If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ll know that I’m not overly political here. That’s not to say that I’m not opinionated (I’ve got plenty of opinions), but I don’t tend to post specifically in order to weigh in on timely political topics. However, having recently wandered into a battleground only to discover that I’ve chosen a side, it feels right to jot down a few thoughts on the topic while my blood is still simmering.
What am I talking about? Well, I’m talking about Open Access (OA) science publishing. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably familiar with at least the basics of the debate, but whether you are or not I highly recommend reading this parable by Mike Taylor that puts the issue in clear language, and this recent press release on Tim Gower’s blog explaining the reasoning behind the Elsevier boycott (5398 and going strong!).
I recently ended up tangling with Robert Kurzban and others over this subject over the Evolutionary Psychology blog, and in the process of joining the discussion (I’ll refer you to that post to read more; it’s too long to reproduce here) I discovered that I do, in fact, support the ideals of OA with a strength of feeling that surprised me. What do I believe? My belief, upon looking at the ethics and data (what exists, anyways) behind the current journal publishing system is that there are two parts to the argument:
- Publishers like Elsevier employ a business model that is exploitative and verges on (is?) corrupt. Their product is the free labor of scientists, repackaged and copyrighted with little to no added value in the internet era, and sold back to the public that paid for it and the scholars the created it at a massive profit.
- The second part of the argument is whether a better alternative exists, in the form of Open Access (OA) publishing. I believe that OA is a better alternative ethically, financially, and for the betterment of science as a whole. OA has an obvious effect on the reach of a scientific paper (as the audience is now potentially anyone with an internet connection and the interested to read it), can have a positive effect on citation, and is more accountable and transparent. On the other hand, the models for OA are still being worked out, and although the issue of publishing fees has been overblown it is still a valid concern, as are concerns such as a lack of OA journals in one’s sub-field, issues about career advancement (maybe), and the effort to move journals to OA publishing or start new journals.
Where do I stand now? Well, for one thing, I haven’t yet signed the Elsevier boycott. Why not? Because I haven’t thought it all the way through yet. I’ve just recently sat down to get my head straight about open access and found that I have strong feelings on it, and so I’m still coming up with a way to work that into my professional life. I don’t know yet what form that will take; I would like to publish exclusively in OA journals, but I don’t know if that’s yet an achievable goal for me, especially as I have collaborators to consider who may or may not the same way. I do know that I will be searching for good OA alternatives to the journals I publish (ha!) in now, and that I will be looking for ways to increase my support of the OA movement as much as I can.
And if all else fails, I’ll write some more blog posts. That helps, right? 🙂