Open access, advocacy, extremism and attention: A casual note

For a long time I viewed myself as an open access (henceforth OA, because that’s what I’m talking about) independent/observer: Not really involved in the “movement” but noting developments, commenting from time to time and–once in a while–indulging in a little “curse on both your houses” when it seemed necessary.

More recently, I found that I was gradually moving from independent to advocate–but I’m beginning to think that’s wrong, for a couple of reasons:

  • While I did write what’s still a key book on OA (Open Access: What You Need to Know Now), and while that book could be considered OA advocacy–it’s certainly not entirely neutral–I’m not in the trenches day-in and day-out responding to critics and espousing all forms of OA. I’m no Peter Suber or Michael Eisen. I’m also no (insert list of effective OA advocates here).
  • For whatever reasons–possibly lack of institutional affiliation, possibly lack of single-minded 100% support of any and all OA models and approaches, possibly not being either a scientist or an academic, possibly, I dunno, being a crappy writer–I find that I’m not really a significant part of the conversation. With relatively few exceptions (Peter Suber being a primary one), my contributions to the discussion are largely ignored, especially outside the library field. And even within the library field, I’d bet that J. Beall gets 10 times the attention and credibility that I do–and 10 times may be too conservative.

Maybe I’m overstating the second one. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

For various reasons, I don’t have readership numbers for Cites & Insights for most of 2013. My sense is that the three OA issues that year were not widely read, and they certainly haven’t been widely-referenced, at least from what I can see using Google searches.

It probably doesn’t help that one of the Great Men of OA labeled me an enemy of OA years ago, and as far as I know has never retracted that absurd charge. Yes, I’ve criticized that particular Great Man for what I consider an extremist view of OA and his frequent attempts to undermine forms of OA that differ from his own. I don’t apologize for that. (I’ve also criticized one of the would-be Great Women of OA for a form of extremism, for that matter, mostly having to do with appropriate CC licenses. I don’t apologize for that either.)

I had another jotted note toward a future post about escalating definitions of openness, another form of OA extremism that I find troubling (in that it makes it easier to oppose OA or ignore it entirely). I might yet write that…or maybe not.

So maybe I’m not really becoming an OA advocate. Of course I believe it’s important (and it’s fair to note that I was writing about it–and engaged in it–long before the term existed). Of course I’ll note it where it matters (e.g., in talking about possible solutions for the damage done by the big deal). And no, I’m not saying “screw it: I’m walking away from OA” again. That’s silly; while I may not have much of an audience or much credibility, I still have a little–and there continue to be some interesting aspects of OA to write about.

Still… My Soros funding still hasn’t come through (nor have I ever requested it); I don’t have a “cushy job” or any job at all to fall back on; I’m not sure I’m willing to plow through all the BS from extremists both opposed to OA and those favoring The One True Way; and, well, this is one area where:

  • There are some eloquent voices who do have some credibility
  • I sometimes feel as though writing in this area is mostly a waste of time.
  • It’s clear that I have no basis for direct OA advocacy.

So, back to being an observer–not really an independent, but not really an advocate. To attempt otherwise appears to be beating my head against a wall of gelatin: Not bloody-making but basically pointless.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Open access, advocacy, extremism and attention: A casual note”

  1. ash966 Says:

    I don’t read the OA issues – not because your writing isn’t great and not because I’m not pro-OA, just because I’m a public librarian and it’s not so much part of my day-to-day work.

  2. Walt Crawford Says:

    And there’s no special reason you should. I do believe that a fairly substantial number of readers are academic librarians, who should have more interest in OA. This was as much a random grump as anything; not to be taken too seriously!


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