Open Access and wider debate

An article by Zoe Corbyn has appeared in the Times Higher today (12th November 2009), reviewing the current state of open access and rehearsing some of the arguments for and against open access.  This is a long article (5,500 words) and given the wide readership of the Times Higher within UK HE has the potential to be a significant piece.

In spite of the advocacy work that has been done over the last 6 or 7 years, many academics are still unaware of open access and what it may mean for them.  Very often this is not because the information has not got through to them in the first place, but rather that without immediate application of the ideas, academics, quite naturally, forget. We all live in an information-rich environment, with so many calls on our attention that unless advocacy leads to immediate action, details and ideas can be lost in the barrage.

The advantage of such a piece in the Times Higher is that is has the ability to be read by many academics and other staff at the same time and to start conversations in the coffee room or SCR; it comes with a certain badge of relevance given by the publication itself and the reporting touches enough sensitive spots for people to sit up and take notice.

Some of the quotes are robust:

“”Repositories are parasitic on the existing journal structure for their peer-review process,” says Ian Russell, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers.”

and the debate represented likewise:

“However, the open-access movement counters that the journal structure itself can be seen as parasitic, profiting from the free peer-review services that academics provide.”

The article also quite fairly looks at some of the (largely unnecessary) divisions within the open access community between the promotion of gold or green routes.

It will be interesting to see what responses this generates. Other reports in the Times Higher and other general HE publications have tended to be far shorter single issue pieces and able to be dismissed as minor items of specialist interest. This is far more wide-ranging in scope and may be enough to embed the topic as one that is of interest for everyone.

Given the scope of OA and other research communication developments (text-mining, access to grey literature, etc) it is vital that there is more general debate and reporting like this:  that research communications as a whole are seen as a proper and interesting topic to report on and for everyone to discuss. Ultimately, any change has to be made with the agreement and engagement of those concerned. A significant aim of advocacy has always been engagement of academics and other institutional staff with the debate itself: let us hope that this opens the wider debate.

Bill

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About Bill Hubbard
Bill Hubbard is the Director of the Centre for Research Communications (CRC), incorporating the work of SHERPA. Bill has a background in Higher Education and IT; in particular in work aiming to embed IT into university functions and working practices. Previous work has looked at the use of Expert Systems in supporting decision making, designing information systems for managing research funding and a number of years working with the introduction of multimedia into university teaching. Bill's commercial experience includes three years as a project manager in virtual reality applications for communications, installations and broadcast, specialising in virtual heritage environments. Before this he worked as a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, leading a BA degree course in Multimedia Design and has been an honorary lecturer in the School of Computing Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Bill speaks widely on open access and related issues - repository network development, institutional integration, cultural change, IPR and Open Access policy development. He is also involved in archaeological and heritage applications of new media and sits on the Channel 4 Award jury for new media archaeology.

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