The Institutional Accommodation of Open Access in Higher Education Publishing



This paper examines the case of Open Access in higher education publishing in order to understand how the strategic interactions between challengers and incumbents shape institutional change in mature fields. This study contributes to research at the intersection of institutional theory and social movement analysis in three ways. First, it proposes the notion of ossified fields as a boundary condition to transformational change processes triggered by disruptions. Second, it sheds light on the relatively well-known, yet superficially understood, phenomenon of cooptation by showing that cooptation might be a strategic device that movements intentionally seek in order to overcome the limitations of industry and political opportunity structures. Finally, it advances knowledge on institutional theory by theorizing institutional accommodation as a pathway of institutional change. The paper elucidates the accommodation mechanisms that enable a social movement to re-tailor initially disruptive ideas so that incumbents can assimilate them. Although accommodation leads to the partial cooptation of the movement, it does not jeopardize its vision and vitality. Hence, transformative goals are potentially accomplished in the long-term.