Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Open Access Matters to Me (Open Access Day Synchroblogging)

This post is part of the Open Access Day Synchroblogging Competition. (There is still time to participate!)

Why does Open Access matter to me?

As a librarian with many years' experience in academic libraries and library consortia, I am very aware of the gaps in access.

Some examples, from my experience:

The look on the face of a poor student when told that the article they want will cost $48. The student went away without the article. This was not a good day for learning, or for scholarship. Not every library can afford to bridge the access gaps with interlibrary loans, even in a wealthy country like Canada. Pay per view is like a tax on reading.

From an economics perspective, open access is the only model for scholarly electronic resources that makes sense. It costs money to keep people out; money spent preventing learning is worse than wasted.

There are scholarly resources that libraries of all types would like to have, but do not purchase because they cannot afford to do so. There are needs that are not being met, and will never entirely be met with a subscriptions-based model, but could be met with open access.

Open access brings us all together. When library budgets are scarce, we do not purchase the scholarly journals of developing countries, for example, regardless of merits; with open access, we can have it all, and proceed with our research is a way that is much more inclusive.

How did I first become aware of open access?

A speech by early open access advocate Jean-Claude Guédon at a conference in Alberta (2001) - arranged for, and supported by, local librarians, and also Peter Suber's wonderful SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Why should scientific and medical research be an open-access resource for the world?

Thanks to an approach of open sharing and collaboration, mankind mapped the Human Genome in about 13 years, lightning speed compared to traditional approaches to scholarship. We need to optimize research progress in other areas, particularly the environment and how to live in our global world in peace, and we need to do this now. There is no time to waste.

What do I do to support Open Access, and what can others do
There are many things that can be done! Others should do what they feel most comfortable with. If you are in a position to advocate for an open access mandate policy, please do. Otherwise, please self-archive your own work, help start up or run an open access journal, talk about open access, or whatever else works for you.

As for me, I work as an advocate for open access with my local library associations, have served as the Co-Convenor of the CLA Open Access Task Force, am part of the governance team of E-LIS, the Open Archive for Library and Information Studies; I self-archive my own work, and publish as much open access as I can; I was the first Editor, Theory/Research of the open access journal, Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research; I write, present, and publish extensively on open access, formally and informally; I participate in the Open Access Directory, and on the PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference Team; I have developed and taught courses on open access and scholarly communications, and am writing a book on scholarly communications, which I believe will help advance the transition to open access.

As you can tell from this list, I am very busy, and it is not easy to find time for Working Less! Why do I do this? It is my belief that humankind is at a crossroads, a major moment in history when we have some very basic decisions to make, such as whether our scholarly knowledge is a commodity, for the few who can afford it; or, as I believe, knowledge is for all. I do not know how anyone could see what I see, and not commit themselves, wholeheartedly, to advocating for open access.