Open Access: How Open Is It?

And in a final post before I get on with some actual work, some initial thoughts on Open Access publishing.

I am very much in favour of open access academic journals and was delighted when Harvard academics publicly backed the idea.

However, this sense that we are on the cusp of something great has now overtaken by the gradual realisation that the UK Government’s plans as put forward in the Finch Report, don’t represent open access at all. They will be opening up academic work to all readers, but closing down access to being published to those who can afford to pay. Rather than challenging the nature of academic publishing, they are protecting the existing commercial structures, while simply shifting the cost from the reader to the author. This does nobody any good.

As this blog explains, it is particularly bad news for early career researchers, without jobs or large funding grants. Building up a solid body of published work is pretty much the only way into academic positions at the moment. If publishing is restricted to those who are already in secure posts, this route will be barred to most. Even for those already within university departments, the idea of having to compete for funding to publish your next article is an alarming prospect. It will inevitably have an impact of the type of work that is put forward for publication.

I have been assured on twitter this morning that this won’t come to pass that in the social sciences (and, I imagine, that extends to the humanities) – at least not unless ‘a big pot of cash is found behind the sofa’.

Let’s hope that’s true…!

(This post is all down to Catherine Feely who got me going on this topic this morning – and also Ben Anderson & Christopher Lasch for their contributions and links. I’m sure it’s a debate to which we will all return shortly)

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