Posted by: bluesyemre | December 17, 2012

Open Access Debates (1): A critique of the elitist aspects of Open Access in general by Michel Bauwens

  • There is no space for “citizen” in OA. Indeed, some in the OA movement emphasize this. Stevan Harnad has said that the purpose of OA is for “researchers to publish to researchers” and that ordinary people won’t understand scholarly papers. I take a strong and public stance against this – the success of Galaxy Zoo has shown how citizens can become as expert as many practitioners. In my new area of phylogenetic trees I would feel confident that anyone with a University education (and many without) would have little difficulty understanding much of the literature and many could become involved in the calculations. For me, Open Access has little point unless it reaches out to the citizenry and I see very little evidence of this (please correct me).




    1. Yes, most peer-reviewed research is written primarily by researchers for researchers, to be used, applied and built upon, in further research, to the benefit of the tax-paying public that funds the research.

    2. But making peer-reviewed research Open Access (OA) means making it freely accessible online to everyone — not just the researchers for whom it is primarily written, but anyone who is interested in accessing reading and using it.

    3. Fields vary in how much of their research is interesting and comprehensible to the public.

    4. The reason the peer-to-peer nature of basic research needs to be stressed in the case of OA is that whereas there may be a wider user-base than just researchers in some research fields, the *providers* of the research we are trying to make OA are researchers. Hence a strong and realistic reason is needed to induce them to make their research OA (and to induce their institutions and funders to mandate — require — them to make their research OA).

    5. That strong, realistic reason, for most research, is certainly not a burning need and desire on the part of the tax-paying public to read that research; to imagine otherwise (in the majority cases — and we have to consider the majority of cases if we hope to provide all researchers to provide OA) is just fantasy, or ideology.

    6. Besides, as mentioned, if you succeed in inducing researchers to make their research OA (and to induce their institutions and funders to mandate — require — them to make their research OA) then the research is accessible to all interested users, not just researchers.

    So my advice would be to set aside ideology and misplaced concerns about elitism, and focus on pragmatics and strategy, so as to get the content in question accessible to one and all.


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