Saturday, 26 January 2013

Open access on my new toy

Well after a long wait I've treated myself to a Google Nexus 10 tablet. The original idea was that it would be a Christmas present but they've been out of stock since November so the treat took a little longer to arrive than expected which says something about a loss-leading price and a producer unable to meet demand but that's awhile different blogpost.

Anyhoo, I splashed out on the thing because of the ways I've seen other people using tablets - checking emails in down time and be able to access papers for meetings from it, that sort of thing. I also thought it might encourage me to do a few more short blog posts, like this.

The issue if open access to research findings - specifically journal articles - is finding its way into the academic twittersphere I inhabit, as it regularly seems to do. The Finch report into open access last year recommended that all UK research council funded projects should move towards "Gold Open Access" where the author pays thousands to have the journal article available to everyone.

My view in the debate is that open access is important. This is why I always say on here that if you want some of the pay-walled content, I'm happy to be emailed to send it to you, even though this is technically against the law. Yet, I am firmly in the "gold open access isn't for everyone" camp. To put it bluntly,even with Sage reducing the price of Gold Open Access, if it was the only way to publish I would not have done so yet, I simply couldn't have afforded it. This would mean I would not have got the job I've got which would mean I wouldn't be able to do the research you're all fascinated by, and in the longer term I think it would mean people with independent wealth getting even further in academia. But I do upload pre-print versions of my papers into my institutional repository which will soon be going public - so-called green open access. I'm also acutely aware that academic journals are pretty unreadable to all but specialists. There needs to be much more work on producing research results, for free access, in accessible formats, like my oft-linked policy briefing.

It's clear from the debates and the evidence that there does need to be reform of academic publishing. But publishers do have costs to cover. However, one thing that gets me thinking is - clearly the publishers make all their money from institutional subscriptions. When I'm on my computer on campus, my IP address is logged and the publisher know I'm either part of a purchasing consortium or some money is taken to pay for my access. I've never met anyone who's paid the £20 or so for a journal article. Which got me thinking, why don't we do reverse open access - you only pay if you're accessing a journal article from a university campus from a university IP address. Everyone else gets free access. It must be easy to do as Wikipedia banned (might still do) university IP addresses from editing their pages. That way the people who use and need academic journal articles most can get them and costs are covered. I'm sure there's loadsa reasons it won't work but it's an idea, and a better solution for me than the race for Gold Open Access.

Still not convinced by gesture typing....

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