Day 1, a look at Open Access publishing

When we think of open culture, open science, DIY and making are probably the first things that come to mind. However, It is often thanks to the availability of information available through open access publishing that knowledge is made increasingly shareable, as open access journals (OA) continue to emerge out of academia or other institutions. check this short video of what open access means.    

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open access publishing is somehow considered secondary to the numerous groups of makers and tinkerers that make open culture. it was then very encouraging to see OA featured by two talks on the very first day of the symposium, with two talks by Corina McDonald and Carlyn Zwarenstein,  followed by a debate moderated by Science librarian John Dupuis. While the first focused on the challenge faced by the arts industry to embrace open access publishing as a viable way to disseminate work presented in a variety of media, formats, styles, the second presented the advantages and disadvantages for science to use open access publishing as opposed to closed, premium publications.

Of note here is the e-artexte digital repository, a monumental project to digitize past and present contemporary Canadian art publications using e-print, in order not to lose the vibrancy of the original formats.  Artexte is also an open access platform for contemporary Canadian art publishers (museums, artist-run centres, art galleries, etc.), authors and artists to upload digital versions of their publications (or born digital publications) for anyone to download for free.

going digital and open has not been easy for the Canadian artistic community: there was a general reluctance dictated by fear to lose the quality of the paper format, possibly prestige, as well as funding tight to production and distribution costs. This might actually be true, especially in the eye of the most conservative institutions, but this move can also be incredibly beneficial for the often-marginalized Canadian art scene.

A slightly different situation faces science. “Open Medicine“, the OA journal that Zwarenstein helped initiate in 2006, is part of a growing cluster of open access, peer reviewed, and thriving scientific journals (among which is Plos One, the most substantial repository of open science in North America). For scientific research, open access means better and faster dissemination, the ability to publish peer reviewed independent research, and autonomy from the influence and the advertising power of pharmaceutical companies. Of course, there are downsides: with the multiplying of open access publications, so are profit seeking and dishonest enterprises. However, to those who criticize OA for disseminating poor quality research, Zwarenstein replies that the problem doesn’t lie in the publishing model, but in the unchecked or unregulated peer review process.

of course, a common issue that both OA in science and in the Arts are facing is how they could become sustainable. this is an open question that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, as many of these publications are still relying on ever shrinking government grants, or on the generosity of academic institutions. currently, there are many models of Open Access ranging from reader and writer supported to university funded.