On Friday, I attended a talk by Jon Becker entitled Publishing 2.0: Open access, digital scholarship, and public intellectualism. He is an assistant professor in School of Education here at VCU and is an outstanding tweeter. Dr. Becker researches academic publishing on the web and in other non-traditional mediums, and his research area made for a provocative talk.
Dr. Becker asked why should we think differently about open access publishing. Although scholarship can be defined broadly, the talk focused on knowledge dissemination and scholarly communication. The University of California claims that “[t]he current model of scholarly communication has become economically unsustainable, restrictive, and increasing limited in its ability to make information accessible.” Many universities are creating open access repositories, where faculty can submit their work (books, monographs, technical reports, digital works) to be disseminated openly and freely to the public. Dr. Becker focused on peer-reviewed research publication possibilities that are open access or publicly available (unlike closed journal publications and other forms of publications that have a cost or subscription).
According to Dr. Becker, arguments for open access publishing include:
- Economics (VCU subscribes to 284 journals that cost more than $3000 per year. I serve on the library committee here at VCU and can attest that most of the libraries budget goes toward journal subscriptions).
- Restricted access (Only certain people can have access, usually those on a university computer)
- Legal obligation (Researchers make work to be shared with everyone, but then we publish our work in mediums that hide it in a restricted database).
- Betterment of society (via improved access to scholarly work).
- Affordances of HTML (Journal publications, for example, have formatting restrictions that can degrade the quality of figures if they are rescaled and converted to grayscale. However, technical writing is not best visualized in HTML, as anyone who has read a “full text” article can attest to.)
- Time (Publishing is becoming easier and easier, and blogs can be quickly turned into book. Hacking the Academy created a published volume of work in a short period of time. A traditional journal article can take years to appear in print.)
- Moral obligation (Should we be interacting with everyone or only those who can access our journal articles?)
There are downsides to adopting an open access format, although the talk focused on the upsides to challenge us in what we know (or think we know) about open access publishing. As a result, I only included the upsides here.
Open access resources include:
Dr. Becker introduced networked participatory scholarship (NPS), which includes the use of social networking and other online communication that creates scholarly work. I find it hard to believe that promotion and tenure committees are open to NPS, but many universities are creating NPS spaces for faculty to do scholarly work (such as the CUNY Academic commons, UMW blogs, Future of Education, etc.). Researchers such as Bruce Baker and Justin Bathon are leading the way in the education domain. I suspect that Greg Mankiw and Tyler Cowen are doing the same for economics (although Greg Mankiw’s blog is closed to comments, so it isn’t exactly peer-reviewed) and that Aurelie Thiele is doing the same for engineering education.
There are some new issues for authors when publishing in open access journals or NPS forums:
- Managing your intellectual property when journals no longer hold the copyright to your work.
- Use alternative forms of publishing (start by publishing in open access journals and participate in UC/Springer Open Access Pilot)
- Support sustainable scholarly communication (support new business models and experiment with publishing best practices)
- Comply with NIH public access mandate
I am not sure if I am ready to fully jump onto the open access bandwagon, but since I already have a blog and wrote a book chapter that was published on lulu, maybe I already have. If you leave a comment on this blog, you are participating in a type of peer-review process that is arguably more transparent than the peer-review process in journals. But that sounds strange to me, so I know I’m still adjusting to that idea. There are many professors who post their technical reports and seminar slides on their web site. I seem to recall some P=NP proofs that were made available publicly for review prior to publication. They were widely reviewed, and the reviews seemed as valuable–if not more so–than the peer review process (but only because many are eager to review a P=NP proof). While these professors and authors who share their work openly aren’t revolutionaries, they are sharing their work with a wide audience.
What will it take for scholarly communication to adopt an open access model? The first wave seems to have already occurred. There are several open access medical journals that are well-respected. Economics might be a motivating factor, since universities have faced budget cuts in the last few years and as the stimulus money runs out in the next academic year. What do you think could result in a second wave of more widespread acceptance?
Have you published in an open access journal? Do you take part in networked participatory scholarship?