Open Access: What is it and what does “Open” mean

This is the start of "Open Access Week" www.openaccessweek.org/ and I am urged (including by myself) to write something for it. The OKF is contributing something and I hope that in writing this blog there is something suitable.

I'm going to ask questions. They are questions I don't know the answer to – maybe I am ignorant I which case please comment with information – or maybe the "Open Access Community" doesn't know the answer. Warning: I shall probably be criticized by some of the mainstream "OA Community". Please try to read beyond any rhetoric.

As background I am well versed in Openness. I have taking a leading role in creating and launching many Open efforts – SAX (http://www.saxproject.org/sax1-history.html ), Chemical MIME, Chemical Markup Language, The Blue Obelisk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Obelisk ) , Panton Principles, Open Bibliography, Open Content Mining and helped to write a significant number of large software frameworks (OSCAR, JUMBO, OPSIN, AMI2). I'm on the adv board of the Open Knowledge Foundation and can shortly reveal another affiliation. I have contributed to or worked with Wikipedia, Open Streetmap, Stackoverflow, Open Science Summit, Mat Todd (Open Source Drug Discovery) and been to many hackathons. So I am very familiar with the modern ideology and practice of "Open". Is "Open Access" the same sort of beast?

The features of "Open" that I value are:

  • A meritocracy. That doesn't mean that decisions are made by hand counting, but it means that people's views are listened to, and they enter the process when it seems right to the community. That's happened with SAX, very much with the Blue Obelisk, and the Open Knowledge Foundation.
  • Universality of participation, particularly from citizens without formal membership or qualifications. A feeling of community.
  • A willingness to listen to other views and find means of changing strategy where necessary
  • Openness of process. It is clear what is happening, even if you are not in command.
  • Openness of results. This is universally fundamental. Although there have been major differences of opinion in Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) everyone is agreed that the final result is free to use, modify, redistribute without permission and for any purpose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Freedoms_%28Free_software%29#definition . Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech', not as in 'free beer'".[13] See Gratis versus libre.
  • A mechanism to change current practice. The key thing about Wikipedia is that it dramatically enhances the way we use knowledge. Many activities in the OKF (and other Open Organisations) are helping to change practice in government, development agencies, companies. It's not about price restrictions, it's about giving back control to the citizens of the world. Open Streetmap produces BETTER and more innovative maps that people can use to change the lives of people living right now – e.g. the Haitian earthquake.

How does Open Access measure up against these? I have difficulty saying that OA as currently practiced meets any of these to my own desires. That doesn't mean it isn't valuable, but it means that it doesn't have obvious values I can align with. I have followed OA for most of the last 10 years and tried to contribute, but without success. I have practiced it by publishing all my own single-author papers over the last 5 years in Gold CC-BY journals (but without much feeling of involvement – certainly not the involvement that I get from SAX or BlueObelisk.

That's a harsh statement and I will elaborate:

Open Access is not universal – it looks inward to Universities (and Research Institutions). In OA week the categories for membership are:

"click here if you're a: RESEARCH FUNDER | RESEARCHER/FACULTY MEMBER | ADMINISTRATOR | PUBLISHER | STUDENT | LIBRARIAN"

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).

There is, in fact, very little role for the individual. Most of the infrastructure has been built by university libraries without involving anyone outside (I regret this, because University repositories are poor compared to other tools in the Open movements). There is little sense of community. The main events are organised round library practice and funders – which doesn't map onto other Opens. Researchers have little involvement in the process – the mainstream vision is that their university will mandate them to do certain things and they will comply or be sacked. This might be effective (although no signs yet) but it is not an "Open" attitude.

Decisions are made in the following ways:

  • An oligarchy, represented in the BOAI processes and Enabling Open Scholarship (EOS). EOS is a closed society that releases briefing papers and has a members ship of 50 EUR per year and have to be formally approved by the committee (I have represented to several members of EOS that I don't find this inclusive and I can't see any value in my joining – it's primarily for university administrators and librarians).
  • Library organizations (e.g. SPARC)
  • Organizations of OA publishers (e.g. OASPA)

Now there are many successful and valuable organizations that operate on these principles, but they don't use the word "Open".

So is discussion "Open". Unfortunately not very. There is no mailing list with both large volume of contributions and effective freedom to present a range of views. Probably the highest volume list for citizens (as opposed to librarians) is GOAL http://mailman.ecs.soton.ac.uk/pipermail/goal/ and here differences of opinion are unwelcome. Again that's a hard statement but the reality is that if you post anything that does not support Green Open Access Stevan Harnad and the Harnadites will publicly shout you down. I have been denigrated on more than one occasion by members of the OA oligarchy (Look at the archive if you need proof). It's probably fair to say that this attitude has effective killed Open discussion in OA. Jan Velterop and I are probably the only people prepared to challenge opinions = most others walk away.

Because of this lack of discussion it isn't clear to me what the goals and philosophy of OA are. I suspect that different practitioners have many different views, including:

  • A means to reach out to citizenry beyond academia, especially for publicly funded research. This should be the top reason IMO but there is little effective practice.
  • A means to reduce journal prices. This is (one of) Harnad's arguments. We concentrate on making everything Green and when we have achieved this the publishers will have to reduce their prices. This seems most unlikely to me – any publisher losing revenue will fight this (Elsevier already bans Green OA if it mandated).
  • A way of reusing scholarly output. This is ONLY possible if the output is labelled as CC-BY. There's about 5-10 percent of this. Again this is high on my list and the only reason Ross Mounce and I can do research into phylogenetic trees.
  • A way of changing scholarship. I see no evidence at all for this in the OA community. IN fact OA is holding back innovation in new methods of scholarship as it emphasizes the conventional role of the "final manuscript" and the "publisher". In fact Green OA relies (in practice) in having publishers and so legitimizes them

And finally is the product "Open"? The BOAI declaration is (in Cameron Neylon's words http://cameronneylon.net/blog/on-the-10th-anniversary-of-the-budapest-declaration/ ) "clear, direct, and precise:" To remind you:

"By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."

This is in the traditions of Stallman's software freedoms, The Open Knowledge Definition and all the other examples I have quoted. Free to use, re-use and redistribute for any lawful purpose. For manuscripts it is cleanly achieved by adding a visible CC-BY licence. But unfortunately many people, including the mainstream OA community and many publishers use "(fully) Open Access" to mean just about anything. No-one other than a few of us challenge this. So the result is that much current "OA" is so badly defined that it adds little value. There have been attempts to formalize this but they have all ended in messy (and to me unacceptable) compromise. In all other Open communities "libre" has a clear meaning – freedom as in speech. In OA it means almost nothing ("removal of some permission barriers" – could be managed by the permission to post a copy on a personal website but restrict copying and further re-use. Unfortunately anyone trying to get tighter approaches is shouted down. For that reason we have set up our own Open-access list in OKF http://blog.okfn.org/category/open-access/ and http://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/open-access/. So, and this is probably the greatest tragedy, Open Access does not by default produce Open products. See http://blog.okfn.org/2012/10/22/the-great-open-access-swindle/ for similar views

*If* we can have a truly Open discussion we might make progress on some of these issues.

37 thoughts on “Open Access: What is it and what does “Open” mean

  1. Graham Seaman

    As someone who has only intermittent access to a university address (depending on work contracts) I'm very glad to see someone sticking up for 'the citizenry' in general.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks very much Graham. We have a number of non-academics on OKF open-access and we welcome new views contributions , whatever

      Reply
  2. Mike Taylor

    A disturbing post, with much to ponder.

    One correction:

    "If you post anything that does not support Green Open Access Stevan Harnad and the Harnadites will publicly shout you down. ... It’s probably fair to say that this attitude has effective killed Open discussion in OA. Jan Velterop and I are probably the only people prepared to challenge opinions = most others walk away."

    It's more that I don't bother arguing with Stevan on the principle that you both get dirty but the pig likes it. It's apparent that he doesn't actually listen to anything anyone says -- so why waste breath saying things? It's much more useful to express the broader OA position in other venues than to get mired down on his home territory.

    (And let me say again what a tragedy it is that Stevan, who has contributed so much to open access, has reduced himself now to a state where all he's known for is denigrating OA visions that are different from his. He's made himself the People's Front of Judea.)

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      >>"A disturbing post, with much to ponder."

      I have been sitting on this for a month or more. I don't expect everyone to agree with the analysis. But it may help to guide others to form opinions even if the reject parts.

      I agree with your analysis about Stevan. The reason I post is (a) that GOAL is the main place where people might expect to see discussion (b) People ir/regularly mail me and say they appreciate counter positions.

      You say: "It’s much more useful to express the broader OA position in other venues" - where are they? There's a lot of blogs (including yours) but blogs are distributed in a fragmented manner and obviously and rightly led by the opinions of the blogger. I'm not aware of anywhere other than blogs that people could regularly read and see informed discussion. That's why we set up open-access on OKF.

      Reply
        1. pm286 Post author

          I completely agree on the value of your blog and many others - Richard Poynder, Michael Eisen, Stephen Curry, Cameron Neylon... The Scholarly Kitchen (which although I not agree with most of what is written or responded non-the-less generates debate). And these blogs are not single-issue channels - my next post will be about hacking PDF, for example. Blogs are not forums, they are a blogger and their readership with the blogger presenting ideas and the world reacting. It's also difficult for a newcomer to get up to speed with - say 20 blogs.
          We also need forums, often in the form of mail lists. So we have a computational chemistry list, a protein crystallography list, a librarian list and so on - but GOAL is the only forum for OA. I had hoped that when Richard Poynder took over (and I admire Richard greatly) that his standing and influence would change the tone of the list. My own posts there have been designed to help toward that goal. But it shows no signs of anything other than Animal Farm's "Gold is Good but Green is Be-e-e-e-tter".

          But an idea has arisen. Perhaps we need an Open Access forum oriented with a blog-like input and maybe OKF can provide this.

          Reply
    2. Coyo Stormbringer

      Yeah, this is the first time I've heard of this Stevan Hernad guy.

      THIS is what Open Access has been reduced to?

      What's the matter with you people? Is having access to scientific research, which, by the way, is relevant to EVERYONE, not just researchers, not important?

      This is pretty pathetic, guys.

      Reply
      1. pm286 Post author

        Thanks for the contrib.

        Stevan Harnad isn't everything in OA but he makes a lot of noise and kills discussion. And yes, Coyo, if OA doesn't bring science to people like you it hasn't succeeded.

        Reply
  3. Paul Walk

    I think this is an excellent post - and clearly heartfelt. I need to think more about some of the issues you raise, but the points you make about the quality and level of discussion on the 'established' mailing lists are irrefutable.

    If this post achieves nothing more (and I suspect it will kick-start some interesting discussions) it has gained the OKF Open Access mailing list one more subscriber - me!

    Reply
  4. Matthew Cockerill

    Re:
    "In all other Open communities “libre” has a clear meaning – freedom as in speech. In OA it means almost nothing (“removal of some permission barriers” – could be managed by the permission to post a copy on a personal website but restrict copying and further re-use. Unfortunately anyone trying to get tighter approaches is shouted down. "

    See the latest post on the OASPA blog on this topic

    http://oaspa.org/why-cc-by/

    OASPA has certainly not allowed itself to be shouted down on this - to gain membership of OASPA, a publisher must offer meaningfully "open" access, including the right to redistribute in original or derivative form.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks Matt,
      Fully agreed - and I support the aims of OASPA.

      But OASPA is not Open. It's an association of publishers (some commercial) and there is no way that Peter Murray-Rust or any individual can become a member or make a contribution. I have no idea how it makes its decisions and whether they are pubklisher after the fact, let alone before

      I worry about OASPA being overwhelmed by mainly-closed publishers with a small OA offering. Is Springer, as opposed to BMC,a member, for example. Any significant percentage of them could easily outvote the current policies.

      Reply
  5. Neil Stewart

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for a fascinating post. I agree that certain voices try to squash debate in unhelpful ways, but I do think the increased interest in open access as a result of Finch, RCUK etc. can only be a good thing in opening up the debate.

    As a repository manager, I do take issue with a couple of points. I (predictably) don’t agree that repositories are ”poor compared to other tools in the Open movements”. On what basis, and compared to what? Because they don’t provide CC-BY in all cases? It all depends what we think repositories are for. Personally, as an IR manager, I see my role as (among other things) to get as much of my university's research online as possible. I am concerned about the state of the licensing of this material, but I always think that getting something freely available online is better than it remaining closed. As you say, it all depends on what you mean by "open", but I think for the many people in the developing world who access content from our IR, having an eyeball-readable PDF (that is perhaps not machine readable) is an uncontrovertibly good thing.

    I also disagree with this: "IN fact OA is holding back innovation in new methods of scholarship as it emphasizes the conventional role of the “final manuscript” and the “publisher”. In fact Green OA relies (in practice) in having publishers and so legitimizes them"

    This seems to me the wrong way round- green open access emphasises the final manuscript because academics, for better or worse, continue to use journals- and it’s not green OA that shores up this system. Green OA can't be blamed for the current state of scholarly communications!

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      >>the increased interest in open access as a result of Finch, RCUK etc. can only be a good thing in opening up the debate.

      And I approve of Finch (I don't agree with some of its lack of clarity), but it's not an Open process. I am simply a bystander.

      >>As a repository manager, I do take issue with a couple of points. I (predictably) don’t agree that repositories are ”poor compared to other tools in the Open movements”. On what basis, and compared to what? Because they don’t provide CC-BY in all cases?

      Mainly because they are fragmented , individual and uncoordinated. Interoperable communal search is almost non-existent. My simple question - which no-one can answer - is "Find me all the online chemistry theses in the UK". IR's rely on Google for their search engine whereas many other tools (Stackoverflow, OpenStreetmap, Wikipedia, etc. have built their own search engines).

      >> It all depends what we think repositories are for. Personally, as an IR manager, I see my role as (among other things) to get as much of my university’s research online as possible.

      That's a reasonable objective. There are about 5 different motivations for IRs and they don't always work together. It's essentail that a University knows why it has a repository and I suspect many don't.

      >>I am concerned about the state of the licensing of this material, but I always think that getting something freely available online is better than it remaining closed.

      I disagree. I think the licensing is appalling, I think many IRs load even more restrictions on. Many universities say everything is at best (or by default) CC-NC - they don't allow CC-BY. That's their decision, not the publishers. FWIW I can't find any explicit notice of overall licence policy on your site.

      >>As you say, it all depends on what you mean by “open”, but I think for the many people in the developing world who access content from our IR, having an eyeball-readable PDF (that is perhaps not machine readable) is an uncontrovertibly good thing.

      If you can show that your IR has made useful contribution to people in developing countries that would be a valuable piece of the argument. I see very few repositories (if any) that have feedback from people outside the institution.

      >>I also disagree with this: “IN fact OA is holding back innovation in new methods of scholarship as it emphasizes the conventional role of the “final manuscript” and the “publisher”. In fact Green OA relies (in practice) in having publishers and so legitimizes them”

      It prevents OA being a vehicle for experimenting with new approaches.

      >>This seems to me the wrong way round- green open access emphasises the final manuscript because academics, for better or worse, continue to use journals- and it’s not green OA that shores up this system. Green OA can’t be blamed for the current state of scholarly communications!

      Gold is just as bad. My point is that there is no innovation. If, for example, all papers became freely available tomorrow what innovations would we perceive? None.

      Reply
      1. Neil Stewart

        I think the BASE search engine http://www.base-search.net/ is a rather good way of doing aggregate OA material searching- but I agree fragmentation is an issue.

        On licensing: in your opinion (or that of other commentators), could I declare (perhaps after running it past the usual channels within the university) that all the material in the repository I manage can be licensed under CC-BY? I'm not so worried about the potential response from the publishers- it's more that I would be doing something that (perhaps only a few) authors would not feel comfortable with. Or perhaps licensing under CC-BY should become a condition of deposit in the IR to begin with? Incidentally the current policy status of our IR is registered here: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/policies.html. Because of the questions above, there is not an explicit declaration of an overall licensing policy in terms of CC or other copyright-declarative licensing- but I would love for this to change.

        Finally, we use access from the developing world as an advocacy tool for our IR. For example, the top 15 downloaders by nation in the last quarter are largely from the countries you would expect (medium to large "Western" nations, plus India and China)- with the exception of place number 14, Iran, users from which country have downloaded a total of 114 papers. That's just one illustration of that particular use case, I think.

        Reply
        1. pm286 Post author

          >>I think the BASE search engine http://www.base-search.net/ is a rather good way of doing aggregate OA material searching- but I agree fragmentation is an issue.

          I am interested in modern searches for full text, metadata, numbers, etc. We built a system 7 years ago where we could search fo crystals by numeric cell dimensions, for molecules by chemical structure. Repositories should be incorporating this

          >>On licensing: in your opinion (or that of other commentators), could I declare (perhaps after running it past the usual channels within the university) that all the material in the repository I manage can be licensed under CC-BY?

          No. Because some of it is agreesively licensed otherwise but most isn't licensed at all so cannot be licensed.

          >>I’m not so worried about the potential response from the publishers- it’s more that I would be doing something that (perhaps only a few) authors would not feel comfortable with.

          I agree.I would like to see publishers challenged. But there aren't many of us. Librarians delight in showing why you can't use things without author's permissions.

          >>Or perhaps licensing under CC-BY should become a condition of deposit in the IR to begin with?

          Absolutely. the students I talk to are quite happy - it's the repo managers who sow doubts.

          >>Incidentally the current policy status of our IR is registered here: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/policies.html. Because of the questions above, there is not an explicit declaration of an overall licensing policy in terms of CC or other copyright-declarative licensing- but I would love for this to change.

          This is extremely typical. Why in the name of Foo should this be non-commercial. Because commercial is evil? It's appaling but it's very standard. At the end of the day the repo is USELESS in the electronic world. USELESS. Multiple by 200 repos in UK alone and you see how libraries have destroyed the vision.

          >>Finally, we use access from the developing world as an advocacy tool for our IR. For example, the top 15 downloaders by nation in the last quarter are largely from the countries you would expect (medium to large “Western” nations, plus India and China)- with the exception of place number 14, Iran, users from which country have downloaded a total of 114 papers. That’s just one illustration of that particular use case, I think.

          Yes, because why would anyone download papers from 200 different UK repos, and 2000 worldwide. Wikipedia has one repo. So does Open Streetmap. Yet univs say "oh this is a showcase for the university". We should bung every single OA paper into a single repo. Come to think of it why don't I am friends just do that?

          Because the **universities** would howl.

          Reply
          1. Neil Stewart

            Institutional repositories work perfectly well for the individual scholar, most of the time, who requires eyeball access to research- for that person (and there are many of them, as download and other stats show), all that matters is that they are found in Google, Google Scholar and other similar search tools, which they are. You say that you're interested in lay access to research, but then say that repositories are "worse than useless" when they provide exactly this access. Which is it to be?

          2. pm286 Post author

            Until there is a clear unified approach to searching university repositories and clear licensing it is far too fragmented and unclear and unpredictable for me. I want "all chemistry theses in UK". (I really do) I can't get this. I have to visit each repository and ask "have you got chemistry theses?" Most do not offer such a question. When I get the theses can I read them? Not at Imperial - they are all embargoed till hell freezes over. Can I re-use them? Impossible to determine the conditions.

            Repositories are set up on the basis that they contain single jewels of information that people either know in advance exist (I don't) or are prepared to spend an hour searching for. I and most scientists want to be able to browse the literature are see what is out there. I am now using machines to do this and which repositories actuall specify to machines that machines are allowed to read an index their content? Not many that I know of. (Of course they let GOOGLE do it because Google is so wonderful and anyway they couldn't stop it, but my robots are second-class compared to Google)

  6. Jenny Delasalle

    Peter, I agree that there's a great deal of variety of interpretation of OA, and you can see that at the different institutional repositories. I (personally) don't like mandates and have said so on the JISC-repositories list where I have, of course, disagreed with Stevan Harnad! Quite a few people do debate with him, or debate with each other but none of the debates ever get resolved into any kind of consensus or model as to the best way forward for us all.

    I think that may be what you mean when you are seeking a place for debate: you would like for there to be an agreed model as to how we do OA best and that in the absence of such agreement we're all just doing our own thing at an institutional level, and that is not helpful to the aims of OA. Is that what you mean?

    I think that the best place for researchers to engage in debate and discussion might well be within their institutions. Repository managers need evidence of researchers' needs to at least bid for the resource to try to meet them, with institutional purse-holders.

    The source of many of the problems you identify with institutional repositories is partly lack of engagement and partly lack of resource to make the repository as good as it could be. "Resource" can often be technical support or ability, so appropriate out-of-the-box solutions will help to overcome some such problems. Researchers could also work with repository software providers, in that case: perhaps along with repository managers.

    I appreciate what you're saying that the best kind of OA is the kind that is completely open and that uses the CC-By licence. In an ideal world then of course you are right, but the hurdle of getting any kind of full text version out of researchers at all has been enormous at times. What is needed is clarity over the licences with which content is made available on the internet, and that applies to all kinds of content and not only that in repositories. (We also need clarity over versions in repositories and that is perhaps another issue!)

    Undoubtedly there is room for improvement in OA repositories, and engagement with researchers would help to achieve that. I think we will still end up with lots of different models, and that so long as we know what kind of a repository we are dealing with then it won't matter so much.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks for the comments,

      >>I think that may be what you mean when you are seeking a place for debate: you would like for there to be an agreed model as to how we do OA best and that in the absence of such agreement we’re all just doing our own thing at an institutional level, and that is not helpful to the aims of OA. Is that what you mean?

      No. What I mean is a forum where someone can say "what do we do about this problem?" "here's a new idea", etc. and see reasonable and constructive debate. If there are going to be different flavours of OA let's discuss in detail what they are and try to evolve a communal statement. As an example some of suggested this month that we should try to get as much Green-OA labelled as CC-BY as w legally could. It's a valuable idea. It might work in some cases. Maybe only 5% of Green could be CC-BY, but that would be valuable IMO. But no, the discussion was destroyed in hours by SH and the Harnadites. "It would be the death of OA". It's not that people agree with this shouting and bleating any more than the animals in Animal farm did - it's that they are too frightened or weary to discuss any more.

      >>I think that the best place for researchers to engage in debate and discussion might well be within their institutions. Repository managers need evidence of researchers’ needs to at least bid for the resource to try to meet them, with institutional purse-holders.

      This is close to ivorytowerism. This does not help us to reach out beyond universities. Why are repositories for "researchers' needs". Why are they not for citizens?

      >>The source of many of the problems you identify with institutional repositories is partly lack of engagement and partly lack of resource to make the repository as good as it could be. “Resource” can often be technical support or ability, so appropriate out-of-the-box solutions will help to overcome some such problems. Researchers could also work with repository software providers, in that case: perhaps along with repository managers.

      IMO the **last thing** we want is out-of-the box solutions. That's why Wikipedia, OpenStreetmap and Stackoverflow have been so successful. They as a community have built their own in response to what citizens want. Repository managers think they know what a repository should look like. If they do, they it's almost certainly a poor fit to what the world wants.

      Reply
  7. Fred Friend

    I am very sorry to read this correspondence. At a time when the future of OA is still under threat from powerful interests, we need to work together. There are so many people in the OA movement I hold in great respect. I have agreed and disagreed with many of them over the years but I have never doubted their capacity to contribute to the achievement of the objectives we all support at heart. What we sometimes disagree about are the means to achieve those objectives. It is particularly divisive to talk in factional terms like "Harnadites". Am I a "Harnadite" when I agree with Stevan and not a Harnadite when I agree with Peter? With best wishes to each one,Fred Friend.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks for the comments.
      I also wish us to work together and that was the main reason for my posting. And I also highly respect many people in the Open Access movement. But there is no place where discussion can take place on equal terms and until there is , open Access has a serious problem. The main one is that its goals and motives are very poorly defined and sloppiness of terminology is everywhere - leading to confusion and serious impediments.
      And yes, I don't like being factional, but the continued automatic criticism I and other get on GOAL is unlike all the forums I belong to. There needs to be a more inclusive culture.

      Reply
  8. Richard Poynder

    Peter,

    I agree that the way OA has been defined, and the way the movement is organised, is problematic, and I have made that point myself, both privately and publicly (e.g. here: http://poynder.blogspot.com/2006/03/where-is-open-access-foundation.html). For that reason, I have always believed that the movement would benefit from the creation of a central (democratic) organisation.

    I also agree that the infighting and disagreement that OA advocates sometimes engage in acts against everyone’s interests. A central organisation might help in this regard. But if you think about it, anyone could set up such an organisation. The challenge would be to win hearts and minds.

    However, I am not sure I entirely agree with your characterisation of the GOAL mailing list, which I have been moderating since the beginning of this year. Perhaps it would help if you provided some examples of when and how you have been denigrated on GOAL since I took over the list?

    I believe the last interchange between you and Stevan Harnad took place at the beginning of this month (http://www.mail-archive.com/goal@eprints.org/msg08650.html). Do you feel that the response you got was in some way unacceptable, and that as moderator I should not have allowed Stevan’s reply to be posted?

    Best wishes,

    Richard Poynder

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks Richard,
      You are tolerant and wise. I tried , perhaps not clearly, to make that point.
      What I said I meant and won't take back anything, because I think the lack of discourse is very serious. I will note that your role as moderator is primarily to filter what others say and perhaps to mail them privately - I don't know. But it isn't easy to change the direction of any list. Our styles are different - I might have tried to steer things publicly a bit.

      >>I agree that the way OA has been defined, and the way the movement is organised, is problematic, and I have made that point myself, both privately and publicly (e.g. here: http://poynder.blogspot.com/2006/03/where-is-open-access-foundation.html). For that reason, I have always believed that the movement would benefit from the creation of a central (democratic) organisation.

      >>I also agree that the infighting and disagreement that OA advocates sometimes engage in acts against everyone’s interests. A central organisation might help in this regard. But if you think about it, anyone could set up such an organisation. The challenge would be to win hearts and minds.

      I agree with this analysis.

      >>However, I am not sure I entirely agree with your characterisation of the GOAL mailing list, which I have been moderating since the beginning of this year. Perhaps it would help if you provided some examples of when and how you have been denigrated on GOAL since I took over the list?

      I don/t want to get into an email exchange but at least 4 different individuals have criticised me publicly on the list using words like "ignorant", "sterile" . The worst was when a very senior academic publicly implied that had serious double standards about OA, publishing in closed access journals. That was completely without foundation, and although I believe I answered it completely adequately I am reluctant to post more unless in response to something I feel unacceptable. My latest suggestikon about Green OA CC-BY was seriously made (and others started to support it, but discussion was destroyed by shouting opinions rather than reasons.

      I now believe it is impossible to ask the list "what do you think about X?" and get a rationale response". I am quite prepared to be shown that X has flaws and to be convinced. But I am not prepared to be publicly shoured down repeatedly.

      I should say that I get a modest amount of private mail supporting me when I challenge opinions.

      >>I believe the last interchange between you and Stevan Harnad took place at the beginning of this month (http://www.mail-archive.com/goal@eprints.org/msg08650.html). Do you feel that the response you got was in some way unacceptable, and that as moderator I should not have allowed Stevan’s reply to be posted?

      Email is a very poor way of reaching consensus - in that case we had different opinions of the import of his remarks. When I give presentations I do not go around saying that people X, Y, Z are wrong. I criticize groups of people, by institution and role, but I also praise them as well.

      There will be enough rejoicing this week about the progress of OA - that'sfine. But many don't know actually where they are heading. There are a great many rocks ahead, not least with data-citations which I shall blog about.

      Reply
    2. Dr. Tom Olijhoek

      Richard,
      I have followed this discussion with great interest. I have contacted you in the past with the idea of having an open access foundation, only to learn that you had proposed the very same already in 2006.
      after having coordinated the @ccess list that I set up with PMR and other OA advocates 9 months ago, I feel the time is approaching to give birth to such an organisation. I think that the OA movement is still as fragmented as before and that there is a need to coordinate various factions in order to have a more visible committment to BOAI compliant open access as the default. I have been looking with great astonishment at the green versus gold discussions which became more rigid over the past months, and with more astonishment still at the recent CC-BY discussion between Heather Morrison and Cameron Neylon. I can only say it is time to unite, not to fight. I think that the formation of open scientist communities using BOAI open access exclusively will be decisive for the success of open access and the resulting open science society. I will also speak to that effect in Capetown at OAAfrica on nov 5, and at bERLIN 10.
      I have recently attended some very good meetings in NL that convinced me that we can find the necessary critical mass to move things forward in a much more coordinated way. Let's start by sharing your ideas with us on how really to achieve our purposes, on the open access list of OKFN.

      Reply
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  12. Marcin Wojnarski

    Very interesting post. Respect for the courage to speak loudly about painful issues. I agree that OA should not only optimize costs and lift access barriers, but ultimately and primarily it should create new sense of community among academia. This has not happened yet, but hopefully it will happen in the future. I'm a programmer, too, and like you I very much appreciate the open source movement and think OA should be going in a similar direction, although I realize that life in academia flows much slower than in IT industry and what took ~10 years in IT can take 20 or 30 years in academia.

    I also fully agree with the requirement of citizens' participation. That's very important yet hugely underestimated by most scholars. What you called "ivorytowerism" is not only bad for society, but mainly it's bad for academia itself: without healthy relationships with outsiders academia suffocates and turns into art for art's sake.

    Also, I share the scepticism about green route and Institutional Repositories, I was asking about this just recently: http://poynder.blogspot.com/2012/07/oa-interviews-keith-jeffery-uk-science.html?showComment=1341573472687#c5960489624718125031
    That's a fact that IRs don't provide enough quality of content, for example in terms of licensing terms: different licenses for every document, in most cases licenses are unknown - that makes the content hardly usable for any serious application. General accessibility and ergonomy of user interfaces isn't any better; likewise their discoverability from search engines. The worst thing is that - despite unquestionable effort put by their developers - there are no chances for IRs to improve over time, because fundamental principles will prohibit any substantial change (e.g., how to unify licenses? that's just impossible with IRs' modus operandi) - that's why I bet on Gold more than on Green. And yes, after considering actual licenses of different documents in IR, claiming IRs to be Open Access is a serious abuse. Maybe some people are mislead by the name "repository" and think that IRs are somehow similar to arXiv - the biggest green "success story" - and will achieve similar success, but the truth is that IRs vastly differ from arxiv, in many respects, and there is no reason to believe that they will achieve any comparable adoption among readers.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Your reply is much appreciated. Not surprisingly I agree with everything in it. I don't know how we change things. I think the stresses in academic scholarship are building with every year of inaction and cannot be long contained.

      The good thing about the RCUK and other initiatives are that they are serious statements of intent. The funders want to change the landscape and they are the only body that can easily do so (Universities have abdicated any responsibility). The choice of CC-BY is really important. It clarifies the result and shifts the power. I'll try to write more later.

      Reply
  13. Ale

    Ni! Hi Peter,

    Nice, intriguing post =D

    At the risk of sounding too vague, I say Open Access as a movement suffers from a chronic issue of incomplete focus, which is more fundamental than ill definitions and divisions, and leads to them.

    As I understand, access is only one part of an open system. So "open access" actually means "access for an open X", where X in our context happens to be science.

    And that is why, as long as one focuses his discourse around access alone, he looses sight of the other aspects without which openness itself cannot be achieved: participation (some call it inclusiveness) and integration (some call it modularity).

    In terms of politics, "open access" by itself can be seen as "open data" - which is short for "data for an open government" - without the perspective of open government.

    In software terms, "open access" by itself is similar to developing a bunch of "open source applications" without recognizing the goal of building a libre operating system.

    So, as I see it, the path to achieve consensus and join forces for "open access" is to ask instead how can we open the process of scientific discovery and the community around it? And what kind of access enables that the most? That will tell us what "open access" has got to be.

    Thus, an increasing fraction of the times I'm asked to talk about it, I refer first to open science, and then derive into what kind of access is required for an open science, further observing that it - the so called "open access" - does bring with itself immediate benefits both practical and ethical.

    This is not always the right speech to convince most people, but it is the most convincing speech for the right people.

    Cheers,
    ale

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks Ale,
      Yes - it's sad how incomplete the vision is. I think we shall change things by doing, not talking, which is why I write liberation software.

      P.

      Reply
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