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Support “Academic Freedom” – Let the World Read Your Peer-reviewed, Taxpayer-subsidized Article

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Now and then one needs to vent. In two days I’ve twice encountered the same objection to supporting open access publishing. In short, the objection goes: OA is bad for academic freedom. (Society publishers in the UK recently provided a well-written example of this logic.) As arguments go, I think it shares something in common with the notion that campaign finance reform is an assault on free speech. Opponents of OA latch on to a cherished virtue of the academy and contort it to take aim at the very thing that would give (by retaining copyright) the scholar more freedom with how they share and use their work.

First, retaining your rights and depositing your article in an open repository, seems to me to be a very deliberate act of academic freedom. On the other hand, giving your copyrights away to a publisher that then restricts what you can and cannot do with your work is very much the opposite. Some kind of self-inflicted (or, at best, hapless) loss of academic freedom.

While the first is misaligned, the second, the idea that source of funds to support article processing fees will create undue influence over what is and is not published, is naive. Yes, money is the root of all evil, but doesn’t financial influence drive the direction of research already? Should the NIH stop funding health research? Should universities give up their endowed chairs and the philanthropy that supports them? Money is everywhere, without it much of the scholarly enterprise would shrivel up and die. In fact, money is already a powerful influence in the “traditional” academic publishing market.

Hiding from the inevitable shift to open access publishing because one fears corruption, doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t correct the corruption that is already a part of the system and it doesn’t protect a new model from that same undue influence. For those that worry about how funds for article processing fees will be managed and distributed, this is the time to get creative. Be a part of the solution.

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Written by Jere

January 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm

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