Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Open Access

Open Access (OA) is the movement to make scholarly publications freely available over the internet.  The characteristics are that it is freely available, unrestricted, and online.  There were different options for open access mentioned in the introductory video.  The first is to publish in an open access peer-reviewed journal.  The second is to place a copy of a previously published article in an open repository.

A common definition of works that are OA states that
the copyright holder must consent in advance to let users copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship

Suber says that truly open access removes price (subscriptions, licenses, PPV fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions).  OA creators still retain copyright protection but are choosing to allow access and academic use of their creation within certain limitations.  Most
choose to retain the right to block the distribution of mangled or misattributed copies.  Some choose to block commercial re-use of the work . . . Essentially, these conditions block plagiarism, misrepresentation, and sometimes commercial re-use, and authorize all the uses required by legitimate scholarship, including those required by the technologies that facilitate online scholarly research.
OA for research is becoming a key part of the arrangement with faculty in employment terms with schools that have their own OA respositories and require that their research be made available there.  OA requirements are written in to many government funded research grants.  Recent legislation and regulations have mandated OA publication and availability in federally funded research in the U.S. (although I believe I recently read that there is legislation in congress to revoke those rules at the present time).  Some foundations and other philanthropical organizations that provide grants for research also require OA publication of the findings.

In some instances the cost of the OA journal or repository may be recovered through charges to authors, their schools, and through revenue from advertising.  Not all journals use the author pays model.  The readings make great effort to base the decision for mandating open access on the funding sources.  Since the taxpayers are funding the research, the taxpayers should have access to the research.  Requiring the readers to pay fees is asking that they pay twice for the work they wish to access.

The UNESCO portal lists the organizations and counties that require OA publication of research results.  The numbers are large and growing.  There is a movement by some journal publishers (Springer for example) who see the writing on the wall and are modifying their access policies and agreements to adapt to the new reality driven by the funding sources for researchers.  They are in the same boat as newspapers, book publishers, record companies, and others (including most of the education establishment) in needing to respond to the minimal marginal cost that production and distribution of digital content online is providing.  I don't know that any of these industries has figured out how to thrive in this new world.

It is remarkable that there are 7,000 OA journals available.  Since most basic research that is funded is driven by governmental and foundation funds there is an expectation that the research should be made available to expand learning opportunity and further drive the creative processes in the research communities.  I understand the need to keep corporate-funded basic research proprietary and I believe it would not be prudent to require that their research be published OA.  There are corporate funded research projects that are published and I believe that that most corporate citizens who perform research that benefits the public good will freely share that research in OA journals or repositories voluntarily, especially of it supports the good or service they are marketing as a public benefit  I think that corporate-sponsored  research could present a problem for schools that have standing OA requirements for research at their institutions.  Obviously they need to build in opt outs for such corporate-sponsored research.

As a student doing a lot of research, I am grateful for the OA initiative.  BYU has been generous in its support for library journal acquisition but cannot acquire access to all journals.  The OA initiative helps students and faculty access as much information as they can in furthering knowledge through their research.  I think I would feel the same way as a faculty member if the citations of my articles bloomed along with the accessibility.

1 comment:

  1. Darin, if you hit my Google Scholar Profile ( you will see that a number of my writings with respectable citation rates were never published in an academic outlet at all. By simply posting the pieces on my blog immediately (rather than wait for 12 or 18 months for them to appear in a journal) for free and open access (so everyone can read them), they have clearly had a respectable impact. Getting the balance of what to put where correct is a bit of a game, but one that isn't too difficult to play.