Open Access Rants: Hanging together on the goddam wagon

Twitter is a great place to rant and rave sometimes. You can feel free to let loose and say what you're thinking without necessarily feeling that you need to have completely well-formed ideas. The enforced brevity can sometimes also be a plus, as it forces you to distill what you want to say to the bare minimum. It it possible to string together longer thoughts across multiple tweets but it becomes a bit awkward to read.

I let loose a couple of Open Access related rants over the last few days and I thought I'd share them here, slightly cleaned up to make them more readable. Both are fairly short but ended up stretching across 15 or so tweets.

The first one was inspired by a recent trend I've seen in anti-OA commentary, largely at the Scholarly Kitchen but pretty pervasive.

OA rant initiated.

Lots of the anti-OA commentary I’m seeing online these days is of the “Gee it would be nice if it could work in some ideal world but it just can’t in our hard, practical, fallen world. You OA advocates just don’t understand” type. Very condescending, very “little pat on the head there there poor dear.” But it’s not OA advocates that have the problem. It’s not us that don’t understand.

The truth is that there is a way to make OA work, for all the warts and two-steps-forward-one-step-back we see here in very early days of science on the web. There’s plenty of money in the system right now to publish quality science to the web for all to read. Look at arxiv, PeerJ, PLOS, SCOAP3. We just need to put the past aside, get all the stakeholders together, and find a way to make it happen, to get the money from where it is to where it should be without all the rent-taking intermediaries.

At the end of the day, publishers, libraries, scholarly societies exist to disseminate science and serve their constituencies: scholars, funders, society as a whole. Not the other way around. The burden on those institutions is to “add value” to the processes the true stakeholders really value.

As Faulkner said, “Them that’s going get in the goddamn wagon. Them that ain’t, get out of the goddamn way.”

Here’s a couple of the commentaries I mention above, very offhand dismissals of OA:

The Faulkner quote is inspired here:


The second rant is related to the first but is more directed to specific "OA skeptic" rhetoric that I see that we can't have OA because it threatens publishing revenue at scholarly societies and small journals and hence their viability.

Initiate Open Access Rant #2

This time inspired by this: & some of the feedback on the Draft Tri-Agency OA policy:

As well, I’m adapting a bit from a comment I made on Friendfeed.

So, societies are worried about OA mandates. Hey, you societies should concentrate on the value you provide to your members not to mention your lofty missions/goals about promoting scholarship & the common good. What you shouldn’t be doing is using publishing revenue (ie. public money via library subscriptions) to subsidize member programs.

Same with how governments use tax revenues to fund research. They don't fund research for the sake of supporting society or commercial publishers' journal programs. They fund research for lots of reasons, but none of them involve making sure that publishers are taken care of. As a result, government OA mandates shouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about how mandating OA is going to affect the publishing ecosystem.

It's up to publishers (and libraries) to figure out how they are going to add value in a changing landscape. Sure, governments can have programs to support publishing ecosystems (added: and contribute to institutional overheads which may end up supporting libraries), especially in a small country like Canada. In particular they should support transitioning to online/OA. But those should be totally separate from the funding of the research itself.

Rant over. Please resume your previously scheduled daily activities.

As kind of postscript: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." - Ben Franklin


Yes, rants. Perhaps not entirely fair. At the same time, I'm willing to stand by what I say here. It's time to start hanging together on the goddam wagon.

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