New video released: a conversation with philosophers Richard Holton and Peter Suber on open access

Posted November 26th, 2012 by Ellen Duranceau

In a new video, two philosophers, Professor Richard Holton, Chair of the MIT Faculty Open Access Working Group, and Peter Suber, author of the MIT Press book Open Access, discuss the significance of open access to research, and the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy. The video captures a live discussion held at MIT during global open access week in October, sponsored by the MIT Libraries and the MIT Press, and moderated by Director of Libraries Ann Wolpert.

The philosophers reflected on whether their discipline has motivated their support of open access to research and scholarship. Professor Holton indicated that his role as a moral philosopher has highlighted the rare position academics enjoy with respect to their writing:

“we’re not like journalists, we’re not like novelists, or composers, who have to sell their stuff…we are in this incredibly privileged position, where we can give [our articles] away, and that only adds to the benefit to us.

Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, and a Faculty Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said his “primary motivation” in supporting open access is not linked specifically to philosophy, but rather to his desire to seize the opportunity the web holds for scholarly publishing.

Holton explored the possibilities open access offers for this kind of change in the scholarly publishing system, identifying the “strong monopoly position” of some publishers as a key motivator for the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy. The Policy, Holton said, addresses the “mess” the scholarly publishing market is in by offering a “freely available database” of MIT-authored articles that is “indexed through Google Scholar and other search engines.” After making an article available in this database under the Policy, the author can still “go on and publish…with a scholarly journal,” which provides the “very important task as a kind of quality control.” He notes that MIT has made “about a third” of articles openly available since the faculty Policy was put in place.

Both speakers addressed the role of publishers moving forward. In Suber’s view, we need to “persuade publishers [that] adapting to the world of open access publishing is better than resisting,” a task that is becoming easier given the increasing momentum of open access. Holton emphasized that working antagonistically is not necessary, that

“there is a way forward for both us and the publishers.”

Suber and Holton agreed that the recent approach to open access recommended in the UK could be counterproductive. “I love the ambition” of making all of the UK’s research open access, Suber said, but the UK should “tweak the policy” so that it emphasizes depositing manuscripts in repositories, in addition to the current focus on publication in open access journals. Holton had reservations as well. The UK plan is “not a good way to go,” he says, and will lead to “double dipping” by some publishers and to “entrench[ing] the monopolies of these journals.”

Both philosophers continue to devote their time and energy to supporting open access to research, working towards lasting cultural change that will make open access — and thus wider and more equitable access — the norm. They look to the day when, as Suber said, it will be “unheard of to write an article and not deposit it in a repository.”

More information:

Scholarly publishing website
Podcasts & videos on scholarly publishing and copyright

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