An idea for open access self-declaration

One of my academic hobby horses is Open Access, the movement to make scholarship freely available online. I’ve tried to model what embracing open access looks like through my own choices of where to publish, my practice of posting essays here pre-publication (and pulling the print publication when necessary), and my work with MediaCommons. I often read & recommend work about open access, such as Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s recent MLA talk that proposes a new way of thinking about scholarly work as “giving it away.” But while there are many fellow travelers who also believe in open access and try to practice what we preach, there is little coordination for how to articulate those beliefs and practices. In short, how do we make an group of individual’s actions feel like group action?

So in the spirit of open access, I want to float an idea – one that is certainly underdeveloped and needs a lot more input, but hopefully a community of fellow travelers can make something meaningful out of it. I think we need a set of standards for open access self-declaration - if you believe in open access, you need an effective way to publicly label your own practices in to state your individual standards and connect them to group norms. And these standards need to have cute little pictures.

This idea is inspired by CreativeCommons, which said instead of copyrighting a work with “All Rights Reserved,” you can use this set of standards to offer “Some Rights Reserved.” The power behind this model was, besides the legally binding fine print, the ease of selecting options – do I want to allow commercial derivatives or not? Share-alike? – and thus establishing a simple-to-understand set of parameters that creators might choose from, and translating it into iconic pictures & codes that gain widespread acceptance and understanding.

What might a similar set of open access practices look like? First, remember that these are standards of self-declaration, meaning that you are publicly saying what you will and will not do, not tied to individual works like with CC. Right now, the only comparable declarations I know about are individual blogs stating personal pledges (like danah boyd’s or others linked here) or blanket statements inviting signatories (like Research Without Walls). The problem with the former is that it’s too atomized & individual – how do I connect what danah does with what I do to call it a “movement”? The problem with the latter is that it’s too sweeping and inflexible, not applicable across disciplines, employment situation, and the like – I would never sign it as written, as it effectively closes off reviews of most book manuscripts and conferences, which are central to my field.

So we need someway to publicly declare our limits and practices that is more than individualized, but flexible enough to embrace multiple options. What I imagine is a website that allows you to create a profile, and then gives you a number of statements that you can opt-in to via checkbox. Then it creates a personal “Open Access ID Card” (with cute icons) that you can post to your personal website, faculty profile, Facebook, email signature or whatever, stating your practices publicly – and provide a quick URL to send to editors requesting you to review something that violates your declarations. The website would be searchable, so you can see other people’s declarations, and search for people who all selected a given practice (which could be useful for junior scholars to justify their choices with senior company). The type of declarations I imagine that would be options are:

  • I will only publish in journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  • I will only peer-review journal articles for journals listed in the DOAJ.
  • I will only serve on editorial boards for journals listed in the DOAJ.
  • I will only sign publishing contracts that include the SPARC Author Addendum.
  • I will only contribute book chapters to publishers that allow me to pre-publish a version of my manuscript to my personal website or institutional repository.

So that’s the idea. I know there are probably many reasons why it would be hard to come up with uniform options that are sufficiently flexible to span disciplines & appointments, specific enough to be coherent, and simple enough to be manageable. And I know that I have neither the time nor expertise to actually implement such a system. And maybe there’s something out there already that accomplishes these goals (if so, please link!). But I think it’s a useful idea to discuss and leverage our open platforms to devise some solutions for uniting our individual practices. So please discuss in comments, reblog, and run with it (after all, this post is CC licensed to be copied with attribution!). Just let me know where I can sign up.

Filed under: Academia, New Media, Not Quite TV, Open Access, Publishing

Jason Mittell

Publication date (from feed): 

Thu, 12 Jan 2012 16:26:11 +0000