Today, October 14, is the first Open Access Day. A synchroblogging event is being held asking bloggers to write about what Open Access means to them. You can track posts at Google Blog Search, Technorati, and the Open Access Day FriendFeed room.
Open Access is something I have been interested in for several years now, and written a couple of papers on. It’s a movement I believe is so important, not just for people like me who have access to technology and excellent libraries, but those who live and work anywhere, who need access to knowledge. I’m posting it here on the Semantic Library as I’ve said before we can all the standards and protocols we want, but without access it’s meaningless.
I’ve drawn part of my post from an unpublished paper I wrote in 2007 to complete my second Masters’, “The impact of policy and governance on access to scientific and scholarly knowledge online”.
Why does Open Access matter to you?
It matters to me for so many reasons, but primarily because it is benefits every one of us – whether we use the information ourselves for research, to improve our practice, or benefit from our doctor having access to new research to provide better patient care. Open Access helps build research capacity, reduces duplication of effort, and builds networks across the world (1).
With the increasing availability of high quality scholarly information online, the potential of free and open access to scholarly information for all became possible for the first time. Yet, in many instances, access to scholarly information has become more restricted in the online environment, as technological protection measures to enforce Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are introduced and information is increasingly licensed, not owned. The impact of this is felt globally, but particularly in developing nations, where high subscription prices and a lack of ICT infrastructure can restrict access (2).
We need to keep working to ensure that legislation, lobbying, DRM, and other technological protection measures do not hinder access. We saw with PRISM just last year that not everyone is in favour of Open Access. PRISM claimed that government policies requiring access by the public to government-funded research equates to theft of intellectual property (3, 4).
How did you first become aware of it?
After I finished university and went to work in a special library, I lost access to scholarly information and the academic library. Unlike in the past, where I may have been able to access a library nearby as a member of the public to browse the stacks for journals, so much was now available only behind the firewall. I worked with journalists at the time, and didn’t have a great deal of resources to assist them with their research needs. This had a major impact on my work – when were were asked to find “anything we could get” on a given topic, I knew there was so much we just didn’t have access to.
These experiences led me to become interested in the Open Access movement, sometime around 2002, and I wrote a paper that covered some of these issues for a conference in 2004, Enabling the Information Commons
Why should scientific and medical research be an open-access resource for the world?
Libraries have long provided infrastructure for research – subscribing to journals and databases, buying books, and providing computers and buildings for people to work in. The capacity for libraries to do this varies enormously around the world. Libraries in many developing countries can’t afford to provide the same level of access as in other countries (5). Researchers in developing nations (or even Australia) are affected by the tendency of major journals to be published in the US and Europe. If they want to publish their research, they usually need to have to do so in these journals. The cost of buying journals in which these researchers publish can be prohibitive, effectively restricting access to their own research (6).
Beyond issues of cost, research should be available to everyone, regardless of affiliation or reason, because making research Open Access enables us all to build upon each other’s work, and to learn new insights.
What do you do to support Open Access, and what can others do?
I read and learn about it, write about it, and this is something everyone can do. Here are a few blogs I like:
- Open Access News
- The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
- Open Knowledge Foundation blog
- Caveat Lector
When I write, I try where possible to write for OA-friendly publications and I check the agreement to make sure I am allowed to post a copy of my paper to an Open Access archive like dLIST or E-LIS. When I organised a conference I let authors know they had permission to deposit their work in any OA archive.
More widely, there needs to be continued advocacy for Open Access on behalf of users and researchers globally, and in particular those in developing nations. Some great gains have been made over the past years, which I know will continue.
References & reading:
1. Kirsop, B., Arunachalam, S., & Chan, L. (2007). Access to Scientific Knowledge for Sustainable Development: Options for Developing Countries. Ariadne (52) July. Available from: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue52/kirsop-et-al/
3. Suber, P. (2007, August 23). Publishers launch an anti-OA lobbying organization Open Access News Retrieved August 23, 2007, from http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2007/08/publishers-launch-anti-oa-lobbying.html
4. Association of Research Libraries. (2007, September 4). AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Update re the PRISM Coalition Retrieved October 1, 2007, from http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/issue-brief-aap-pr-prism.pdf
5. Gartner, R. (2004). Toward the Global Digital Library: Information and International Development. In M. A. Kesselman & I. Weintraub (Eds.), Global Librarianship (pp. 191-208). New York: Marcel Dekker.
6. Nicholson, D. R. (2007). International Copyright Trends and Access to Knowledge Initiatives in Africa. Paper presented at the World Library and Information Congress: 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council from http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla73/papers/135-Nicholson-en.pdf.