Chipping Into The Debate On Open Access

Haidy Geismar | Material World | December 2, 2013

As the incoming co-editor of the Journal of Material Culture, as well as one of the editors here at Material World Blog, I have been involved in many conversations regarding the politics, economics, and materiality of Open Access.

It is clear that there is great concern about open access in many arena from policy (see for instance, the UK’s Finch Report  ”Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications”), within academia (see the discussion on Open Access in the new online only journal, Hau and this interview with Tim Ingold) and in the world of cyber-(h)activism (a good summary of the Aaron Schwartz case is actually presented on JSTOR’s website).

It’s hard to find a place in which all the issues in fact coalesce: some people are concerned about democratizing accessibility to research (particularly across national borders, and to people without the support of privileged universities). Others are concerned about who should pay for, and who should profit, from academic publications. Yet others are interested in the implications of Gold open access (where authors pay or fundraise for their invidivual articles to be made publicly available) or Green (where final versions of peer-reviewed articles are placed within institutional repositories) on the form of journals as the need for issues is replaced by an emphasis on individual articles.  Many of us are wondering about the implications current policy requirements have for open access on the fate of academic monographs and are also following with interest the move in the sciences towards “open data” (which naturalizes many assumptions about data versus research, and raises problems for past informed consent and research ethical clearances). Finally, lies the overarching question of value: how is research valuable and for whom, who should profit and how. For instance, I was intrigued to have the value of peer review laid out as “in kind donations” by a representative of Taylor and Francis.