Evolutions in Scholarship

Myth-busting and a 6-year disembargo

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 10:27 am

Interesting news stories and projects usually come to light during Open Access Week, and this year proves no exception. I’ve seen libraries around the country host panels of faculty researchers, organize workshops for faculty and graduate students, offer outreach events for undergraduates, and post photos of displays demonstrating the true costs of accessing research. Lots of exciting engagement!

This morning, I call attention to two items that have caught my eye this week. The first is an article by Peter Suber, published on Monday in The Guardian. In his piece, Suber deconstructs 6 myths about open access. Those 6 myths are:

  1. The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals.
  2. All or most open access journals charge publication feesl
  3. Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves.
  4. Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access.
  5. Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality.
  6. Open access mandates infringe academic freedom.

I strongly encourage you to go read the article, as Suber’s myth-busting is spot on.

The second item you should check out is Mark Sample’s Disembargo project. Sample is releasing from embargo his dissertation, one character at a time, over the course of 6 years. Earlier this year, the American Historical Association issued a statement strongly encouraging graduate students in history to embargo their dissertations for up to 6 years, claiming evidence – apparently, only anecdotal – that dissertations with shorter embargoes are less likely to be published as books, as publishers consider openly-available dissertations to be previously published. Many, including Sample, found this advice to be off the mark. As Sample explains in his ProfHacker blog post about his project, “Disembargo is an open access dissertation (my own), emerging from a self-imposed six-year embargo, one letter at a time. Every ten minutes Disembargo releases a single character—a letter, number, or space—from my final dissertation manuscript.” Sample goes on to share the questions that ran through his mind as he create his Disembargo project: “How does an academic embargo play out? Who benefits from an embargoed dissertation? How much value does withheld research accrue? And how long is six years when it comes to scholarly communication? To at least this last question Disembargo provides a satisfying answer: publishing six letters an hour is an excruciating pace that dramatizes the silence of a six-year embargo.” Indeed.

Take time to look at both of these items. Then mull over the implications of keeping research locked down and out-of-sight, thinking not of the challenges in changing the scholarly communication system as we now know it, but rather of the risks in not doing so.

Comments

  1. Great post, Molly. I wish more people had seen the Peter Suber webinar today. He is a treasure!

  2. Disembargo, what an interesting statement. That pace is truly painful, and an outstanding way to frame the problem. Thanks, Molly.


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