Saturday, June 01, 2013

The transnational open access movement: paper to be presented at the Global Communication Association conference in November

My proposal for the Global Communication Association's 7th annual conference this November in Ottawa has been accepted! The Global Communication Association is the founder of the innovative suite that is the open access Global Media Journal. The title and abstract of my proposal follows

The transnational open access movement

Open access is literature that is digital, online, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (Suber, 2013). The focus of the global open access movement is the scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed journal articles, monographs, and emerging forms of scholarly communication such as research data. The growth in resources that are freely available is remarkable, and the growth rate dramatic (Morrison, 2004 - ). The potential of the open access movement is a global knowledge commons of knowledge, a free pool of all of the knowledge of humankind available to everyone (assuming an internet connection) for free, from which all may draw and all can contribute.

This paper will analyze the global open access movement in the context of the transnational advocacy networks described by Keck and Sikkink (1998). Transnational advocacy networks involve distinct groups working across borders to achieve a common set of goals. Transnational advocacy networks often share a set of motivations, such as the achievement of shared instrumental goals, shared causal ideology, and/or shared principles or values.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2002 defined open access and coalesced this global movement with a common definition and a vision of what open access can achieve which reads: The public good…is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.

After more than a decade, the open access movement has achieved considerable success: more than 8,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, over 1,200 open access repositories containing millions of items, and over two hundred funding agencies and universities have open access mandate policies.

Areas of emerging division within the open access movement include sub-instrumental goals (e.g. specific definitions, open access journals versus open access archiving), fundamental ideology (e.g. neoliberal emphasis on scholarly publishing as industry versus state subsidy and scholar-led publishing) and fundamental principles and values (sharing the learning of the poor with the rich and the rich with the poor versus fueling capitalist innovation for private profit).

This paper explores the potential for the open access movement as a natural experiment in achieving an effective transnational advocacy network outside of the issues involving obvious harm to human rights identified by Keck and Sikkink as most likely to succeed. The shared basic goal of open access to scholarly works may open up the possibility of a high level global conversation on the impact of neoliberal ideology with scholarly communication as an example. The potential for various participants to overcome differences in sub-instrumental goals to achieve the greater (but less specific) common vision of open access will be explored.


Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002). Retrieved April 22, 2013 from

Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists beyond borders: Advocacy networks in international politics. Ithaca, N.Y.; London: Cornell University Press.

Morrison, H. (2004 - ). The dramatic growth of open access. The imaginary journal of poetic economics. Retrieved April 22, 2013 from Suber, P. (2013). Open access overview. Retrieved April 22, 2013 from