Saturday, 24 January 2009

On Open Access (OA) Evangelicals

(Image borrowed from here)

Now buried in this thread of a blog post by Bob O'Hara at Nature Network, is a comment by Bora Zivkovic that very much caught McDawg's eye and IMO, is worthy of a blog post on it's own. As such, follows Bora's comment in verbatim:-

On OA evangelicals:

Every movement for change – if I focus on USA which I know better: Civil Rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rights of atheists, liberal politics, journalism, teaching evolution openly in schools, OA publishing, etc. – has to have a two-prong or bi-layered strategy. How?

There are two sets of people working for change. First, you need loud, popular and highly public evangelists. They take a taboo, unspeakable topic and make it a topic of public discourse, something that is OK to discuss in private and in the media for the first time. They challenge the status quo and point out that traditional common sense is wrong on that issue. They move the Overton Window of discourse and reshape the doughnut of what are the acceptable positions in the media. Furthermore, they provide a vision. That vision may seem like Fantasy or Science Fiction to some, but it is a vision nonetheless, making it clear what the final, long-term future goal of the movement is. The statements they make tend to irk the traditional, the entrenched and the timid who usually complain about the “tone” although the tone is perfectly polite and it is the substance that makes them uncomfortable. But the discourse itself is meant to push people outside their comfort zones (of course this is resisted) and to make them think, often for the first time, if their lifelong beliefs and stands are correct.

Without the activity of these highly public evangelists, it is impossible for the second set of people to operate – the gentle folks who work under the radar for the same cause. Those are the people who work one-on-one or in small groups, hand-holding and helping people make small first, timid steps in the right direction. This would be impossible if the evangelists have not set the stage for it – making this discussion possible and making the progressive positions legitimate. It would be impossible if there is no grand vision to point to.

Thus, the OA evangelists are essential – without them librarians, PLoS and others could not have any success in persuading scientists, administrators and US Congress to make the first steps in the right direction, let alone anything bolder than that. The ground-troups do the hard work, but that hard work can bear fruit only if the evangelists have paved the way for it.


Follows the section from Bob's blog post that Bora was commenting on:-

"The Open Access crowd were there (not just Bora). meeting them reinforced my criticism of their rhetoric. They’re sold on OA and committed to it, but I think that they’re too evangelical, and can’t see that not everybody is so committed. The problems for OA are largely practical – it needs a change in scientific culture, and whilst this is happening, it needs to be encouraged by working with scientists, and understanding their wants and needs. The particular issue I had was over using journals as proxies for quality. Now, I know this isn’t perfect, but we do need something like that (if I have to assess 30 CVs, I don’t have the time to go through and read all the papers, but if i see that one only has papers in small, local, journals, then it says something about the quality of their work). Assigning and calculating credit plays an important part in scientific society (rightly or wrongly!), so advocates of new schemes for publication need to take this into account. This issue is more general – OA needs to be part of the real world, and can’t fall back on special pleading (in fairness, I think PLoS themselves get this, it’s some other advocates who don’t).

I think we need more work to bring more scientists into the online world. This is a perennial problem, of course."


Alethea said...

So, Graham, it caught your eye - but what do you think?

McDawg said...


I can see where both Bob and Bora are coming from, and I tend to agree more with Bora's position of the "two-pronged or bi-layered stategy".

I was also interested with Dorothea Salo's comment posted on FF of, "Agree, but still kinda wish some of those evangelicals weren't busily running around stabbing ground troops in the back".

My understanding of that comment I think relates to ye olde "Green v Gold Road debate" and there's a pointed paragraph in Dorothea's Roach Motel in this regard.

Aside from that is the general invisibility of librarians and
librarianship in the OA discourse.


Overall, I sense that "we're" heading in the right direction, and the pace of change continues to gather.