Editors Note: Most of the OANow Editorial team has been wrapped up hosting and recovering from our own Open Access Week events, so this post comes from our colleagues over at the DH+LIB blog. They present a wrap-up of open access week in terms of the humanities, a side of this conversation that isn’t often represented.
For those unfamiliar with the event, it is an annual, global celebration of open access (OA) that began in 2007 and is billed as:
[A]n opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.
Open access has been a central tenet of scholarly communication reform since the 1990s, and entails cost-free access for end users to read content, usually journals and other secondary source materials. In a nutshell, the OA movement arose partly in response to the financial implications of the rising costs of serials in the 1990s, especially in the sciences. These costs continue to rise: serials subscription costs have consistently increased at a rate above the Consumer Price Index (as well as the Higher Education Price Index) for decades (Budd, The Changing Academic Library: Operations, Culture, Environments, 2005, p. 187). The causes of price increases are myriad, but the continuous squeeze on library budgets has forced libraries to respond. Many libraries have quietly canceled serials subscriptions while others have launched boycotts in an effort to draw wider attention to situation libraries are facing, such as the University of California’s attempted boycott of Nature in 2010 and SUNY Potsdam’s boycott of the American Chemical Society’s journals in 2013.
Yet this focus on the serials cost crunch by OA advocates is most relevant in the sciences, where journal prices have sometimes reached astronomical levels. And though cost is hardly the only argument to be made in favor of OA, the argument’s prominence among librarians risks neglecting the different concerns and emphases that are found in the humanities, opening the door to critiques such as the one made recently by Daniel Allington. Scholarly Communications Librarian Micah Vandegrift called attention to this imbalance on Twitter:
During this #oweek where are the events, talks, posts aimed at the arts and humanities? The need for #OpenAccess applies beyond STEM too.
— Micah Vandegrift (@micahvandegrift) October 23, 2013
What, then, does OA Week bring for the humanities—and, by extension, the digital humanities? In many ways, the transformation of scholarly communication is integral to the digital humanities endeavor. Whether through advocating for openness, suggesting models for evaluation and peer review, or advancing reforms to those standard tools of scholarly communication and dissemination (journal articles, monographs, and conferences), digital humanists are actively shaping new practices for communicating research to each other and to the public. Lisa Spiro, in offering a set of core values for the digital humanities, notes:
The digital humanities community embraces openness because of both self-interest and ethical aspirations. In order to create digital scholarship, researchers typically need access to data, tools, and dissemination platforms.
Ultimately, openness promotes the larger goal of the humanities “to democratize knowledge to reach out to ‘publics,’ share academic discoveries, and invite an array of audiences to participate in knowledge production” (Draxler et al.).
While we won’t attempt a larger argument for OA in the humanities here, we do want to highlight some of the activities that took place during OA Week in the digital humanities. And, please, if we’ve missed anything, let us know in the comments!
OA Week Round-up
Digital humanists are actively shaping new practices for communicating research to each other and to the public.
- As part of a kickoff event for OA Week, SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and the World Bank hosted a panel on “Open Access: Redefining Impact.” Panelists included dhers Brett Bobley (National Endowment for the Humanities) and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association). The panel was livecast and liveblogged; archives of the video and blog are freely available.
- Georgia Tech’s OA Week events included a panel discussion aimed specifically at the humanities. Featuring Ian Bogost, TyAnna Herrington, and Robin Wharton, and moderated by Stewart Varner and Brian Croxall of Emory University, the event was livestreamed and used the hashtag #GTOpenAccess. “Information Now: Open Access and the Public Good,” a podcast produced by Tech librarians Wendy Hagenmaier, Fred Rascoe, and Lizzy Rolando for OA Week includes interviews with Dan Cohen and Peter Suber.
- In honor of OA Week, Indiana University Libraries’ Digital Collections Services made TEI and plain text files available under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license. Michelle Dalmau introduced the text: “Motivated by a recent mock keynote debate, ‘A Matter of Scale,’ presented by Matt Jockers and Julia Flanders as part of the Boston Area Days of Digital Humanities Conference and the imperative that librarians involved with many things ‘digital’ learn not only how to build tools, in this case for textual analysis, but leverage existing tools to support teaching and research endeavors rooted in the text, I present TEI (P4 & P5) and plain text files of several e-text collections published by the Indiana University (IU) Libraries.” The group invites users of the texts to a wiki to share their usage of the texts.
- In response to Dalmau’s emailing the TEI listserv to announce the availability of texts, Peter Robinson circulated an article by Paul Klimpel on “Consequences, risks and side-effects of the license module ‘non-commercial use only — NC,’” published through Wikimedia Germany, iRights.info, and Creative Commons Germany. This post sparked a string of messages around the application of Creative Commons licenses and the potential for coercion.
- Responding to Allington’s critique of OA in comments to his post, Ted Underwood writes that OA allowed him to “‘break into’ the conversation in scholarly fields (like computer science) where pervasive green OA has already made the boundary between expert and lay knowledge rather permeable.” Ben Brumfield argues that open access serves public users and should not be displaced by versions of scholarly work packaged specifically for public consumption: “[Alice] Bell’s ‘meaningful open access’ is not a substitute for open access, as in many cases an effectively popularized version of scholarship will eliminate any public uses not envisioned by the popularizer.”
- Sarah Werner, Digital Media Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library, wrote about her experience negotiating the terms of her publishing contract to retain copyright and the ability to self-archive in “More Lessons on Negotiating a Contributor’s Contract.”
- In her column at Inside Higher Ed, Barbara Fister tackled the sticky subject of OA for books (and book chapters) in “Open Access, Tenure, and the Common Good.”