Friday, October 24, 2014

The Open Academic Journal

Hi everyone. This is a short one, but I'm riled up and need to share. I recognize that I am late to the conversation and that there are probably MANY facets of this that I am not considering. For all of you who are engaged with this issue already, keep fighting the good fight. And sign me up.

Disclaimers aside, my experience watching a documentary about Aaron Swartz has me deeply moved.


Here in academics a large portion of our productivity is measured in publications. Conference presentations, conference papers, peer-reviewed journals, books. The publications that I have produced will cost a person $35-85 per copy (no, I don't get any of that). In order to be published I sign away my copyrights to the publisher, and they charge what "the market" allows them for copies. 

Here's the crazy part: ALL of my research was/is funded ultimately by US tax dollars. You read that right. You (presuming you're a US taxpayer) supported my, and many other, research programs. But in order to access the results YOU HAVE TO PAY MORE! Or become a "member" of a university community (i.e. enroll and pay tuition). Even if my research were privately funded we have some serious questions to answer regarding the function of University Research.

The easy way to say this is that many people have zero chance of accessing the bulk of human thought, research, and development. Ever. Would you pay $85 for an article you might be interested in? What if you lived in a country where you were lucky to make that amount of money in a month?

Someday I hope to hold a position as a professor. I have a long and storied set of reasons for this career choice that you can find hidden in my other posts, or in a unified post someday (if I ever manage to put words to all of this at once). In order to earn that position I'll need to produce a number of peer-reviewed research publications.

To become a professor at a educational institution I'll need to produce new thought, new technology, and/or advance the human condition in some way. I'll then need to take this contribution and write about it. Then I'll hand it off to a series of (much appreciated) peer-reviewers. After we've got it worked out and perfect,

I'll hide it forever, unless you pay my publisher lots of money.

Aaron, I'm sorry. And I promise I'll do what I can. More will come of this.