Legal publishing is broken because it only serves to keep information locked away from people. And, given the unique status of legal information (which we can define here as cases as well as laws and regulations passed by all levels of government bodies), you don’t even have to be one of those “information wants to be free” hippies to agree that there is no reason why this shouldn’t be free, open, accessible and preserved for all.
She makes some excellent, excellent points. Even if you don’t have to deal with the law for your job (or you intentionally avoid law stuff like the plague), this affects you because you have to live under these laws that often aren’t all that accessible to you.
What if the trade-offs many have been portending between big:small, old:new, and open:closed actually were dependencies?
A recent analysis of the scientific publishing marketplace focusing on the financial implications of OA policies and business practices presents these issues in between the lines, concluding that commercial publishers have weathered the storm and adapted to changes, making it unlikely OA would be much of a problem for them going forward, while suggesting that the ultimate solution to providing OA on a widespread and sustainable basis will depend upon a robust subscription market much like the one we have today.
This is an interesting conclusion, though I guess only time will tell whether it’s accurate.
One of the best summaries of the problem with academic publishing that I’ve seen:
Has there ever been a business more ripe for disruption than academic publishing? For anyone who’s not been following along, the business model of academic publishers, built on solving 18th century distribution problems, incarnates the Shirky Principle: that “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” Far from making research public, as the name “publisher” suggests, their business now works by accepting researchers’ donations of manuscripts, refining them by other researchers’ donations of editorial services and peer review, assuming copyright, and locking up the results — work that they neither wrote, edited, reviewed or paid for — behind paywalls. By artificially causing a scarcity problem, they’re able to sell solutions to that problem: subscriptions.
(The rest of the article is vastly interesting too. :) )
Ten years ago, when preparing for a panel on the future of book publishing, I jotted down some quotes from Publishers Weekly that still sound fresh, a decade and a technology revolution later. “Too few children are raised in houses with books,” one worried publishing professional declared. “The emphasis on bestsellers,” another wrote, “has lately been carried too far” and harmed the chances for other books to find an audience.
I should point out these Publishers Weekly articles were published in 1927 and 1929. The publishing sky has had almost more practice falling than night.
So, basically, the more things change, the more they stay the same. ;-) (But definitely read the rest of her post.)
I know that public access is seldom, if ever, considered by librarians when dealing with subscription cancellations, first, because I have been a librarian for over twenty years and have been involved in or aware of a large number (larger than I would like) of cancellation processes. Never once have I heard a librarian say “we can cancel that one because all the contents are available on various websites.” First, that would almost never be true. Second, deciding on that basis would not be serving our patrons’ needs, which is what we strive to do even when our budgets contract.
Campbell [editor-in-chief of Nature], who was speaking on Friday at a briefing by academic publishers on open access at the Science Media Centre, related his recent experience of reading papers on psychology and psychiatric treatments. “It’s been a delight to find how many of those papers are published open access. I’ve been able to dip around into papers, get what I want, not necessarily the whole paper, and immediately find what I need. As a reader experience and a researcher experience, that’s very compelling.”
He added: “In the future, there will be text mining and tools … that need to get into that literature - I see that as a key part of the future and it’s hard to see how that could work without open access.”
If you don’t have time to read this entire blog post, here’s the tl;dr version: if you think, as I do, that the investment we make in basic research should be maximized through making that research accessible to all, sign the petition.
If you’d like to know more, here’s why I think this petition is worth signing.
I’m a huge fan of PubMed Central. Just the other day, a student was desperate to find an article quickly – any article, so long as it presented original scientific research on a particular species of tree. Normally, I would have pointed her to a biology database, but our library is small and that database’s coverage is deep, so she would have had to click through lots and lots of articles before finding any in full text or print in our library. I showed her PubMed Central and she had several articles to choose from, all full text, within seconds.
Even better, when she graduates, she can still search PubMed Central and read those articles. We are required by almost all of our licenses to cut students off the minute they graduate. What a great way to prepare students for lifelong learning: get them hooked on scholarly research, then show them the door.
The NIH Public Access policy began twelve years ago. A decade of medical information online, usually after a year embargo, freely available if you received NIH funding. This is a huge resource to graduating students, unaffiliated researchers, and people of all persuasions trying to find a study about a drug for themselves or a loved one. Certainly there is a lot more than just a decade of information in PubMed Central, which is where those articles must be deposited, but it’s certainly helping those numbers tick up regularly.
Earlier this year we had RWA, the Cost of Knowledge (which you can still sign, btw), and FRPAA making major headlines. Now here’s another opportunity. We’re petitioning the White House to speak out on making tax payer funded research freely available via the internet to tax payers.
By all means, sign the petition! I signed on Monday (#2,270). :)
The Federal Research Public Access Act, reintroduced today by a bipartisan assortment of politicians, would broaden the open-access requirement to nearly all federally funded research. The rationale is that taxpayers, having paid once for the research, shouldn’t have to pay again to read what was done. Today’s bill is a response to the Research Works Act, which was introduced in December. The Research Works Act would roll back NIH’s open-access policy and prohibit the government from imposing any similar policies in the future.
The battle over public access to federally financed research is heating up again. The basic question is this: When taxpayers help pay for scholarly research, should those taxpayers get to see the results in the form of free access to the resulting journal articles?
In Congress, meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Darrell E. Issa, a Republican of California, and Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat of New York, introduced the Research Works Act (HR 3699) last month. The bill would forbid federal agencies to do anything that would result in the sharing of privately published research—even if that research is done with the help of taxpayer dollars—unless the publisher of the work agrees first. That would spell the end of policies such as the National Institutes of Health’s public-access mandate, which requires that the results of federally supported research be made publicly available via its PubMed Central database within 12 months of publication.
Librarians and scientists are not always in perfect accord, but if anything is going to unite them, it’s opposition to the Research Works Act (HR 3699). Introduced on 16 December 2011 by Representative Darrell Issa (Republican, California) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (Democrat, New York) and immediately referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, RWA would reverse the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy that mandates scientists to make their final peer-reviewed journal articles available online, for free, within 12 months of publication. This open access provision is compatible with other open access initiatives around the world and a mainstay of PubMed, the medical database used around the world.
The word “free” came up during Apple’s presentation quite often. Apparently, Apple is offering authors a suite of powerful tools that they can use to create multimedia updateable textbooks, a CMS-like classroom platform for using them, and a distribution platform. They showed texts being put together with gorgeous illustrations and embedded video.
And all I could think (still sensitized by yesterday’s SOPA/PIPA blackout protest) was “how are we supposed to deal with permissions?” These days, in the privacy of our classrooms, we mostly … don’t, though legislators would like to change that by making copyright violations much more punitive and handing rights owners a prior restraint club to beat us with.
But what we do in the classroom is hard to monitor for copyright violations (or violations of an anorexic definition of fair use). That changes when you publicly use a clip of a speech or include a historic photo without going through the work of tracking down rights holders and paying the steep charges for permissions. I seek out Creative Commons-licensed materials to use, but I know that many professors (and most of their students) don’t even think about copyright when they pull together educational material to share with a class. It runs counter to the social impulse and the technological facility to share.