Open Access and the Role of Universities
What is Open Access?
The term open access encompasses both the practice of making course materials available to the general public at no charge as well as an academics' choice to publish his/her research in a journal or repository that makes the work accessible for free, both financially and copyright-wise.
In many cases, the argument for Open Access is normative: In an era of cheap information transfer, educators have new opportunities to democratize access to advanced learning. In academic publishing, new technologies mean that distribution costs are down, and it is possible to publish a journal for far much money than traditional journals are charging. Scholars are turning to open access to avoid such issues as being unable, due to copyright restrictions, to share their own articles with colleagues who do not have access to the journal where it was published, or event just to pass out copies of their own articles to students in their classes.
In the context of scholarly articles, publishing in an open access format has been shown to enhance the impact of an article by making it more readily available to colleagues.1. It also allows information that is otherwise very expensive (some of these journals cost upwards of $20,000 a year) to be accessible to those who cannot otherwise afford it, like independent researchers or even smaller colleges.
The open access movement got a lot of momentum due to the subscriptions crisis, which is when many institutions found that rising subscriptions costs meant cutting subscriptions to important magazines. The movement also got a large boost of support from NIH, which hosts the open-access medicine repository PubMed, and the Wellcome fund, one of the largest funders of biological research, which has demanded that all of its grant recipients deposit their papers in PubMed.
On the other hand, open access journals are questionable for a variety of reasons.
- First, most open access journals are relatively new and not yet prestigious in their fields, so professors seeking tenure or jobs for their grad students often try for more well-known traditional journals. Fixing this would require a revamp of tenure criteria at universities.
- Secondly, open access journals have questionable economic stability. It has been shown that 65% of open access journals are not making a profit1, which makes it hard to convince established publishers to make the switch.
The financial difficulties also discourages learned societies from switching their publications to OA, since many of these societies rely on their publications to fund their other activities. Furthermore, many of the more economically-sound models calls for the author to pay to publish the article, which could put certain categories of authors at a disadvantage.
Open access is also an important issue in education. MIT's OpenCourseWare project showed that it is becoming increasingly easier for universities to help educate outside their communities.
Monday, Nov. 20: Open Access and the Role of Universities
- Guests: [Professor Stuart Shieber] (Harvard University), Laura DeBonis (Google), [Professor Sid Verba] (Harvard University), Anne Marguilles (MIT OpenCourseWare)
- An open access overview from a devoted advocate: 
- The Berlin Declaration - a call for scholarly open access 
- "The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age," William W. Fisher and William McGeveran, August 2006.
- Why is Open Access important to colleges? - from the head of MIT's libraries
Open Access Resources
Links to Open Access projects
- Public Library of Science Journals: http://www.plos.org
- Science Commons: http://www.sciencecommons.org
- Wikiversity: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page
- Google Book Search Library Project: http://books.google.com/googlebooks/library.html
- The OpenCourseWare Consortium: http://www.ocwconsortium.org/
- MIT's OpenCourseWare: http://ocw.mit.edu
- Tufts Open Courseware Project: http://ocw.tufts.edu/
- Utah State Open Courseware Project: http://ocw.usu.edu/Index/ECIndex_view
Open Access Issues
- Open Access information from MIT (includes a list of expensive journals): http://libraries.mit.edu/about/scholarly/mit.html
- UPenn's pro-OA site: http://www.library.upenn.edu/scholcomm/
- New York Sun article: http://www.nysun.com/pf.php?id=42317
- Nature's collection of articles discussing OA: http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/index.html
- An extension school CyberOne project: The Harvard Extension Open Courseware Project
The lectures for this week are on Monday, Nov. 6th at 1:15pm and Tuesday, Nov. 7th at 1:15pm. Both will be taped. They will be available here in QuickTime format approximately 24 hours after they occur.
Class Notes Tuesday 11/21/06 (a short new feature -- Dean introduces the class)
Tuesday 11/21/06 (watch first) This video is now the actual first video!
Get the Videos Delivered (or if you have trouble w/ playback)
- Democracy Player is a free and open source video player/aggregator that will download and play back your class videos (sort of like a TiVo for your computer).
- Mplayer is another free and open source video player with its own codecs for playing Real(tm) and Quicktime(tm) (as well as all the other common formats). Some people who have problems with Democracy Player can play the videos with mplayer.
- VLC is another video player. It is, in my opinion (this being Dean), far easier to use than Mplayer.