Open access: four ways it could enhance academic freedom

23/04/2013 – 9:01 am
Tony McCall

The power of funding alone should not be enough to override academic freedom, argues Curt Rice, nor does open access automatically skew the world of scholarship.

Are politicians stealing our academic freedom? Is their fetish with open access publishing leading to a ‘pay to say’ system for the rich? And will the trendy goal of making publicly financed research freely available skew the world of scholarship even further towards the natural sciences? I don’t think so. But it took me a while to get there.

The freedom to choose

Academic freedom lets scientists choose the research questions they want to ask. They can pursue their hypotheses however they like. Their results and reasoning can be discussed without any fear of reprisals from governments or universities. The frontiers of knowledge move forward without political interference or personal risk because of academic freedom.

The Norwegian government recently wrote about open access publishing as a potential threat to academic freedom: “All research that is publicly financed should be openly accessible. This principle, however, must not hinder the academic freedom researchers enjoy to choose their preferred channels of publication.”

How could academic freedom be impeded by a requirement to publish in open access journals? Doesn’t it seem just a bit too luxurious to turn this principle into something about the business models of journals? Maybe. But experts writing about academic freedom recently asserted a right “to decide how publication shall happen”.

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author: Curt Rice
source: The Guardian (Higher Education Network (22/4/13)

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