Open access in the public eye

April 11, 2012

I wrote yesterday that Open Access had been the front-page story in the Guardian.  Thanks to Mark Wainwright of the Open Knowledge Foundation, I now have photos of both the front cover and the double-page inside spread:

Wellcome joins 'academic spring' to open up science

How an angry maths blog grew into a new scientific revolution

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Guardian is one of the four “broadsheets” or “qualities” among Britain’s national daily newspapers.  These four (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent) are about equally respected, but the Guardian has by far the best online presence of the four.  It has a daily print circulation of about a quarter of a million copies, plus however many people read it online.

As we said … the tide is turning.  The editorial that accompanied these pieces, Academic journals: an open and shut case, was particularly forthright:

Some very clever people have put up with a very silly system for far too long.
[...]
This extraordinary racket is, at root, about the bewitching power of high-brow brands.
[...]
So the old order needs to change, not just for the good of academics, but for the good of the public who pay them.

I can give that a hearty amen!

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5 Responses to “Open access in the public eye”

  1. Mark Robinson Says:

    Thanks, Mike – that’s excellent news. I wasn’t aware from your previous blog post that the Guardian articles has been printed on real dead trees – and the front page no-less!

    I’m going to regret saying this but I think that having the story going “hard-copy” instead of just being on-line, lends it some gravitas. I think this is a good thing because to truly win a war, you must take the battle to the enemy’s home-ground.

    This is just the type of thing that is needed to start those big high-inertia wheels in academia turning just a little bit faster.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m going to regret saying this but I think that having the story going “hard-copy” instead of just being on-line, lends it some gravitas.

    No need to regret that, I am sure you’re right. It takes the issue from being an online-only thing to one that has relevance elsewhere. It means physically putting Open Access as an issue in front of a quarter of a million sets of eyeballs — people who might never have heard of it before but who should now be feeling at least some of the outrage that we do.

    One important point that the <Guardian articles have not yet covered is that there’s a broad range of people who want access from outside of universities. I always feel outraged when I read tweets like this

    and this

    saying “What I am actually saying is that to vast majority of bona fide researchers, barrier doesn’t exist” / “And by bona fide researchers, I mean people who actually work at research institutes, hospitals + universities”. Too many publishers, and people who work for them, give the impression that they are the only readers they care about. But what about doctors, teachers, MPs, hobbyists, enterprising high-school kids, and so on? That’s why what I’d really like to see is one of the big newspapers covering Who Needs Access?, which is about precisely these people — the other 99%.

  3. Mark Evans Says:

    Depressingly the Times has opted to support the other side in an Opinion piece by William Rees Mogg. He declares his interest as an “academic publisher” but seems to have missed the point somewhat. Apparently “authors, including researchers, need to earn their fees”!

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, that is just hilarious.

    Do you have a copy of the article that you could share? Email is fine, if you don’t want to post paywalled material publicly. But I feel the need to mock this in more detail.

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    I have obtained a copy of the Rees-Mogg article from the Times, and I am absolutely baffled that they would publish such arrant nonsense. It’s evident that Rees-Mogg doesn’t have the slightest idea how academic publishing actually works, hence lines like “Notably, in a peer review system, some reviewers expect to be paid” and “authors, including researchers, need to earn their fees”. He seems to be under the impression that Wellcome are somehow imposing their open-access policy on all academic authors rather than just making it a condition of their own funding. Poor old chap — he must have been very clever once upon a time, but this piece is ignorant, irrational and incoherent. (Happily, virtually no-one will see it since the Times is itself paywalled.)


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