On enabling OA

A few thoughts on the heels of Berlin 6 by Cornelius Puschmann, CorpBlawg, November 15, 2008. Excerpts:

There is still the belief among many involved in financing, supporting and disseminating research that those who undertake it have both the ability and the motivation to “move to open access” by themselves. I don’t believe that this is true. Many junior researchers who might be in favor of OA cannot choose freely where they want to publish, because the wrong choice is a risk to their career. Many senior researchers who have the influence and standing in their discipline to drive a paradigm shift do not embrace OA because the formats, publishing channels and procedures involved are unfamiliar and appear unreliable to them. But at the core, neither of these issues is decisive.

The pivotal problem is that most researchers, regardless of where they stand on the career ladder, are not impacted personally by whether or not something is Open Access, and that their perspective as individuals, and not the common good, shapes their views.


I believe that one very effective way of enabling OA in the long term is to push for entirely new forms of publishing, forms that are ‘OA by nature’, such as blogs and wikis. The entrenched forms are conceptually associated with the entrenched system and it will probably be harder to disassociate the one from the other than to popularize entirely new forms of science communication (i.e. ‘journal’ and ‘article’ are conceptually associated with ‘paper’, ‘commercial publisher’ and ’subscription’, while ‘blog’ and ‘wiki’ aren’t).

New forms of scholarly communication that have novel advantages over existing forms will be adopted not because they are open (because, as outlined above, by itself that hardly matters) but because they offer specific benefits to the individual scholar. Obviously they will exist side by side with established forms. But they could act as a catalyst that raises awareness among researchers for the benefits of Open Access, because the reach and openness of hypertext publishing is what makes it so attractive.



  1. (1) OA ≠OA publishing

    (2) Every author has fingers (to do keystrokes, to deposit their articles, published in their journal of choice, in their institutional repository)

    (3) Every institution and funder can adopt the ID/OA (Immediate Deposit, Optional Access) mandate.

  2. Jim Till said

    See also: Wrapping up Berlin 6, Cornelius Puschmann, Berlin 6 Open Access Conference, November 17, 2008.

    For a perspective on the first plenary session at Berlin 6, see: New Modes of Scholarly Communication: Blogs, Wikis and Web 2.0 – Berlin 6 by Kaitlin Thaney, sniffing the beaker, November 11, 2008. Excerpt:

    [Lamber] Heller’s presentation was on the challenging gap between community feedback and academic recognition, specifically in terms of blogs and blog aggregators. He views blog aggregators (public ones, rather than Google Reader which I don’t believe is publicly searchable?) as a new communication pattern in and of itself. Many in the research community, Heller says, are encouraging this new form of discourse on top of the existing infrastructure for scholarly communication. Blogging and aggregators will never replace traditional media – digital or paper, but are meant to act as a complement or added layer to pre-existing knowledge.

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