October 14, 2008

Open Access Day: OA & me

Today is Open Access Day, a day we should think about the economic implications of the way the scholarly communications system is set up, in particular, think about ways it could be fairer, more open and more transparent.

It seems that there's some sort of blogging competition. Now, my musings here aren't going to be as eloquent as Dorothea Salo or John Wilbanks or as angry as Neil Saunders but I do hope they can contribute something.

Why does Open Access matter to you?

Open Access matters to me because I think it's important for the fruits of scholarship to be as widely accessible as possible. It is only through the widest availability that the state of the art will be examined, tested and pushed further.

I believe that this applies equally to all scholarly fields, not just the sciences.

I understand that Open Access is about scholarship being free to the reader and acknowledge that there are costs to the publisher or producer that need to be picked up somewhere.

I also understand that Open Access isn't about abolishing or damaging peer review, although many of the same forces that are changing publishing will also have an impact on how peer review is done.

I believe that publishers and librarians are essentially on the same side in all of this. We both want to get the highest quality materials to scholars. Librarians, publishers and scholars can and should work together to build sustainable business models for scholarly publishing that include the materials being free to all readers.

How did you first become aware of it?
Frankly, I haven't got a clue. Searching the archives of the blog tells me that the first mention of "open access" is in May 2003 and that I mention the Open Archives Initiative in October 2002, around the same time I started the blog. So, I've known about OA at least as long as I've been blogging, and probably longer.

Why should scientific and medical research be an open-access resource for the world?
Two main reasons.
STEM researchers need access to the literature to advance their work. Anything that hinders that access will hinder advancement. Toll access publishing restricts access to the literature, giving an unfair advantage to scholars working in wealthier institutions and societies. In fact, virtually no institution will be wealthy enough to acquire everything it's scholars could want. Toll access also restricts access to scholarship to scholars or potential scholars who don't belong to any higher educational or research institution, such as independent researchers or high school students and teachers.

A growth area in scientific research will involve text mining of articles by computer to try and use algorithms to extract knowledge from that literature. This will be much easier if the articles are open.

What do you do to support Open Access, and what can others do?
Although I'm not a big article writer, I do prefer to publish in OA journals. And when the journals aren't OA, I'll definitely post in York's IR. As for supporting OA, I post about it here advocating OA. In my interview series on scholarly communications issues I make sure to ask library and publishing people what they think of OA and where they see scholarly publishing business models evolving over time. I've also advocated for OA here in my institution and with publishers as part of various library advisory groups.

What can others do? Well, one important group is faculty. At the end of the day, established faculty and scholars set the stage and provide leadership and create the incentive framework for junior faculty. Junior faculty and grad students value what their bosses value and libraries will continue to direct resources to support things that are important to faculty.

What can publishers do? Continue to experiment with OA business models. And that applies for scholarly and professional societies as much as the big commercial publishers. If I had a gazillion dollars, I would give it to societies to support them converting to open access.

You can catch up with the goings on for the day in the Open Access Day FriendFeed Room. Not surprisingly, Bora Zivkovic is keeping track of all the blog posts.

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