Open Access

Open Access

As these readings go on, I find myself learning more and more about what open access really means and how the digital world copes with a controversial idea. The full text of “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” and “Science’s Pirate Queen” are two different pieces of writing but each of them tackle the issue of offering scholarly material on the web for free. A couple of weeks before I would have cheered wholeheartedly about Aaron Swartz’s manifesto that practically screamed its call to rally people in the cause of Open Access. But now as I read “Science’s Pirate Queen,” I can see how the concept can be a complex issue that people can be decisive about. Alexandra Elbakyan was sued by Elsevier for hosting a server that compiled millions of academic papers and her site was taken down. There’s criticism that papers are already funded by public research and that it’s an economic barrier to have them charged. The publisher argues that they protect copyright and they prevent the illegal sales of journals that can make it harder for people to access.

An interesting point Elsevier also brings up is that people do have the option of publishing freely. It does shift the argument to the choice of the researchers themselves and why they don’t simply publish themselves? Perhaps they fear their work won’t get enough attention, they don’t know how to reach a broader audience, they don’t want to be published by a poorly managed server, or that they are bound by the rules of capitalism they can’t escape. But it doesn’t mean Open Access is hopeless, it just means the conversation evolves. How can we fix this issue if we can’t explore all the avenues?

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