As part of our blog series for Open Access Week 2018, we caught up with Franc Chamberlain, Editor of Performance and Mindfulness, to chat about how advances in open access publishing are impacting the way we think about research.
The impact of open access outside academia
By making research from a wide range of disciplines available to me, Open Access enables me to broaden and deepen my knowledge not only only in my own field but across other disciplines. But does it do that in a way that is substantially different from the old subscription model? I don’t think that it does because one of the privileges of working within an academic institution has always been access to the latest research via institutional subscriptions to relevant journals. The shift from paper copies of journals to electronic versions improved access, but only within the academic community. Open Access makes this material available to everyone and, as such, is less about making research material available to me and more about improving access for those outside of the academy. I was reminded of this latter point the other day when my partner, a freelance dramatherapist, was writing a report on some work that she’d been doing with a client and wanted to access an article that examined a particular issue that had arisen. The article wasn’t available through Open Access and it was going to cost her $35 just to be able to read it online. The result was that she submitted her report without being able to examine the research findings presented in the paper and without being able to discuss whether her own work supported, contradicted, or extended them. In this case, and in many others, the inability to access research publications lessens the quality of the debate within the public sphere.
Has open access had an effect on my attitude towards my research?
Do I behave differently as a result of OA? When I first started publishing in academic journals I took comfort in the fact that some of the things I wrote would only be viewed by a small number of people. I can imagine that if I was just starting out now that I might be paralysed by the thought that anyone with access to the internet could read my paper rather than a small constituency of like-minded researchers but, on the other hand, if download and citation figures are anything to go by, most papers in my field only have a small readership even now.
Time for a change in mindset?
As I think about it I wonder if I really ought to change something in my attitude towards open access. Most of the things I write are in a reasonably clear and accessible language and, I think, are open to a non-specialist readership but I still publish too much of my text output in books which are not open access. Why is that? I think that I’m holding onto an idea that books and book chapters are more accessible to the general public than journal articles but OA has changed that. I don’t mean that I should give up on books (in whatever format), but that I should pay more attention to whether what I publish should be Open Access. As soon as I ask my self that question, though, I realise how little social media has appeared in my thinking as I have been writing this short piece. The only moment that I remember thinking of it was when I was thinking about the accessibility of my work and I thought about the various social media groups where I share ideas.