Why Open Access? A researcher's perspective

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2015/10/23 14:30 Europe/Rome
2015/10/23 16:30 Europe/Rome
Aula A-27, ISTI-CNR, Pisa, Italy
Prof. Jean-Claude Guédon, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Open Access is a consequence of digitization; it began its “public life” after the publication of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2002. In the last dozen of years, it has moved through the usual phases of movements that do not go away: at first, it was ignored; then it was laughed at; later on it was fought and resisted.

In 2015, we are clearly in the last phase, and perhaps even beyond: even large commercial publishers are finding ways to compose with Open Access. The issue is no longer whether Open Access will survive, but rather in what form will it evolve?

To this date, Open Access has been debated mainly by librarians, funders and publishers. However, researchers have remained marginal in the debate for a variety of reasons ranging from price signals of scientific journals not reaching scientist very clearly, to the evolution of an ever more complex panorama that can frankly be bewildering. Scientists, understandably, have often felt they had better and more urgent things to do, but the consequence is that the very notion of scientific communication has been often replaced by discussions about Gold, Green, journals, embargoes, article processing charges, hybrid journals, mandates, etc.

Yet, scientists should take the time to review how scientific communication and even journals have evolved all along the 20th century; in doing so they would distinguish important patterns that refer back to issues of control: who controls scientific communication, and to whose benefit? How do present forms of communication affect our assessment of quality and shape our evaluation methods? How do forms of control over communication change the very forms and values of communication?

Open Access, as its name indicates, is about access (and re­use) of validated scientific results (and, more recently, about data as well); but it is also about regaining a clear perspective on the needs scientists have in terms of scientific communication and its control. By following some of the salient events in the recent history of scientific communication and of the Open Access movement, this talk will try to demonstrate the strategic importance of Open Access in the very dynamics of science and the quality of the knowledge produced.

Jean-Claude Guédon is a professor of comparative literature at the Université de Montréal since 1973, first in the Institut d'histoire et de socio politique des sciences and, since 1987, in the Département de littérature comparée. As a specialist in digital culture, internet studies, and electronic publishing he has been an advocate for Open Access to research for many years. He was one of the original signatories of the Budapest Open Access Initiative Declaration in 2002 and again of the BOAI 10 Declaration.
He is a long-time member of the Internet Society serving as co-chair of the program committee in 1996, 1998 and 2000, and member of the same committee in 1997, 1999 and 2002. Among his numerous commitments he was a member of the Open Society Initiative Information Program sub-board from 2002 to 2006, member of the Advisory Board of eIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) from 2003 to 2007, Vice-President of the Canadian Society for the Humanities and Social Sciences from 2006 to 2008. He was also named "Leiter Lecturer" at the National Library of Medicine in 1998 and he has won academic prizes such as Prix International Charles Hélou de la francophonie in 1996 and the Excellence Prize of the Society for Digital Humanities (formerly known as COSH-COCH) in 2005.