On “Delivering Impact of Scholarly Information: Is Access Enough?,” by Heidi McGregor and Kevin Guthrie

On “Delivering Impact of Scholarly Information: Is Access Enough?,” by Heidi McGregor and Kevin Guthrie

Heidi McGregor and Kevin Guthrie look beyond open access in their article, “Delivering Impact of Scholarly Information: Is Access Enough?” Their sentiments reflect some of my own, that is, just because you put something online, and its free, doesn’t mean that folks are going to engage with it. McGregor and Guthrie write explicitly from their experience with JSTOR, the not-for-profit organization that negotiates access to scholarly journals and articles and in turn supplies this access to institutions and individuals on a sliding scale.

For McGregor and Guthrie, open access shouldn’t stop at free access: “Presumably our higher-level aim is not to enable or provide free access for its own sake, but rather to broaden the productive use of scholarly materials for the benefit of students, researchers, and learners all over the world” (n.p.). The keyword, here, is productive use. McGregor and Guthrie develop what they call “The Pyramid of Productive Use” (see below), which they use as a measuring stick to reflect on JSTOR’s progress in this regard.

McGregor & Guthrie's "The Pyramid of Productive Use," taken from their article
McGregor & Guthrie’s “The Pyramid of Productive Use,” taken from their article

The authors claim that the different layers of the pyramid — literacy, technology, awareness, access, and training — are necessary in order to reach the “desired impact of increasing knowledge and understanding” (n.p.).

JSTOR has made some significant contributions in this regard, and McGregor and Guthrie don’t shy away from areas where further progress could be made. The Pyramid of Productive Use makes good sense in an academic context, and the degree of pragmatism the authors bring to the table is certainly appreciated. But me? I’m a dreamer. McGregor and Guthrie focus exclusively on scholarly impact, or, better stated, the impact on scholars. How could we reconsider our notions of access to include public engagement as well? What sort of pyramid (or rhizome, or maelstrom, or grid, or whatever) would consider what broad public access to and interaction with scholarly resources looks like?


Work cited

McGregor, Heidi,  and Kevin Guthrie. 2015. “Delivering Impact of Scholarly Information: Is Access Enough?” Journal of Electronic Publishing 18 (3): 13pp.

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