Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interview with Gavin Baker on the student campaign for OA

Newsmaker Interview: Student Open Access Activist Gavin Baker, Library Journal Academic Newswire, January 31, 2008.  Excerpt:

This week SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) announced the launch of its Right to Research campaign aimed at educating upcoming generations of students. It tapped Gavin Baker, a student activist and SPARC’s first summer intern, to help get the forward-thinking initiative off the ground. The LJ Academic Newswire caught up with Baker this week to discuss open access, technology, and the impact of faculty. Librarians, take note: your students, including your undergraduates, are paying attention.

LJAN: How did you first become involved with open access issues?

GB: I had been aware of open access, but only really connected with the issue when my undergraduate university, the University of Florida, prepared to cut $750,000 in journal subscriptions due to budgetary limitations. I had no idea that serials costs totaled three-quarters of a million dollars for one school, let alone that they could be much more than that. The realization that libraries really struggle with costs to provide access to their users ignited the urgency of open access for me.

How do you approach the subject of open access with students? Is there any real knowledge base there to work from?

Issues like open access are certainly niche issues for students, who are more accustomed to hearing about issues like the Iraq war, the environment, and the like when someone talks to them about political and social issues. But when I've talked with students who have no prior knowledge of open access, they grasp it pretty quickly. Everybody’s had the experience of finding a paper that looks relevant to their work, then discovering their library doesn’t have a subscription. Graduate students especially are cognizant of the academic publishing system and understand how the subscription-only model works against the research community. And, of course, most students today have grown up online. My generation expects access to information, and systems that don’t provide this seem foreign to us. Students are fertile soil for supporting open access. It just takes someone to plant the seed....

Do you often, or ever, find yourself educating your teachers about open access?

When I was a student, I did this a little. I think the only professor I ever asked directly about it already routinely posted his papers online even though he wasn’t necessarily knowledgeable about repositories, self-archiving, journal prices, or anything like that, he knew it was to his benefit that people be able to find his papers when they came to his web site. At other times, when talking with faculty or librarians who were knowledgeable about open access, the initial response was usually surprise that students were interested, followed by enthusiasm.

Do you find faculty open to exchanges with students on these issues, and, if so, how do you encourage that?

One issue we encountered when preparing the campaign was the influence of faculty advisers on student publishing decisions. Almost everyone I asked told me that a student working on an article, thesis, or conference presentation would be most influenced by their faculty when considering how to disseminate it. There are certainly many faculty who are very forward-thinking and knowledgeable on such subjects, but there are also many others who are used to the old system and somewhat passive about the success of open access....