Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On damage from the lack of OA

Heather Morrison, The Access Gap in British Columbia, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, March 1, 2008.
Abstract: This post illustrates the gap in access when we rely on subscriptions, a gap that is huge even in a have province like British Columbia, in a wealthy country like Canada. A researcher who does not see the costs of the subscriptions, may never see the gap. A student, while at a research university, has ready access to tens of thousands of scholarly journals, backed up by a document delivery department that can fill any remaining gaps. A student who graduates and moves to a smaller town or rural area will still have better access than many of the people in the world, thanks to BC's excellent public library system; however, this is still less than 5% of what the alumnus had access to as a student. A small public library cannot begin to dream of providing an equivalent service to the university, with much fewer staff and a much greater gap to fill.
See a reaction post by Ryan Deschamps, Does a Fish Know It’s Wet? : Access to Scholarly Journals in Public Libraries, The Other Librarian, March 3, 2008.

... Morrison ... uses the example of typical alumnus who, as a student, has access to just about everything under the sun, research-wise, but who has their access reduced to less than 5% of they had before. Considering many of these alumni will be professionals — working as public servants, lawyers, doctors, or whatnot — this is a great concern. One that, clearly, public libraries ought to address if they were not so busy keeping up with all their other services.

The group Morrison does not mention, however, is the group that most concerns me — those who do not know scholarly journals exist in the first place, or who, for one reason or another do not care. ... [I]t is hard to say what choices people would make if they had a choice among the blogosphere, wikipedia, mainstream news and scholarly literature and full awareness of latter’s role in understanding the truth.

A good example is the pseudo-myth of the online predator. As Bruce Schneier has uncovered, most parents’ fears of online predators lurking after their children are unfounded. The mainstream news, and even Google for a good while, would suggest differently — it is the scholarly literature that is best able to handle such a question without blurring the issue behind sensationalism and fear. If parents were more easily able to access and evaluate such literature, there could be a lot of headaches saved all over the world on this issue. Climate change is another obvious issue that comes to mind as well. Ditto most health scares. ...