Open Access Unconference of Networked Researcher

I registered for the 2012 Unconference of Networked Researcher, an online event based on blog entries written in the week between 22-28 October 2012 by various participants. I still have to figure out what I will be writing in my own post, but first I am writing a summary on what has been said so far.

The unconference was part of the Open Access Week (an event that might be a subject for a later post). Each participant (19 in total) has been asked to contribute with a blog post (more or less 10 actually wrote until now). I will summarize what has been said there.
The proposed topic of intervention were covering many different aspects of open access. Personally, I believe that Open Access is very important and should be endorsed in full, but I also understand that there are issues of copyrights, academic habits and the need for quality control of content (the quality and reliability of wikipedia entries is a good example). So an initiative like the one proposed here is very interesting for me.
There are several interesting post in the blog.

The first one was written by Brian Kelly, from UKOLN (a digital infrastructure and data management centre at the University of Bath. Very interesting website with a host of blogs on different aspects of digital humanities). In his contribution Kelly says that putting papers online (like in a repository) is only part of the job. There is a need to facilitate discovery and access to the paper as well, “to be pro-active in helping those who may find one’s research of interest […] make use of technologies to enhance access to one’s research”. Blogging and tweeting, as well as Linkedin and Academia.edu, are effective in enhancing and helping access, as both Melissa Terras’ and Kelly’s cases show, but gaining popularity does not imply quality of research. In any case, it is useful to create networks in this way, to disseminate your work and to foster discussion and exchange of ideas.
Kelly’s also linked to a series of talks he gave during the week on Open practices for connected researchers (in Exeter, Salford and Bath) and gave tips on how to use social networks to maximize visibility of research papers, encouraging people to be pro-active when presenting papers, to link to the actual paper rather than its metadata (if possible), to encourage discussion and develop a network, to understand their own network (using Twitter analytics such as SocialBro – I don’t know it, will have to try) etc.
Stian Haklev chronicled an impressive number of presentations he gave on different issues of open scholarship, often linked to multilingual and multicultural environments. Also very interesting some of the ideas develop for his MA thesis on the Top Level Quality Project, a Chinese project of Higher Education (such as the concept of accidental and intentional OER – Open Educational Resource, or the three purpose of OER – direct use, reuse and transparency).
Amanda Startling Gould create a storify from the talk “Altmetrics and the Decoupled Journal: An Endgame for Open Access” by Jason Priem at Duke University, using the massive amount of tweets available. Both an experiment in dissemination and an interesting talk about OA. There were many intriguing points there, but they probably need a more comprehensive discussion (in a later post, maybe?)

Dyfrig Jones, in Making Open More Open, questions “the value of a publication system that seems designed to hamper the free exchange of ideas”, an issue extensively discussed in UK after the Finch Report was published. This was a step in the right direction, but, according to Dyfrig, kind of flawed, because “at its heart, the Finch Report is about improving the current model, rather than a more radical overhaul of academic publishing”. The main issue he has with this approach is clearly described when he asked “if we’re talking about providing free online access to this material, why do we need to go through a publisher?” The need for quality control provided by academic publishers through peer-review is flawed because open communities of learning are substituted with closed social networks in the current system. This is not necessarily the case because we already possess the tools to embrace a different system:

the barrier to (online) publication now very low, websites which are built on blogging engines also come with extensive commenting tools as standard.  Writing a paper and distributing it to reviewers has never been simpler, in theory – Post it online and wait for the comment sections to fill up.

Still, there is a tension between self-publishing papers and more traditional journal submission, as described by David Gauntlett for instance. What is needed at this stage is to find ways to facilitate online publication as a suitable alternative to journal submission, and one that will create open communities of research.

Joseph Kraus reminds us to follow the money if we want to understand what will happen to open access in the future. Major funding bodies tend to impose rules on researcher regarding where and how publish their work. In many cases they are keen to pay an author-side publication charge (APC) because they don’t want to hide the research behind a huge paywall. When there is no funding available, a suitable alternative could be to publish in a depository or in an open access journal who does not ask for an APC (a list can be found in this directory). Hopefully more alternatives and more approach to funding will be available in the future.
A similar question was asked by Niamh Thornton in his piece: “who pays who pays the bill for all of this and, further, what are we paying for?”

Lori Beth De Hertogh too is advocating for more open and democratic communities of research, following what David Parry said in a keynote address at the 2012 Computers and Writing conference.

Regarding peer-review as a quality control system, Joseph Kraus has an interesting opinion about trustworthiness of data in an open access ecosystem, based on arXiv OA repository.

Since Open Access publications can have many more readers than articles published in toll-access journals, readers may begin to prefer OA articles because they know that the author is willing to let everyone have access to the article.  Many authors who support OA publications also deposit their underlying data into OA repositories, so that others can examine it.  These authors are not trying to hide their article in a toll-access publication.  In the future, readers might not trust information from the authors who hide their articles (and data) from the view of many interested parties.  In the not-so-distant future, the researchers who support the Open Access ecosystem may be held in higher regards, and their work might be trusted a little more than those who do not support Open Access.

Kathleen Azali’s piece on OA in Indonesia is also very interesting. She speaks about challenges and opportunities of open access initiatives in developing countries, starting with the problem of digital divide and the issue of visibility and access.

Open Access has the potentials to make the research from developing countries more visible to researchers from around the world, as well as making research elsewhere more accessible to them (for a case study in India, see Ghosh and Dash (2007).


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Pills of Wisdom

  • The importance of language for the development of culture lies in the fact that, in language, man juxtaposed to the one world another world of his own, a place which he thought so sturdy that from it he could move the rest of the world from its foundations and make himself lord over it. To the extent that he believed over long periods of time in the concepts and names of things as if they were aeternae veritates, man has acquired that pride by which he has raised himself above the animals: he really did believe that in language he had knowledge of the world. The shaper of language was not so modest as to think that he was only giving things labels; rather, he imagined that he was expressing the highest knowledge of things with words; and in fact, language is the first stage of scientific effort. Here, too, it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed. Very belatedly (only now) is it dawning on men that in their belief in language they have propagated a monstrous error. Fortunately, it is too late to be able to revoke the development of reason, which rests on that belief.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

  • The scientific method of abstraction is very efficient and powerful, but we have to pay a price for it. As we define our system of concepts more precisely, as we streamline it and make the connections more and more rigorous, it becomes increasingly detached from the real world. Using again Korzybski’s analogy of the map and the territory, we could say that ordinary language is a map which, due to its intrinsic inaccuracy, has a certain flexibility so that it can follow the curved shape of the territory to some degree. As we make it more rigorous, this flexibility gradually disappears, and with the language of mathematics we have reached a point where the links with reality are so tenuous that the relation of the symbols to our sensory experience is no longer evident. This is why we have to supplement our mathematical models and theories with verbal interpretations, again using concepts which can be understood intuitively, but which are slightly ambiguous and inaccurate.
    Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics ad EasternMysticism, Boulders: Shambala, 1975,