Posts Tagged ‘open access’


By Aaron Swartz. July 2008.   Reposted to honor his goals, to remember him, and to motivate change in the justice system that failed him. His suicide is sad and deeply depressing – and it leaves no option for me but to kick and scream. This blog isn’t active anymore. but just before this tragedy hit I’d started a new project: I’ll be channeling my thoughts there. 


An inspirational thinker, and Open Access advocate. Thank you Aaron Swartz, may you rest in peace and may change come to the justice system that failed you.

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz (1986 – 2013)

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

In memoriam

Open Access and the AAA – more notes.

In his article, “Open Access or Faux Access” (2008), Scott Jaschik writes:

“The anthropology association has been divided for years over open access — the view that research findings should be online and free. Many rank-and-file anthropologists embrace the idea, seeing it as a way to most effectively communicate without imposing huge financial burdens on their libraries. But the association relies on revenue from subscriptions to its journals and has resisted repeated pushes from its own members to move in the direction of open access.

These tensions are not unique to anthropology, but the discipline has seen more than its share of flare-ups over the the issue, with pro-access scholars horrified that their association lobbied against open access legislation in Congress and that the scholarly society replaced a university press as its publishing agent with a for-profit publisher.”

Nice to see links making their way into articles. Jaschik’s article discusses the move by the American Anthropological Association to make material in two of its journals available free of charge, after a 35 year period. This way the journals continue to earn subscription revenue as academics require the latest research, but at least it eventually makes its way out.

Of course, such a version of Open Access was heavily rebutted in the blogsphere – and Jaschik’s article integrates many of the juiciest criticisms, some saying that the AAA was diluting the concept of Open Access.

Alex Golub argues that this would never have happened without public criticism of the American Anthropological Association by Open Access advocates, stressing the value of vocal bloggers even further:

“At the same time, he [Alex Golub] said that [the] association was way behind where it should be — and where many members have been pushing it to go. “This decision clearly represents the success of the OA community’s decision to hold the AAA accountable, in public, for its actions,” he wrote. “I honestly do not think this decision would have been made if the OA community had not called out the AAA and demanded to know what the hell it thought it was doing.”

It is interesting that blogs provided so much insight for Jaschik’s article, showing how blog discussions are rich sources, and as Golub argued, effective means of advocacy and change. (no shit you say? hey i’m working on a thesis – I’m learning how to state the obvious. deal with it :).


Scott Jaschik (2008)

“Open Access or Faux Access”

omgwtf!!! After integrating links, and comments into its online profile, Inside Higher Ed. does not support the Zotero bibliography manager! I can’t just click and add this article to my bibliography? F.A.I.L.

Also interesting, a commentor correctly states that “Open Access” is not the same as “Open Source”. No matter how much peer review we have, it’s impossible to get people to use the same definitions!

OA publishing in anthropology – some more notes.

Unresolved oppositions –

Alex Golub arguing toll-access publishing model is broken:

“If you think that making money by giving away content is a bad idea, you should see what happens when the AAA tries to make money selling it. To put it kindly, our reader-pays model has never worked very well. Getting over our misconceptions about open access requires getting over misconceptions of the success of our existing publishing program. The choice we are facing is not that of an unworkable ideal versus a working system. It is the choice between a future system which may work and an existing system which we know does not.”

(Golub 2007:6)

Stacy Lathrop arguing the system isn’t broken:

“Reading through old AAA Bulletins, Newsletters and Reports, a reader quickly discovers that at times when the AAA has reached bumpy finances, decisions were made by the executive board to assure publications are sustainable.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

Stacy Lathrop on the extra costs many OA advocates ignore:

“Beyond that, an electronic publishing program should account for costs to market its electronic journals, for training users to use the new means of production, and for responding to users’ questions, problems and needs.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

This point really caught my attention – what kind of marketing does the AAA do for its journals? In the survey of students I held last year, students were only aware of a few key journals. Online, well… AnthroSource champions all the AAA journals?

I imagine there is a market of librarians to which most journals try to target with whatever marketing budget they have – going for subscription income. Any editors care to share how they allocate their marketing budget, and perhaps share numbers? ie: how much is spent marketing?

My own gut reaction:

I don’t think “anthropology” as a whole is very good at marketing anthropology, aside to itself.  Part of my thesis was motivated from my life in the grad program, constantly explaining to my friends and acquaintances what anthropology is, and isn’t.

But perhaps the AAA publishing program is sustainable – but just barely. And in this rough environment the change to OA is seen as being too risky. But why aren’t they at least promoting self-archiving? Or turning Anthro Source into a real community driven site? (As Alex Golub and others have been pushing for).

Stacy Lathrop. 2007. “Friends, Why Are We Sinking?.”

Alex Golub. 2007. “With a Business Model Like This, Who Needs Enemies?.”

notes from copyright reform presentation

Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation about copyright reform in the context of education in Canada.  I was a few minutes late and unfortunately missed most of the organizers names. I recognized Olivier Charboneau however, after having had spoken with him about open access publishing last year. Reading yesterdays post again, I realize the other speaker was Ben Lewis.  First off, I really appreciated the talk and hope for more.

Key issues:

  • Copyright law is confusing. Not many know what is legal and what isn’t.
  • Copyright law is not the same in Canada and the U.S.   Ie. legalities over showing copyright films in classrooms. Argued that in U.S. it is okay, but in Canada it is not.
  • Corporate lobby groups are working hard to change copyright law in their favor – but there is very little public consultation.  The Canadian Federation of Students is holding public talks/presentations to open up the dialog and to bring educational needs to the forefront of any future copyright legislation.
  • Pooling resources to access information.  Charbonneau discussed the Library as being a kind of union, which goes out and negotiates access to information on behalf of its users. Last summer librarians across Canada banded together to spend 100 million on digital materials. By banding together they have more leverage to negotiate access/cost. More clout to build digital markets.
  • Issue of academic freedom. Librarians don’t want to impose, or interfere with a teachers right to chose reading materials. Charbonneau very much supported the right of a teacher to assign a $150 text book, but he did balance this by stating the library does advocate, and suggest, alternatives.
  • The Concordia Self-Archiving Repository will be available “soon”. There are challenges involved in creating such a repository because it involves creating a usage policy between numerous academic departments.

As the presentation reached its finish, questions were posed to the audience, including a very controversial opinion poll: Do you support an internet media levy whereby all internet subscribers pay a fee ($5-$10) that gets paid to media companies to cover downloading?


This would require a way to track usage, and a way to split the revenue up fairly to artists. It was called “a truly Canadian perspective”. Sure, it is Canadian, but isn’t it also Bell Canada’s perspective?

Imagined Pro’s

Huge money pot is created to support artists.

More money to artists is a good thing.

Imagined Con’s

How do you monitor downloads? I got a hint that the plan would involve legalizing torrents and all – but I imagine Bell Canada has much bigger ideas. They want to be the only legitimate Itunes, offering specialized gateways to media. This is Bell’s way to become a government mandated Itunes. Bell would continue to “shape” traffic, killing torrents and other P2p applications, while offering a premium “fast lane” with access to selected copyright material.

If Canadian’s really wanted this, wouldn’t they subscribe to itunes? The fact is, they want to pirate it so they can stick it to the recording industry which has done nothing to fix its horrible image. The only thing with worse public relation policies than the recording industry, would be the US armies human terrain system. I buy all my movies, music, games online through media gateways like itunes, steam, etc. Would this levy work towards them too?

Why select material? There is no way a download structure could track copyright materials from around the world. Charbonneau argued that it might be possible, since already systems were in place to track the usage of essays in assigned course packs. Isn’t this exactly how Bell wants to provide tiered internet access. “Here, you paid your internet levy, now you have access to 5 course packs! Pick and choose your favorites.”Oh, you wanted access to live sports feeds? Sorry that is a different kind of copyright material. That costs $34.95 to access. Thanks.”

Some of my teachers claim they have never been paid for their essays being used in a course pack. Money is collected, but never paid to the authors. Where does it go?  Is money from course packs distributed fairly? Some teachers refuse to use course packs because they claim the system only benefits publishers and never the authors.  Now try doing this for ALL media… whoa… Okay I’m imagining this whole debate, since this was simply a question at the very end, and was not a topic discussed prior.

Canada couldn’t keep track of a gun registry, how will it fairly distribute revenue to artists??? I’m torn to scream “stay out of it government” and “government stop Bell Canada from shaping traffic”.  Clearly government policies are needed, but I can’t imagine how one could monitor downloads and get money to artists fairly.  I’m ranting again.

The big argument for having these talks was that copyright in Canada is confusing. Well in that case, can’t it simply be explained better? I found the presentation tried to create fog where there doesn’t need to be any. The presentation failed to demand, or even push open access or the Creative Commons. The reason for this was they felt “academic freedom” was equally important  (and perhaps it was meant more as a consultation than a presentation, so positions weren’t being crammed down anyones throat… it was an open talk to let others share their ideas too).

Charbonneau admitted that the library was working between numerous competing forces and that they had to “wiggle” around certain issues. Since the presentation was an attempt to motivate students to share their own perspectives on copyright reform, I’ll take a clearer stance –  since my job isn’t on the line.

STOP PUBLISHING IN CLOSED ACCESS JOURNALS AND [this battle cry has been screamed before, and perhaps we are well passed it having any consequence or meaning considering the importance of publishing in prestigious/established places.]


Okay so I avoid the entire question of music, art, creativity…by shouting at academic researchers, specifically those in anthropology,  whose livelihoods don’t depend on direct revenue from their work. So I am only touching on a tangent of what copyright reform involves.

Wouldn’t implementing a tracking system for copyright content also involve destroying whats left of anonymity online. Would users willingly allow media downloads to be tracked? How would they determine copyright when users download from international locations? Would downloads be restricted to a certain set of servers/trackers? How would media companies pay international copyright holders, or keep track of them? How would individual artists get paid, would they have to affiliate with the recording industry? Where would services like Itunes fit in?

In terms of education reform and copyright, I think the open access movement is doing a lot right.

In terms of making copyright intelligible, the Creative Commons is doing a lot right too.

Resistance Studies Magazine on Sharing Knowledge

I just got a Facebook update from Resistance Studies Magazine. In it, editor Christopher Kullenberg discusses the issue of access to information and internet regulation:

”  – For centuries the printing press has not only been a gate-keeper for the distribution of knowledge, it has also been fragile towards censorship, and highly dependent on economical interests. Of course, some actors in the media industries wish to conserve this order. The internet allows for the Resistance Studies Magazine to distribute articles globally, without spending more than a few Euros to host our site. Academic knowledge does not have to be trapped in the claws of anti-market institutions, such as the great publishing houses. We can destabilize these power-relations by way of creativity and sharing. As long as the Internet is uncensored, which unfortunately is not the case, not in Sweden, and not in other countries either, anyone can download our articles for free. In the long run, this European Union directive will lead only to building protective walls against the free transfer of knowledge.”

Just tagging these quotes away to support the upcoming thesis writing marathon. Be sure to check out the magazine online, and if your interested they also have a call for papers detailed on the magazines website (which happens to make great use of blog style – posting frequent information updates).

self-archiving study

[some notes I thought I’d share]

Reading Response:

Open access self-archiving: An author study (2005)

Swan, Alma and Sheridan Brown, Key Perspectives Limited

Key Perspectives Ltd “was set up in 1996 to provide high quality market research and consultancy services to the scholarly information industry.”

This survey involved 1296 respondents, the responses from an email list of 25,000.

In part deals with “…author experiences and opinions on publishing in open access journals…” (p1)

reasons for publishing OA:

  • “principle of free access for all”
  • seen as way to reach larger audience
  • way to publish more rapidly
  • or even considered more prestigious than toll journals

reasons for not publishing oa:

  • “unfamiliar with any [oa journals] in their field”
  • no OA journal covering field/topic

This study, one of many Key Perspectives has produced, focuses on self-archiving.

Ways to self-archive:

  1. institutional repository
  2. subject-based repository
  3. personal/institutional website → most popular

“Self-archiving activity is greatest amongst the most prolific authors, that is, those who publish the largest number of papers.” (p6)

“There is still a substantial proportion of authors unaware of the possibility of providing open access to their work by self-archiving. Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option.” (p6)

“Nevertheless, the evidence there is to hand points to the likelihood that the peaceful – and perhaps mutually beneficial – co-existence of traditional journals and open access archives is entirely possible; in biological terms, mutualism, rather than parasitism or symbiosis, might best describe the relationship.” (p11)

As the recent release of Anthropology Now magazine shows, there are still new journals/publication outlets being formed under the traditional tole-access business model. Anthropology Now seems to give some OA to articles as they first appear, but controversy abounds as to its true nature given that it also has a subscription page and asks for help promoting it to libraries.  See Jason Baird Jackson’s post on his blog.

“in the vast majority of cases (over 90% is the latest estimate9,10) the publisher expressly permits an author to self-archive their own final draft – the version that was finally submitted to the publisher after peer review revisions and recommendations have been incorporated.” (p10)

“We know from Key Perspectives Ltd the work reported here and elsewhere17,18 that authors publish primarily to communicate their research findings to their peers, so that they can be built upon in future research efforts. Depositing an article at the time of acceptance for publication also means that the inevitable delay at the publisher before the article finally appears in the journal is immaterial – the article is already available to anyone who wants to read it and use it for their work. The research cycle is thus shortened. And of course, the article is available to all interested parties, not just to readers in institutions that can afford the journal in which it is published.” (p12)

Interesting to incorporate anthropology specific arguments for opening up readership – “speaking back at anthropologists”

“Previous surveys by KPL1,2,17,18 and others22 have indicated that there is a substantial level of ignorance within the scholarly community with respect to open access, both open access journals and self-archiving. Those respondents who had not self-archived their work by any means were asked whether they were aware of the possibility of providing open access to their work in this way.

Twenty nine percent of them were aware of this and 71% were not.” (p 50)

“80% of self-archivers have deposited their articles themselves; in 19% of cases the library staff archived articles for them and in 10% of cases this was carried out by students or assistants.”

Go assistants go!

“Some employers, such as Queensland University of Technology in Australia29, and some research funders (the Wellcome Foundation has announced a mandatory self-archiving policy for its own grant-holders21) see the benefit of providing open access by self-archiving to the research carried out under their auspices and have elected to mandate this activity. On the whole, though, employers and research funders have as yet not chosen to go down this path. Only 4% of the self-archivers in this present study say that they are required to make their work open access in this way, and 86% of these people are from Southampton University School of Electronics & Computer Science which has had a mandate in place since January 2003.” (p69)

I have been pretty focussed on individual choices, and individual publishing experiences. Perhaps I’ve been too focussed on authors themselves, and should spend more time looking at institutional policies as mentioned above. If institutions begin to mandate OA, than it won’t matter what pushes anthropologists to publish OA or not, since they will have to. I wonder what kinds of deliberation have gone on at Concordia about this.

“A lack of awareness is also seen with respect to open access-related issues generally, as has been shown in previous studies.” (p77)

Hopefully this project can help scratch at the awareness issue…

“The more prolific an author – that is, the more articles s/he publishes – the more likely they are to self-archive their work on websites or in institutional repositories. It is likely, therefore, that as greater numbers of the most productive authors become aware of self-archiving the number of articles in open access repositories will rise quite steeply.

One teacher I have who has been a very generous collaborator is also a prolific author. It’s true that he/she has self-archived a large number of articles. This goes against what I said about part-time being more open to self-archiving since their publications didn’t lead to tenure… In this case, more publications -> more self archiving.  Also, all self-archiving I’ve seen has been on personal websites – which this study claims is the most popular route. I’ll try and get more people onto Mana’o this week.

The caveat here is that issue of awareness. Awareness of self-archiving amongst those who have not carried out this activity remains low, though scholars in the disciplines of library and information science, computer science, physics and mathematics are better informed than those in other subjects. But there are still many scholars who remain unaware of self-archiving and still others who, though aware, have not elected to undertake the activity, at least so far.” (p78)

This provides some nice support for the advocacy and engagement side of my research project. I’ve succeeded in raising the open access issue with a number of teachers, and will continue to do so.

The amount of material on OA Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown have produced is awesome to say the least. I’ll be commenting more on it soon, but for now I’ll have to settle for scribbled notes and quotes]

Big thanks to Olivier Charboneau for suggesting these articles!

Fighting over textbooks… More OA please?

People going undercover to get an edge in the bloody academic textbook market? Yup. According to a recent article in the Chronicle for Higher Education competition is fierce among book stores who are working hard to tap into our student loans.  Mytelka writes,

“The competitors for students’ textbook business are, on the one hand, several local independent booksellers, and on the other, the university bookstore, which is run under contract by the Follett Higher Education Group, the nation’s largest collegiate-bookstore chain.

It seems that a number of professors at the public university would prefer to give business to the local bookstores rather than to the Follett-run university store, so they provide their required reading lists — a prerequisite for ordering books ahead of time — only to the independent store owners.”

So theres another interesting side effect I’d have never imagined of making course reading lists available online well in advance. What really surprises me however is how little talk of open access publishing follows in the blog posts comments. Local book stores however might be hurt by OA publishing, unless they can be integrated into preparing course packs/OA material… I often prefer to have a hardcopy so I can read more easily in a cafe. Maybe they don’t want to turn into Kinko’s, but with all the OA material they could move in on the publishers terrain.

The discussion that followed the post points to the need for cheaper textbooks. One reader expresses his disdain for publishers strategies to fight the second hand book trade,

“Having worked my way through grad school at a local bookseller that carried textbooks, I need to chime in…the way publishers behave – new editions every year, homework websites with codes that can only be used once per book, and the like, I actually understand the impulse to pirate.”

Why pirate… At least when we get some more OOOAAA….

I enjoy sitting around in a bookstore so I feel for smaller bookstores who might benefit from the academic textbook system… At the same time, I really *hate* constant new editions of texts. Just update it online and make it available there. Bookstores might be able to find a way to thrive making OA material accessible in printed form.