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Is Open Access Still Relevant in 2013

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
27th January 2013


By Sumandro:

Is Open Access still relevant?

“The last years have been both satisfying and challenging for the Open Access community worldwide. On one hand, we have experienced numerous ‘victories’ of the OA agenda, such as the OA policy of Research Council UK, the Finch Committee report, and the OA policy of World Bank. Various agreeable arguments have been made forcefully to highlight the need for a transition to OA models of publication — from betterment of academic practices, to economic growth to human development. On the other hand, the OA agenda seems like only one, and not a major one at that, ‘openness’ movement among a crowd of similarly prefixed movements. Further, the OA agenda increasingly appears to be a rather limited, rigid, and old one. Many other ‘openness’ movements such as Open Data and Open Educational Resources, one may argue, are more effectively designed to better academic practices, drive economic growth and influence human development.

In a powerful critique of the existing OA agenda, Peter Murray-Rust asks: ‘Is “Open Access” the same sort of beast [as the modern ideology and practice of "Open"]?’. He goes on to list out the features of this ‘modern ideology and practice of “Open”‘: meritocracy, universality of participation, a willingness to listen, openness of process, openness of results, and a mechanism to change current practices (please see his blog post for clarification of these features). Instead of having ‘open’ self-reflections about the changing context and the need for revised strategies, as Eve Gray explains, the OA agenda has often remained haunted by the Budapest Open Access Initiative past and failed to interact with emerging allies such as OA scholarly publications and grey literatures.

To ask the looming question bluntly, is there a need to envision a new, more contemporary if nothing else, version of the OA agenda?

In the face of increasing acceptance of OA for journal-based research publications by national and super-national bodies, what are the next frontiers of the OA agenda? Does the journal-centric strategy of the existing OA agenda needs revisiting? The last question is especially pertinent in the context of developing countries, where policy-making is often influenced by privately-funded research. Access to such documents (and their underlying datasets) are significant in such cases for ensuring government accountability, or simply to induce a broad, informed discussion regarding making of national policies. At the same time, the diversity of national policy frameworks across the world poses a critical challenge to any global movement that aims to address global concerns while engaging with local specificities and demands. Similarly for OA agenda, it is crucial to discuss the possibility of a more participatory, flexible and open process of setting strategic agendas at national and regional scales. In this context, it might be useful to revisit the BOAI definition of OA, and question whether this definition is sufficient for a global OA agenda, and also whether the existing OA models (such as Gold and Green OA) are sufficient for delivering the promise of that definition.

To return to the context of various ‘openness’ movements unfolding worldwide, one may ask, if the OA agenda is now best pursued by dissolving it within other ‘openness’ movements? Should we talk more of an alliance between various ‘openness’ movements, or an expansion of some to incorporate the others?

To take part in this fascinating debate which is hosted on the WSIS Knowledge Communities, click the following link here.”

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