Research & Open Access 101

I am very much in favour of Open Access for research.

Some books are different, as authors often have to make a living off them, and that is why I am against the piracy of these, but there are a variety of points that need to be born in mind.

There are a few issues people don't understand, as some institutions make some false claims in their attempts to bully students and scholars.

Research partly or wholly funded by a branch of the US government has to be made available to people for free. This isn't my opinion: it is the law - even though companies that make a lot of money off academic journals would like to claim differently.

Many museums and universities use institutional repositories to make research accessible.  A lot of academics have chosen to make their research freely available through Academia.edu. Some journals make their articles freely available on their web sites.

Aaron Schwartz killed himself, and some linked this to his 'liberation' of articles on JSTOR. Suicide tends to be more complicated, but the issue pushed many to make their research more freely available, and JSTOR stated that they had not wanted him to be pursued.

Most people I know make their JSTOR accounts accessible to colleagues who don't have access, although increasingly public libraries and alumni associations have made access more widely available.

A year ago Academia.edu was hit by a take-down notice and forced to remove many of their own articles that academics had chosen to share freely. Elsevier had a more "nuanced" interpretation of the law, and went after individual research rather than working to change a law they disagreed with.

There is a difference with writing between copyright and rights. Unless you specifically assign copyright to someone else, you retain it. Anyone who posts on this blog retains copyright of their work. Even when you sell a book, you retain copyright.

With The Elgin Marbles I retained copyright, but Random House retained the rights under the term of our contract until it went out of print. With an eBook it would never have gone out of print, but since in those days only a print books were the norm, I bought the last four copies in their warehouse and the rights reverted to me. I can sell a new edition through my agent, or I can post it on the internet for free. Neither I nor the publisher chose to chase down people who have posted it on the internet.

Amazon removed the hundreds of reviews posted months and years before it was published, as these were by people who had clearly not read the book - although most were very negative, even the praise was removed. Some of the silly ones were soon re-posted. Most people in my field are also aware that a Cambridge academic set each of his grad students a chapter to find mistakes in and they found four (honestly I found more). The issue here was not copyright but defamation.

I tend to not care what people post on the internet, but I object when people try to make money off pirated research. If you're going to pirate, at least be consistent. I also object to for-profit magazines republishing my work, and will not write or work for for-profit companies for free.

Photographs can also be an issue.

I disagree with aspects of the law when it comes to copyright, and feel that living artists would benefit from droit de suite, in the same way that musicians and actors receive royalties from plays and repeats.

With items where the creator has been dead for centuries, copyright of the item does not apply.  Some institutions - the British Museum and the MFA in Boston - try to charge students and academics to take study photos or to use their own photos. They have no legal right to do so in either country, and this is just bullying. Most other museums have chosen to make images freely available as they recognise that under US law they cannot claim copyright of a simple image of an image. If you ask them to take a new photograph it is reasonable for them to charge a fee to cover expenses they are incurring on your behalf.

Private collections do not have to grant anyone access, unless they are benefiting from a tax break in the UK. Public museums can't embargo material they own because one of their curators would like to publish it some way down the line ...

It is a big no-no to publish someone else's research before they do. Once the research is published, it is freely available for everyone to use.

Today press releases have become the norm in academia. It is not acceptable to publish archaeological material before the excavator has had a reasonable chance to publish it. It is acceptable to use images from the press releases in presentations discussing other finds and research. It is also acceptable to cite research someone has presented at a talk or lecture.

I choose not to publish research when a conference organiser refuses to agree to Open Access for my work or rescinds and agreement to do so. I also decline to give presentations where the organiser has agreed to my sole condition - a microphone as my voice does not project, a pretty standard piece of equipment these days - but which an amazing number of people agree to, then come up with an excuse not to at the last minute.

These are my personal choices, and everyone should make their own.

I disagree with many things Israel does, but also with the boycott of Israeli academics - they are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli government than American academics were for water boarding. I have no problem with Next shops on the high street, but disagree with the way they run credit checks for anyone ordering online, even when they pay upfront for the goods. Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, I've chosen to stick a few items in a DropBox file and make them available here.

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I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

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