Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, May 28, 2007

Connecting OA to larger issues

Jim Till, Linkage of OA to larger causes, Be openly accessible or be obscure, May 27, 2007.  Excerpt:

In Trends favoring open access (SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #109, 2 May 2007), Peter Suber...outlined a number (I counted 26) of trends that are favorable to OA. I’ll add another trend that I didn’t see mentioned explicitly in Peter’s list: the increasing likelihood of linkages between OA and larger issues, such as climate change. An example of such a linkage is provided in Speaking Out on Global Warming, by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles, 26 May 2007. Excerpts:

In a fascinating article published in the open access journal Environmental Research Letters, James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York argues that widespread “scientific reticence” poses a threat to the future well-being of the planet by hindering a necessary conversation between scientists and the public over potentially large sea level rises. He points out that any delay in the discussion carries tremendous risk as system inertias could precipitate a situation in which future sea level changes careen out of control.

In laying out his case against scientific reticence, Hansen cites numerous studies that sought to examine this “resistance to scientists to scientific discovery” and this tendency to “delay discount” out of concern for being the one to erroneously “cry wolf.” In essence, as do most individuals, scientists prefer immediate over delayed gratification, a practice that Hansen believes “may contribute to irrational reticence even among rational scientists” (for full list of cited references, see original article here [J E Hansen, Environ. Res. Lett. 2007(Apr-Jun); 2(2)]).

The lack of more than a passive interest in OA by many scientists has also been a major reason for the delays in the acceptance of OA in several fields of science....As Peter Suber noted in Nature debate, 10 June 2004, “…the single largest obstacle to OA is author inertia or omission“. Why is there such inertia? I’ll not try to identify all of the probable reasons here, but will focus on one that was identified by James Hansen (see above): a preference for immediate over delayed rewards. Publication in a high-profile journal, whether it’s OA or not, provides immediate gratification for scientists, in their role as authors....

Because of the lack by many scientists of much more than a passive interest in OA, I’ll argue that the linkage of OA to larger issues may be an increasingly important determinant of a wider acceptance of OA....

Perhaps advocates for OA should begin to think about strategies for fostering linkages between OA and larger causes (while continuing to advocate researcher-oriented strategies, such as institutional and funding agency-based OA mandates)? One example: social bookmarking sites, such as Connotea, may be used to tag information that’s relevant both to OA and to other issues. As of today (27 May 2007), 1142 Connotea bookmarks carry the tag “open access“. And, 131 Connotea bookmarks carry the tag “global warming“. However, at present, only one bookmark carries both tags. It’s to the article Speaking Out on Global Warming (see above). In fact, I put it there today.

PS:  I like the idea of using tags to show the connection between OA and large issues like climate change and avian flu.  Articulating the connection in blogs, discussion forums, and journal articles is indispensable, but tags can make these articulations visible to scientists and citizens tracking new developments on large issues.