The formula for my happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal. –Nietzsche
Cameron Neylon awakens to a nice surprise, takes stock, and wonders: what’s next for Open Access?
The really hard work of implementation is coming. As a movement we still disagree strongly on elements of tactics and strategy. The tactics I am less concerned about, we can take multiple paths, applying pressure at multiple points and this will be to our advantage. But I think we need a clearer goal on strategy. We need to articulate what the endgame is. What is the vision? When will we know that we have achieved what we set out to do?
So, here’s a first attempt at articulating the vision of Open Access. It’s vitally important that we recognize that Open Access is about more than simply speeding up research-as-usual — it’s about opening up the Academy both to influence from those outside of its walls and to the idea that academics ought to have an influence beyond those walls.
This will require a re-examination of our own means of evaluating our performance. For a while now we’ve experienced — and resisted — the imposition of a “new business model” on the university. But this resistance has largely relied on the old notion of disciplinary expertise and autonomy. We need something new, something better, something that embraces Open Access as a sign of a new autonomy that defines itself in connection with accountability, rather than attempting to reinforce those walls that have been breached by the business remodelers. Let’s embrace the idea of impact!
The altmetrics movement can play a key role in helping us come up with an alternative vocabulary for valuing academic work; but it needs to be a vocabulary that both academics and non-academics can use, and we need not to blackbox our means of valuation. This will mean, I think, that peer review should be reformed, but not abandoned. But it will also mean that we need seriously to consider the question of who ought to count as a peer.
There are several institutions that can play a key role here. Within the university, the libraries are well-situated to help — but they’ll need the sort of leverage that comes from administration support and will have to target both faculty and student buy-in. Funding agencies, obviously, can play an important part. I think they’ve been doing a lot already — they’re on the front lines of the autonomy-accountability war — but they may be able to do even more if we academics would start working with them rather than pulling against them.
Finally, professional academic organizations ought to help their members rethink their notions of academic rigor. There are signs that something may be happening in my own discipline of philosophy now. No doubt the digital humanities movement is also pulling in this direction. The sciences have been and will continue to be a driving force behind the Open Access movement. But I see a real chance for the humanities to take the lead in articulating a vision for the new Academy — assuming, that is, that we are willing to say ‘yes’ to Open Access, ‘no’ to business as usual, and to take a ‘straight line’ toward redefining the university and its role in society.