This is a guest post by Ronald Snijder. Ronald has been involved in OAPEN since 2008. Apart from doing IT related stuff, he’s an external PhD candidate at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (Leiden University). Occasionally on Twitter: @ronaldsnijder.
Why I am not an OA zealot
Open Access publishing inspires strong emotions by some, both pro and con OA. While I am a member of the “pro OA team” (see: http://impactstory.org/RonaldSnijder), I am most definitely not a strong believer in big and bold solutions of the one-size-fits-all kind. Before entering the world of publishing, I was an application developer which taught me several lessons.
First of all, you have to help solve a problem. That problem may be selling beer, preserving art, or MRI diagnostics; every environment has different focus areas and requires specific solutions. Apart from that, your proposed solution should also fit into an existing technological environment, guarded by system administrators who are wary of unpredictable experiments. If you want your solution to be accepted, you’d have to proof that it works without crashing the infrastructure.
So, how does that translate into Open Access? Different scholarly or scientific environments have different publishing needs, and may use different formats. High energy physics, migration studies or literary studies can’t be put in the same straightjacket. What works for articles may be less optimal for books. Try to understand who is affected by your solution. And… find ways to measure the effects. If your solution is truly better, prove it. That leads to a less heated, but far more interesting debate.
The question is of course whether I follow my own advice. I’d like to think so, but use your own judgment on these examples. In the OAPEN Library, books can be made available using all kinds of licenses, going from a “read only” license to full blown CC. At this moment, I am researching whether a CC license has a positive influence on usage – or is the usage more strongly affected by other aspects like language or subject? Furthermore, I was part of the ‘research team’ of the OAPEN-NL pilot. It was set up in close cooperation with several academic publishers large and small, both commercial and non-commercial. Their input, and the input of the authors involved, was crucial to the outcomes. We put also quite some effort in measuring the effects of making books freely available.
Whatever your stance on OA, the goal is to create the optimal way to make scholarly and scientific knowledge available. As with all complex problems, the solution will be hard to find. Let’s try to do this without unnecessary drama.