Open Access

Open Access + Social Media = Competitive Advantage

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In the push-and-pull between open access (OA) publishing models and that of traditional scientific journals, OA should not strive to prove it is as good as the latter; it can be better, and social media tools can give it that competitive edge, say researchers and OA advocates Melissa Terras, Co-Director of the University College London Centre for Digital Humanities, and Curt Rice, Pro Rector for Research at Norway’s University of Tromsø. Through tweets and blog posts and rich, online debate, we can maximize the benefits of OA for researchers, the journals that publish their work, and for society at large.

“In competition, being as good as your opponent gets you nowhere. You have to be better.” Curt Rice sounds like a coach giving a pre-game pep talk to his team, but the Pro Rector for Research at the University of Tromsø (Norway) and Head of the Board for the national organization Current Research Information System in Norway, is talking about publishing science in open access. “Some still think that open access publications have problems of quality control,” as if the term “open” meant anyone can publish anything they like. “A lot of discussion has been to tell researchers that the quality control of open access is as good as in the traditional publication system.”

But this, says Rice, is missing the point. What OA advocates should be talking about is developing a system that takes the core goals of scientific publication – critique by expert colleagues and transmission of results to a variety of users – and does them better. How can open access outperform its tenacious, institutionalized competition, the traditional top-tier journals? Perhaps through its intimate relationship with social media. Blogging, tweeting, publicly discussing research can have benefits for scientists, journals, and even society, through the increased debate and transparency that it brings.

Tweet your research and it will be seen

This potential for Twitter and the blogosphere to strengthen open access, is what Digital Humanities researcher Melissa Terras hoped to show with an experiment she started in October 2011. Her project to promote her research articles via Twitter (@melissaterras) and blog posts made clear the concrete benefits for the scholar, specifically, of pairing open access and social media.

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