Open Access and Open Data for the Information and Knowledge Economy

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The Quartet of Open Access, Broadband, Romeo and Juliet

Posted by infokelele on November 1, 2012

PLOS, SPARC and OASPA  have now released their joint verdict on Open Access (OA). You can check it out at HowOpenIsIt?.

The resource seems to be targeted at OA authors and funders of public research. The crux of the matter being the choice of journals for publishing. From that standpoint, it seems fair to suggest that Romeo and Juliet now have one more company. But some vital questions still remain.

At the center of the debate is the notion that publicly funded research should not be subject to subscription fees for full access and use including re-use as appropriate by the general public. Economically, this constitutes a negative externality, an undesirable outcome on public goods. Politically, it disenfranchises and socially, it is parasitic.

On the one hand are the public whose tax monies have been used to pay for the research and rightly so should not be subject to another double payment whether through libraries, their employers or individually to access the outputs of this research including the underlying metadata.  Essentially, if that happens, the markets have failed.

Unfettered economic opportunities are the whole point of free market competition. This is one of the points where the value for profitable Open Access lies for the wider public. Because of this, there should be no unjustifiable restriction whatsoever on the use of outputs from research funded from the public coffers.

Such hurdles represent missed economic opportunities, undermine innovations and run counter to free markets so the argument goes. Again from an economic standpoint, competition assures the right pricing and as wide access to the resulting services or products as possible within specific business contexts.

However, on the other hand are large commercial publishers who disagree, sometimes very vehemently with the above propositions. The reasons for the disagreements are many and contentious.

But should the arguments for Open Access be limited to these supply side issues alone? I think not!

For Open Access to be truly open and be a value adder to development, I would argue that proactively addressing the demand side of the equation is just as crucial. And one of the key demand side factors is the CONNECTIVITY QUESTION. With the latest proliferation of affordable broadband-capable mobile access devices, the time is surely ripe! Of course there is the question of cybersecurity especially for mobile devices but that is a matter well addressed under risk.

In my view, unnecessary and unjustifiable cost and licensing barriers are already getting more than their fair share of attention and already there are many proposed solutions on the table.

Now is the time to start putting a laser focus on the connectivity barriers especially broadband access in tandem with the other barriers. Many studies correlate broadband access with significant economic growth and individual advancement.

Considering online access is the primary medium for Open Access content, Open Access advocates must now start including Broadband Access as a significant component of the Open Access equation. Wider broadband access would also lower broadband pricing, another win-win situation for researchers and non-researchers alike including institutions.

For the above reasons, if I were to add anything to the PLOS, SPARC and OASPA guidelines, it would be a 7th column on Broadband Connectivity.

Access for access sake itself doesn’t go nearly enough!!


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