Two recently launched petitions have called attention to important issues in scholarly publishing: cost and access.
The Cost of Knowledge petition, sparked by a frustrated mathematician’s blog post, was launched earlier this year to call attention to what researchers believe are unfair and opaque journal pricing practices, as well as support for American anti-Open Access (OA) legislation by the Dutch publisher, Elsevier. The petition, which now has nearly 12,000 signatories, allows supporters to indicate their discipline, institutional affiliation, and whether they plan to boycott Elsevier by refusing to publish in, referee for, or do editorial work for their journals.
While many laud the petition as an example of effective grassroots organizing that led Elsevier to withdraw support for the Research Works Act (a response much appreciated by librarians), critics of the boycott have pointed out that singling out Elsevier is unfair, given similar legislative support shown by other publishers. Some even go so far as to say that Elsevier’s “Big Deal” journal pricing practices are beneficial to libraries, small journals, and societies alike.
Riding the wave of awareness created by the Cost of Knowledge petition, a campaign called “#OAMonday” began on Twitter on May 21. #OAMonday (led by SPARC, Access2Research, and a variety of prominent figures in the OA movement) has drummed up an impressive amount of support in a short amount of time for a White House petition that asks President Obama to implement an access policy, similar to the Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health, for all federally funded research. (Pro-Open Access bills such as FRPAA have historically had a hard time making it through Congress; this petition seems to be a way around that. ) As of this posting, the petition is almost at the 22,000 mark.
Even if the petition does reach its goal by the June 19th deadline, it’s hard to say what the outcome will be. We already know that the Obama administration supports Open Access to federally funded research. The “We the People” petitions’ only promise is: “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
Whatever the result, one thing is for sure: this is an exciting time to be a researcher, librarian, or advocate interested in Open Access.
Arnold, DN & Cohn, H. (2012). Mathematicians take a stand. Arxiv.org. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.1351
Bambauer, D. (28 May 2012). Support Open Access to Government-Funded Science. Info/Law. Retrieved from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw/2012/05/28/support-open-access-to-government-funded-science/
Jha, A. (9 April 2012). Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/09/frustrated-blogpost-boycott-scientific-journals
Here’s a researcher’s perspective as to why he won’t be signing the OA petition: http://blogs.nature.com/tomwebb/2012/05/25/confessions-of-an-open-access-agnostic
Choice quote: “A shift to OA will not (I’m pretty certain) be accompanied by an injection of new cash, but will rather see a shift from funding infrastructure (especially libraries) to funding individuals (e.g. through research grants). And the debate should be on how best we spend limited public money to communicate the outputs of research in the most effective way.”