On “Concepts of Openness and Open Access,” and “Sharing Your Work in Open Access,” from the UNESCO curriculum, Open Access for Researchers

On “Concepts of Openness and Open Access,” and “Sharing Your Work in Open Access,” from the UNESCO curriculum, Open Access for Researchers

The UNESCO curriculum Open Access for Researchers was developed under UNESCO’s Open Access Program. As their website states, “The carefully designed and developed sets of OA curricula for researchers and library and information professionals are based on two needs assessment surveys, and several rounds of face-to-face and online consultations with relevant stakeholders” (n.p.). I’ve read over a couple of the modules that appear to be most pertinent for my research, and will offer brief responses below.

Module 2, “Concepts of Openness and Open Access” is a general overview of open access (OA), and a significant module of the Open Access for Researchers curricula, compiled by Devika P. Madalli, Jaideep Sharma, and Sanjaya Mishra. This curriculum section relies heavily on Peter Suber’s excellent State of the Union. Madalli, Sharma, and Mishra cover OA basics, definitions, and distinctions (green, gold, libre, gratis), as well as advocacy groups and national and international mandates and policies. Finally, this section closes with a quick overview of OA issues and challenges.

Although the goal of this module is to facilitate a foundational understanding of OA, as well as for readers to “understand importance [sic] of openness in research ecology” (4), in a strange way the module reads as rather conservative. Undoubtedly, this is in part due to the timbre of all of the other literature on OA I have read, which has been uniformally written by strong, well-researched, and persuasive OA advocates. In comparison, this module reads as non-partisan, although it was, assumedly, developed with the aim of educating and convincing non-believers on the importance of OA.

The module is prone to generalizations and assumptions, but perhaps that is due to the nature of its curriculum genre. There are clear research gaps in the information provided; for instance, Madalli, Sharma, and Mishra state that the “misinterpretation [of the purpose of copyright] led to middlemen such as journal publishers who somehow over a period of time introduced the practice of absolute transfer of rights from authors to themselves” (7). In fact, as Rowland Lorimer describes, the current roles of corporate academic publishers have a traceable historical trajectory. The UNESCO compilers also note that repositories have now become publishing models for academics (8), which, I believe, is a contestable claim. Is depositing in a repository a form of publishing, as it stands? Or is it rather conceived of as a form of archiving and providing access? It is certainly an OA route / mode (as exemplified by the green OA categorization), but is this a form of publication? Of course, this comes down to a more nuanced question around what the definition of publication is.

Module 5, “Sharing Your Work in Open Access” summarizes the publication process for academic researchers. Mishra and Das cover the publishing trajectory from planning to writing to submitting to pre-publication to post-publication. They also highlight potential issues with co-authorship, and spend a good amount of space on predatory publishers (in the latter case, reproducing Jeffrey Beall’s “Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers” from his website that lists potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals and publishers [21-24]). Although the material covered seems rather standard to those who work in academia, it could certainly be of use to those new to the profession or who are learning about academic practice from another viewpoint.

Notably, this module emphasizes the importance of social media for sharing research output. There is an emphasis on community building and sustenance, reaching a wide audience, and pursuing alternative modes of research dissemination and communication. Although Mishra and Das highlight the major social media players in the public (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc) and in academia (ResearchGate, CiteULike, Academia.edu, etc), it is easy to see how their arguments for increased public engagement might move beyond these platforms as well.

Both modules are certainly a step in the right direction: they provide an overview of OA and an introduction to OA practices. Perhaps a future iteration might include a more expansive array of research, as well as a thorough copyedit — on a persnickity note, the mass of typos and incorrect grammar sadly rendered the material unreadable at times 🙁

Works Cited

Lorimer, Rowland. 2014. “Open Access Publishing and Academic Research.” In Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Content Online, edited by Rosemary J. Coombe, Darren Wershler, and Martin Zeilinger. 177-88. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Madalli, Devika P., Jaideep Sharma, and Sanjaya Mishra. 2015. “Concepts of Openness and Open Access.” Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Mishra, Sanjaya, and Anup Kumar Das. 2015. “Sharing Your Work in Open Access.” Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Suber, Peter. 2012. Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. n.d. “UNESCO’s Open Access (OA) Curriculum is now online.” http://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-s-open-access-oa-curriculum-now-online


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *