Open Access: Problems of Collective Action and Promises of Civic Engagement

Open Access: Problems of Collective Action and Promises of Civic Engagement

NICHOLAS BRAMBLE, Harvard Law School

As universities increasingly consider open access, as an initiative and mode of scholarship, they inevitably engage with broader civic values around knowledge, authority, and the nature of traditional scholarship. How might open access act as an extension of the social and societal role that universities and libraries have traditionally played? How does it also forge a new path? These questions lurk beneath many of the arguments for and against open access, and provide an instructive way of measuring the likelihood of success of various university and Congressional open access proposals.

This article seeks first to address why academic researchers have not yet adopted open access tools in large numbers. Part II situates open access with respect to the traditional purposes of publishing – increasing a work’s accessibility, publicity, and trustworthiness – and contrasts its vibrancy in fulfilling these functions with the increasingly noncompetitive and stagnant market for traditional scholarly publishing. Part III strikes up a conversation with researchers and publishers by responding to the primary concerns fueling academic resistance to open access and explaining how a shift away from subscription journal-based publishing might affect knowledge-sharing in universities. Part IV contextualizes this conversation with respect to recent institutional advocacy and legislative attempts to ensure public access to publicly funded research. Finally, Part V offers some provisional normative conclusions as to how we can most effectively use the law in conjunction with institutional advocacy to create open regimes of scholarly publishing.

 

Source:  LSN Cyberspace Law Vol. 13 No. 36,  06/02/2008

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