Open Scholarship or Free Scholarship?
The whole open scholarship / open source scholarship thing has really sparked some discussion, so let's continue it!
For those who have not been following it, here are some of the recent posts by biblical scholars on this topic:
- This current round was started by Paul @ Deinde 'Why is open source scholarship so threatening?'
- There are a series of my SansBlogue musings below:
- Stephen C. Carlson @ Hypotyposeis replied to me with 'Open "Source" Scholarship' correctly pointing out that I'd changed the topic from 'Open Source' (Scholarship) to 'Open Scholarship'. He's right - I did change the topic. I was unaware of having done so at the time, but on reflection I think the change is really important. What interests me is not so much that the 'sources' are open, as that scholarship is. I think that 'scholarship' that excludes two thirds of the world is not true to what scholarship ought to be!
- Several of us including Mark Goodacre ('Open Source Scholarship') have responded to Paul's initial question saying in our different ways Open Scholarship is not 'threatening', but we do see a need to be concerned with standards of scholarship, else it's not scholarship.
- AKMA @ Disseminary has a useful take on the issues, 'Openness, Publication, and Scholarship' which as well as reminding us of their exciting dream of a "disseminary" (and incidentally highlighting the problem of getting a critical mass of quality publications that Stephen also rightly stresses, points us to the Budapest Open Access Initiative which together with Peter Suber's work on a 'Guide to the Open Access Movement' provide some useful models, discussion and inspiration.
This last mentioned movement (like some of the projects we've all mentioned) has a hard-core definition of "open":
'There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.'
My own concern is not so much that scholarship be 'free' but that it be 'open'. By this I mean that it should be cheap and accessible enough that no scholar or student is unable to access it because their institution cannot afford the costs. As the Budapest Initiative recognize there are costs involved in publishing (again I'll refer you to David's thought provoking [if now old] 'Publishers: Who Needs Them
?'). These costs must be met, and it is reasonable that the receivers of the ideas contribute to pay these costs, but if we used the technology well that contribution could be minimal compared to the cost of a print monograph, or journal.
So far there seems to be a few reasons advanced for scholars' hesitation to publish in less costly, more accessible (open) electronic ways:
- Lack of credit - the disseminary, e-journals and other projects that are peer reviewed can end this as long as our standards are not lowered. Though as Stephen pointed out this may require editorial boards to "prime the pump" with good material of their own!
- Need for stable citable editions - on this see Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and self archiving projects like the Sanford Dictionary of Philosophy.
- Shortage of quality writing - see AKMA's post lamenting the lack of scholars queuing up to publish with the Disseminary, are Stephen's 'editorial board' comments (to my comment on his post) applicable here?
Since at least two of the papers at the session I'm organizing
will address these issues hopefully we can get some good ftf discussion going to add momentum to these online contributions..