Open Access

3 reasons open access wasn’t disruptive

Researchers publish scholarly articles reporting their research results for two reasons. First, they want their work to be distributed so it can be put to use, either by colleagues in their international research communities or by other experts. Secondly, they want the quality of their work to be checked and improved, which ideally is a consequence of the peer review system used in scholarly publishing.

Open access is intended as a modification of the first of these two motivations. By eliminating charges to readers, everyone will have access to the results of scientific activity. This means that researchers internationally will have unlimited access, regardless of their personal or institutional economic circumstances.

However, the shift to open access could have been truly disruptive if it also had led to radical changes in our quality control system. That hasn’t happened in any profound way. There is still a crisis of reproducibility. Retraction rates continue to rise. Partially for these reasons, it remains acceptable for public figures to express disregard for research results.

In a recent speech, I elaborated on three reasons that the tragically slow transition to open access has not been disruptive:

  1. lack of political leadership,
  2. the power of monopolies, and
  3. the unwillingness of the professorate.

If you don’t agree, what do you think explains the slothfulness of the transition?

This talk opened the meeting of OpenAire, held in Oslo in February, 2017. Click here for more of my writing about open access. (My bit starts at 12:35.)

My interest in moving universities towards balance encompasses gender equality, the communication of scientific results, promoting research-based education and leadership development more generally. Read more


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