Perpetually Under Construction

Open Access

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“Open” has played in important role in my life the last few years. It all began when I was an attendee at a Software-Carpentry workshop back in 2013. Before then, I only knew about Open Access and Open Source, but wasn’t active in any Open community.

This week is Open Data Week at Virginia Tech, and it begins with an “Open Research/Open Data Forum [on] Transparency, Sharing, and Reproducibility in Scholarship”, which I was honored to be apart of.

Open Access typically refers to providing research publications free from restrictions on access. In academic publishing, this is mainly aimed towards paywalls, where an individual needs to pay to see a published paper.

The debate around Open Access is highly debated, mainly because there is a lot of money in the scholarly publication business. I’ve had the mindset that Open Access or not, it is just a business funding model. The other components of Open (data, source, education) are better and faster ways of disseminate information to the masses without a fee.

I am honored to be one of the panelists on today’s Open Data Forum:

  1. Daniel Chen (Ph.D. candidate in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology)
  2. Karen DePauw (Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education)
  3. Sally Morton (Dean, College of Science)
  4. Jon Petters (Data Management Consultant, University Libraries)
  5. David Radcliffe (Professor, English, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences)
  6. Laura Sands (Professor of Human Development, Center for Gerontology)

‘Daunting’ might not be the right word, but that’s quite the line-up of speakers + random graduate student. Someone at the libraries thought it was a good idea, and has faith in me, so that’s a plus.

The question presented to the panel:

“One of the main arguments in favor of open research and open data is that the collective benefits to the research system far outweigh the drawbacks. Such benefits include helping to address the problem of reproducibility and opening up new research pathways. Do you agree with this argument? And what are the principal barriers you see in moving us towards this system?”

It’s an interesting question, mainly because it seems like we are preaching to the choir, but one way to see the other side of the argument is looking at the current system of incentives. Currently, the way academic incentives are structured for promotion are not conducive for open collaboration and open data. Mainly because by freely diving out data, one may loose the ability for a paper authorship. Granted there are counter arguments for this, but fear is a powerful motivator, and when productivity is measured by number of publications, potentially losing publications is enough of a detractor for many to not pursuit Openness.

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