Why Open Access?

2 October 2007

Unless you’re a certain kind of geek, you may not have heard much about Open Access (OA), but it’s coming on strong. The core idea is to make the products of research more widely available by reducing the barriers of cost and limited access.

I think the case for OA is strongest for ‘peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly research’, particularly that which is publicly funded, but there’s far wider application, of course.

logo image: Duke Law's Center for Study of the Public Domain
theme/logo: Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain

I bring this up because Ross Scaife points today to an OA manifesto of sorts from AA Adams. It includes this stunningly simple and powerful nugget:

… academics should be confronting the responsibilities that go with their cherished and fought-for freedoms. That responsibility is to disseminate one's work as widely as possible, to hold it up for criticism and to allow others to build on it. To do so demands that we hold Open Access to our articles as a categorical imperative and not allow the tail of academic publishing to wag the dog of academic communication.

I suspect the likeliest proponents of OA are folks who aren’t expecting to make any real money publishing their work for-profit and/or those who believe in that whole ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ thing.

As someone with a non-commercial interest in History, I’m very fond of the idea. I license my own work (on AotW and this blog) accordingly, feeble though it may be.

Most academic presses, professional journal publishers, and copyright/control freaks are not going for this at all, however. Even as evangelist Peter Suber (blog: OA News) reminds that

OA is a kind of access, not a kind of business model, license, or content.

How do you feel about OA?

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