Open Access in 2006

Peter Suber has summed up the Open Access developments for 2006 in the most recent issue of his OA newsletter. You can view the article on his OA blog: Open Access Newsletter 1/2/07. While I haven’t been keeping up with all the changes he mentions in the report, when summed up it is clear that a lot of fantastic progress has been made in the past year, which includes a rapid growth in OA Mandates, Hybrid OA journals, fully OA journals, OA archiving, OA text repositories like Google and Microsoft books, a gradual shift in funding from toll-access journal subscriptions to OA journal publication fees, governments mandating OA for their data, the rise of peer reviewed wikis, the continuing growth in importance of blogs as sources of information, and so on.

Peter Suber takes a look at the long-term progress of the OA movement and sums up his thoughts:

There are roughly three phases for a movement like ours. First, it’s known only to a small group of activists and opponents. Second, familiarity explodes and lots of newcomers start to think and talk about it, not necessarily with good understanding. Third, pretty much all the stakeholders know about it even if they don’t understand it or haven’t made up their minds about it. In my estimation, we entered Phase Two in early 2004 and we started entering Phase Three in 2006. Phase Three is by no means the finish line; the open source movement has been in Phase Three for many years and is still widely misunderstood and slow to make critical gains. And we’re not yet fully in Phase Three. I suspect that nearly all journals and journal publishers have heard of OA, and that the percentage is about as high among funders of research. There are people knowledgeable about OA in almost every university and academic library in the world. But familiarity among professional researchers is still woefully low and good understanding is even further behind.

Regrettably, progress towards OA has been slowest in my own field of humanities. There has been some progress, however. Here is his summary of the developments on this front:

The slowest progress toward OA has been in the humanities, but in 2006 we saw significant acceleration. The US National Endowment for the Humanities adopted a policy to favor applications that promise OA for their results. The long-awaited report from the American Council of Learned Societies not only recommended OA for the humanities, but recommended OA mandates by funders and supportive actions by universities. The EU funded the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH). The OA Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy took large strides toward building its endowment. MediaCommons began to self-assemble as a cooperative OA book press for the humanities. The Karman Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Bern committed itself to OA for all its future projects. The Task Force on Electronic Publication for the American Philological Association and Archaeological Institute of America recommended that American classicists self-archive and may later recommend that American classics journals convert to OA. Eight classicists issued an open letter to colleagues calling for more OA in the field. Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council reaffirmed its support for OA, though it still stops short of a mandate. JISC and two of the UK Research Councils –the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)– are extending the UK’s e-Science program to the arts and humanities. The AHRC is covered by the general RCUK commitment to OA but is still deciding on the exact form of its own policy. The British Academy wrote a report showing how UK copyright law hindered scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. The Modern Language Association recommended tenure reforms to encourage digital publication and departmental rewards for it. And there was wider recognition, approaching a consensus, that the journal pricing crisis in the sciences is a major cause of the monograph crisis in the humanities –and that OA will help both.

My own feeling is that there has to be a greater recognition of and accepted place for a wider variety of the types of contributions scholars can make. It seems to me that currently that the main forms recognized as productive scholarship are: full monograph, chapter in an edited volume, full length journal article; and to a lesser extent: conference paper, translation work, and book reviews. I think that the new mediums we have available to us to spread the results of our research should spark some new thinking and new appreciation for those who make valuable scholarly contributions in a range of new formats, lengths, and mediums.