challengers, incumbents and referee actors and by emphasizing the mediated nature of change processes; it answers Why institutional accommodation occurs by theorizing the role of failure of displacement as an antecedent of accommodation; and, finally, it answers the question Where/When institutional accommodation occurs by proposing the notion of “ossified” institutional fields.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.