What’s the future of OA?

Tom Wilson, in a message sent to the BOAI Forum on October 31, 2009, suggested that “… any strategy [for the OA movement] evolved today on the assumption that the future is likely to be the same as the past is probably going to fail“. Other excerpts:

No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out ….. Strong advocacy of repositories is strong advocacy of the status quo in scholarly communication. ….. scholars are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and producing free OA journals on some kind of subsidy basis and any economist will tell you that social benefit is maximised by this form of OA.

Stevan Harnad, in a response to the same Forum, has reiterated some of his well-known perspectives:

The purpose of the Open Access movement is not to knock down the publishing industry. The purpose is to provide Open Access to refereed research articles. ….. The way to take matters in their [scholars’] own hands is to deposit the refereed final drafts of all their journal articles in their university’s OA Repository.

Comment: My own opinion is that both perspectives are tenable. I agree with Stevan Harnad that the most important short-term goal of the OA movement is to “provide Open Access to refereed research articles“. I also agree with Tom Wilson that ”No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out” over the longer term, and that “the status quo in scholarly communication” seems likely to be unstable.

However, if the “status quo” is identified as a somewhat bewildering variety of options for scholarly communication that are changing quickly as technologies evolve, and are varying from field to field (and even across sub-disciplines in the same field), then this “status quo” may persist for quite a few years, before a smaller number of “best practices” become firmly established.

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