Paywall, the movie.

When I first started the job I’m in, my first librarian job, and it  has a large component of encouraging Open Access for my community, I went around online asking where the downsides for OA were.  I wanted to understand the environment.  What were the positive elements in being published in a subscription journal?

I’ve kept an open mind to how the various business models work, and how they influence the outcomes for researchers and those who need and paid for the results of their research.   No one has been able to convince me that Open Access, in a free to read, free to publish model isn’t the thing to aspire to.

It’s no surprise that the Soros backed documentary Paywall the Movie  looks at the downsides of toll-based scholarly publishing company.  Its a good documentary, with a LOT of short, snappily edited interviews that tells the story of the profiteering super publishers and the effect their business model has on researchers.

One thing I am a  disappointed by is the lack of response from the publisher that took the most amount of flack: Elsevier.  They apparently refused to be involved.  The only critical-to-OA contribution came from the Scholarly Kitchen’s Rick Anderson who made a very weird argument – that OA advocates are driven by a religiously dogmatic and non-rational perspective.  I hope in a lot of ways that was selective editing on the part of the film’s director because in comparison to the measured, calm, and intensely rational arguments being made by the others in the film, it made him look a wee bit crazy.  I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised as the Scholarly Kitchen has longed claimed that OA is part of a larger anti-capitalist  agenda.  Maybe they’re right.  Personally, being someone whose politics could be described as anarchist, I hope they are, but that certainly doesn’t stop me, or anyone else, from evaluating a business case that supports sustainable subscription based publishing that also meets the requirements of making research cheaply and conveniently available to all.  I just haven’t seen it.

Now, its absolutely clear that some models and implementations of scholarly communications that have the OA label are problematic.  Sci-hubQuestionable Publishing. Hybrid Publishing.  All of which have deep systemic ethical issues, but are mostly symptoms of the disruption when markets try to manage deep change, and are, I hope, transitory.

Once again, I’m disappointed not to get a clear, rational, critical response to Open Access publishing.  The film is an excellent short introduction to the benefits of OA, and will be an excellent resource for OA week with activities being organised by Universities all over the world.  It’s free (in every sense) to download and a damn sight more engaging than most would expect!

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