Our short paper on moral dimensions of open

June 20, 2016

Back in mid-April, when I (Mike) was at the OSI2016 conference, I was involved in the “Moral Dimensions of Open” group. (It was in preparation for this that wrote the Moral Dimensions series of posts here on SV-POW!.)

Like all the other groups, ours was tasked with making a presentation to the plenary session, taking questions and feedback, and presenting a version 2 on the final day. Here’s the title page that I contributed.


Each group was also asked to write a short paper summarising their discussions and conclusions, with all the papers to be published openly. The resulting papers are now available: sixteen of them in all. And among them is Ansolabehere et al. (2016), “The Moral Dimensions of Open”, of which I am one of nine authors. (There were ten authors of the presentation: for some reason, Ryan Merkley is not on the paper.)

As you can imagine in a group that contained open-access advocates, human rights activists, representatives of both old-school and new-wave publishers, agriculturalists and more, consensus was far from unanimous, and it was quite a rocky road to arriving at a form of the paper that we could all live with. In this case, the standard note that was added to all the papers is very appropriate:

This document reflects the combined input of the authors listed here (in alphabetical order by last name) as well as contributions from other OSI2016 delegates. The findings and recommendations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the individual authors listed here, nor their agencies, trustees, officers, or staff.

Is this the moral-dimensions paper I would have written? No, it’s not. Being a nine-way collaboration, it pulls in too many directions to have as clear a through-line as I’d like; and it’s arguably a bit mealy-mouthed in places. But over all, I am pretty happy with it. I think it makes some important points, and makes them reasonably well given the sometimes clumsy prose that you always get when something is written by committee.

Anyway, I think it’s worth a read.

By the way, I’d like to place on record my thanks to Cheryl Ball of West Virginia University, who did the bulk of the heavy lifting in putting together both the presentation and the paper. While everyone in the group contributed ideas and many contributed prose, Cheryl dug in and did the actual work. Really, she deserves to be lead author on this paper — and would be, but for the alphabetical-order convention.




3 Responses to “Our short paper on moral dimensions of open”

  1. Dale mcinnes Says:

    So. What’s the next step Mike ??
    I like your sophisticated poster presentation of all the authors of your paper. Hope you don’t get sued.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m not sure there is a next step, exactly. My own policy here is just to do what I can to ensure that moral dimensions remain on the agenda, and don’t get summarily dismissed as “idealogical” or “naive”, as though those are bad things.

  3. Nima Says:

    That last line made me chuckle, Mike. If moral dimensions are “naive” as Elsevier, Wiley and their lobbyists claim, then what would be the point on ethics in fossil research? I’m curious on what ethical objections these companies have (if any) to. for example, fossil poaching or doing research on privately held specimens.

    Of course ethics are a good thing. Woe to he that has no ethics and no higher standards to reach for. Ultimately little separates paywall publishers from antiquities looters and fossil poachers aside from fancy suits and a few splashes of Pierre Cardin. A big rat is much the same as a small rat, only it’s greedier and stinks worse.

    Methinks that the for-profit “science publishing” biz, believing that moral dimensions are naive, is by that admission the very manifestation of moral HAZARD. If you let private concerns get away with seizing and inch of the rights to public-funded research, they will take a mile. Which is precisely what many universities have allowed to happen.

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