Impact and Learning: Open Access? Make It So
"There’s an episode in Star Trek where Captain Picard has a copy of a printed book, opened reverently, under a glass case. In his future, printed books are rare. And therefore precious. In our own real-world future printed books will probably be equally as rare, but whatever physical way a book manifests itself – on paper or an electronic screen – it is the content which is the most precious component. Which is why, say the advocates of Open Access, content should always be available to everyone, everywhere, for good or evil. Immediate access to online material can enhance more quickly the progress of medical science (for instance), with the concomitant risk of research work being copied unacknowledged or passed-off as someone else’s. DFID’s announcement, earlier this year, that their funded projects must be Open Access (OA) by 2014 has focused the minds of those previously pondering OA practicalities... To post articles into an institutional repository, such as IDS’ OpenDocs, satisfies the immediate need to get research online and available. But to also publish in a respected academic journal – whether an established ‘print’ one or a newer platform specifically created for OA – is a more considered process... The rise in numbers of OA academic journals over recent years proves the appetite for spreading research as widely as possible. The era of communication and accountability is upon us, with academic writing moving beyond a few elite bookshelves. Subsidising academic books for research has gone on for years, with some authors more evangelical and practical about this than others; now there seems general widespread willingness for author- or institutional-subsidy, or at least the theory of it. Worldwide economic recession conditions, and emphasis from funders for successful outcomes to research projects, concentrates attention on the kind of content that will in future be published from scant financing to spread across all social science disciplines. Some OA advocates suggest moving away from ‘traditional’ publisher journal models to an in-house approach, but it should be remembered that the basic advantage that an established big-name publishing house brings to the deal is their marketing reach. Without that, if an article sits in OpenDocs and there are no resources to advertise it, who will know it is there? ..."