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Book Review of Willinsky's the Access PrincipleKimberlyReed

Book Review of Willinsky's the Access PrincipleKimberlyReed

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Published by: Kim Reed on Mar 25, 2011
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LIS 701 Kimberly A. Reed. Context BookJohn Wilensky, The Access Principle, The Case for Open Access to Research andScholarship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.
Sharing scientific and scholarly publications is necessary for the growth of knowledge, for education and for the creative fusions that sustain shared projects. Willinsky offers a widerange of formats and practices for sustaining ³open access´ to research and scholarship whileendeavoring to respect peer review and authorship. The writers and producers of scholarly andscientific articles do not get paid for their writing, editing or peer reviewing activities that result inpublication in prestigious but very expensively priced journals. The owners of the copyright,corporations like Reed Elsivier accrue the value from these activities, pocketing the profit of  journal subscription and article copy sales without redistributing that value for the public good.This violates the ethic of science, an ethic based on sharing data, research and ideas with thegreater community. The history of publication and the history of libraries are a progressionbased on increasing access to the word and the work in print.The access principle is the responsibility to share your work as widely as possible for thecommon good. In the age of the Internet, our methods, modalities and economic models havechanged to support greater access. Open access does not devalue the reputation or importance of a publication. For example the New England Journal of Medicine gives openaccess six months after initial publication, yet loses no part of their reputation or importance.Influential publications that are online have increasing importance. The real vanity is locking upresearch and ideas in exclusive and expensive publications controlled by commercialcompanies that pay the authors and their communities little or nothing.Willinsky articulates a new ethics of research publication that is based on open access.Point by point Willinsky takes down the academic system of publishing that connects prestige tocontrolled access to publications by subscription. He argues that open access increases thenumber of times authors are cited, increases the use of findings and data, increases thecirculation of publications and the likelihood that users will return to those sources. Openaccess publication leads to an increase in reputation rather than a decrease. The current journal system is the real vanity press because it ties prestige to limited audiences. Openaccess is also peer reviewed. Open access is moral and sustains higher quality researchpublication, often paid for by public and institutional support that should also accrue to thecommon good.Willinsky writes very clearly. He uses existing models to promote a movement to open accessand electronic sources that is fully underway. I agree with Willinsky¶s moral reasoning aboutopen access as a responsibility which extends the ethic that science should be shared.Scientists have a responsibility to share their findings and contribute to the frontiers of knowledge.Willinsky argues that most research is supported by public or institutional resources that we allpay for in part and that we should accrue all value from. There are two problems with thisargument. (1) Production by salaried employees may privilege university and non-profitinstitutions that emphasize primary research. These institutions have cultural productionagendas that may be less interested in the frontiers of creative art, new literature, andoutrageous ideas. The realm of the commercial publisher is not as limited by the politics of bureaucracy or the moral nightmares of academic debate. (2) Despite his moral high ground,Willinsky is naïve about how work is produced properly and how this is paid for. Journal editors
and staff members are employed to do tedious administrative and editorial work. Universitiesdo not employ all of them; their journal publishers do. His hope that cooperatives betweenuniversities and professional associations will sustain open access journals is admirable. Thisis happening in a small number of places. Someone still needs to pay the staff. Or, labor canbe unpaid. Do not pay the intern, graduate student or junior faculty member doing tediousadministrative and editorial work like line editing, formatting, style and fact checking, soliciting,tracking and scheduling manuscripts, managing the budget or other editorial and productionlabor. They are in it for the glory, ay? Yet the glory accrues to the institution and only to thetenured faculty. In many public colleges and institutions the number of tenured faculty is limited,even in decline. The academy is under no pressure to increase the number of permanenttenured faculty or staff. Adjuncts and interns rush to find ways to eat for a few dollars, or compete to distinguish their CV from the mass pile. Is Willinsky pro-slavery in the alreadyexploited lower end of the academy? The journal staff deserves to be paid living wages. Theyalready work under super-exploitation for half the salaries of the academic writers and thebusiness managers who employ them. The assumption that everyone who produces getstenure or a full time permanent job is simply not true.Sources of first hand reporting about contemporary issues do not appear in university studiesuntil a decade after they first appear in the press. Internet website articles are rarely as detailedor critical as full length feature reporting from a seasoned investigative reporter, who needs toeat and deserves to get paid. Yes, the labor necessary to produce culture is valuable. Value isnot automatically redistributed to the underpaid or unpaid denizens who produce it in its origins.Open access cooperatives work best with scholarly and scientific research that originates ininstitutions that pay administrators first, then tenured faculty, and the rest as little as possible.Willinsky slips out of his philosopher¶s logic when he addresses the Bush administration¶spolicies on education. I did not like the Bush administration, but the author¶s tone soundspersonal, almost unprofessional. I am afraid that open access and Internet based publicationswill have less editorial control. Will ³open´ become more personal, perhaps to the point of violating the rules of argument? We still need standards for format, style, grammar, argumentand validity based on repeated testing of ideas and research data. The New England Journal of Medicine embodies good standards for all of these points, but there are countless open sourcesites on the net that may not. We still need to establish authority for publications. I do not wantthat ³authority´ to be trapped entirely in either academic or commercial formats. They balanceone another.In ³What is a document?´ (JASIS 1997), Michael Buckland recalled the phenomenologicalposition: ³The object is perceived to be a document.´ Willinsky challenges thephenomenological stasis of academic publishing, where the article is not really considered avaluable publication unless it is published in an exclusive, expensive journal with a printmedium. Willinsky successfully argues that the article is really a ³valuable article´ if people inopen access common space find it to be useful or interesting, because they refer to the articleand refer others to its publication site. The locus of perceived value and prestige has to shiftfrom the vanity of high end, expensive and exclusive sources to the success of research andideas in the greater intellectual commons supported by the Internet. This is a phenomenologicalshift with consequences for semantic definitions of standards, management and bibliographiccontrol. Will the new source of value be utility, how often an article is accessed or used? Willthis favor easy reading? Is the market or the mass public the best judge of value in specializedresearch?

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