Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alma Swan on the state of OA in Europe

Richard Poynder has interviewed Alma Swan, January 10, 2008.  The conversation focuses on the prospects for a OA mandate in Europe, but ranges over many other topics as well, including the link between OA and research assessment, the different fortunes of institutional repositories in the US and Europe, the demand for OA in developing countries, and the promise of data mining and the semantic web.  Excerpt:

...In Europe [unlike the US]...the [OA] news was decidedly disappointing, when it finally became clear that over-cautious European politicians and bureaucrats had chosen not to act in the interests of science, and would not be pushing for Open Access.

The disappointment was all the greater given the enthusiastic way in which the research community had responded to a petition that Open Access advocates had organised earlier in the year urging the EC to act on the recommendations of its own report, and mandate all EU-funded researchers to make their papers freely available on the Internet. With the petition attracting 18,500 signatures in a matter of weeks, it was universally assumed that a mandate was inevitable. It turned out, however, that aggressive lobbying by self-serving publishers had persuaded EC officials to drop the mandate.

As project manager for the petition, Open Access advocate Dr Alma Swan was personally involved in events....I asked Swan what had gone wrong, and where it leaves the Open Access movement in Europe.

Far from being fazed by developments, however, Swan was as confident as ever. "One thing that those who oppose Open Access must understand is that we are not going to give up," she assured me. "Moreover, we are going to be more tenacious than the people who oppose us."

Besides, she added, the battle isn't going to be won in the corridors of power, but in the meeting rooms and the labs of research institutions. Here, she assured me, the omens are good — as awareness continues to grow that Open Access isn't just a trendy buzz word, or even an end in itself, but the enabler for a much larger revolution — a revolution, moreover, that universities will find it increasingly difficult to resist.

Swan's quiet confidence is also hard to resist. What makes her arguments particularly compelling is that Swan is not an over-earnest ideologue, but a generous-spirited and witty woman with an infectious, and somewhat subversive, sense of fun....

Update.  Also see Richard's two-part interview with Alma from 2005 (Part One, Part Two).