Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Worth Reading This Week

by Philip Young, posted on April 18, 2013

One of the hottest topics in higher education recently is the MOOC, or massive open online course. MOOCs are a bit of a problem for libraries, since the majority of the content we offer is licensed (at a pretty steep price) and under the copyright of the publisher. At Duke a professor teaching a MOOC couldn’t get permission to use his own articles in the class. Fortunately the journals allowed archiving, and the professor still had his final versions, which were uploaded to the repository, as Kevin Smith writes. There are a couple of things worth noting. First, as Kevin notes, MOOCs provide an incentive for faculty to archive their work. Second, this is a licensing issue. Rather than depend on journal archiving policies, faculty will need to be more active in retaining copyright and publishing under CC licenses.

Last week’s big news about the purchase of Mendeley by Elsevier has resulted in some introspection about the role of for-profit entities in open endeavors. First, John Wilbanks writes that the key is the extent to which “open” is baked into the business model. If it is central to making a profit, fine. But if it can be discarded, it will be. Second, a post by Cameron Neylon takes a different approach by focusing on how nonprofits can take on larger roles- let’s have nonprofit startups, let’s have nonprofits buy out for-profit startups. How do we get there?

I think we need to do more in higher education to shift from commercial to non-commercial providers, because our values simply aren’t being served. Perhaps for journal publishing it would be helpful to have a list of journals published by commercial vs. non-commercial entities. The cost of journals (or their bundles) by commercial publishers is several times higher than for non-commercial publishers, as Stuart Sheiber notes. Maybe if that information was easier to obtain, and the reasons for supporting non-commercial publishers were more explicit, that would help shift perceptions of preferred journals to publish in.

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