Friday, October 17, 2008

Why open access may not work

This past week in my doctoral seminar class we had a very good discussion about the research process and research reporting process. In this context we talked about open access journals. But also got a bit into the tenure process.

From this conversation I had to ask my professor if he knew of anyone that had used open access journals for tenure. To his knowledge he could not think of a person that had exclusively used open access journals in higher education to make tenure.

This got my mind churning and somewhat perplexed. I have this belief that knowledge should be available for anyone, not just those that can afford access to the knowledge. Further, I believe that the producers of that knowledge should not, in most publication cases, give up their copyright ownership in order to be published. After many years of education and hearing the positive, and negative sides of open access publication, I have gotten the sense that most people in higher education are proponents of open access. If this is the case then why is so much of our knowledge hidden behind the locked doors of the publication industry, where one only gets entry by producing money?

Thus after mulling over this for a few days, I have finally come to a conclusion. It is not that higher education people do not like open access, as I said before they seem proponents of it, but rather the system of higher education that limits the adoption of open access. Mainly the tenure process at most colleges and universities have a strong held belief that publications must be in well respected academic journals. For some reason though, most open access journals are viewed as less than or slightly inferior to academic journals.

Perhaps if colleges and universities were to revisit the concept of tenure as it relates to publication we would see a growth in open access journals. There are open access journals with peer review and quality controls comparable to best academic journals that sell for large sums of money. Just maybe if the rules of the tenure process were altered, or dare I say updated to the times, knowledge would flow a bit more easily, become more accessible to anyone with Internet access, and allow the producers of that knowledge to maintain control of their work.

Unfortunately for me, at least at this time, it looks that if I want to attain tenure I may have to compromise my position on open access to knowledge. Perhaps in the next few years the situation may change.


Kirsten said...

Like any other large institution, academia tends to be change-adverse. Single schools may change their rules, but the key is getting a critical mass to adopt more OA-friendly tenure requirements.

Faculty often have to move from one school to another to gain promotions, at least in their early years. If they want into the system, they have to play by the rules of the most conservative members.

Wyatt Ditzler said...

So true Kirsten. That is why I think academe is actually hurting open access, even though many really want open access to succeed.