Micah vs. the Society for Scholarly Publishing

Next week I’ll be presenting on a panel at the Society for Scholarly Publishing in Boston. I am honored to have been invited and very excited to talk to a group of people that might not necessarily have the same point of view that I have on academic publishing. I will share my slides/notes here after the fact, but I thought it was important to get some stuff out early (feeding the fire, if you will.) Here’s why:

Panel TitleOpen Access Mandates and Open Access “Mandates”: How Much Control Should Authors Have over Their Work?

Description: Many universities now mandate that faculty authors deposit their work in Open Access university repositories. Others are developing this expectation, but not yet mandating participation. This seminar will review various mandatory and non-mandatory OA deposit policies, the implications of different policies, and the responses of faculty members to them. Panelists will discuss the degree to which academic institutions ought to determine the disposition of publications originating on their campuses.

The gist of my talk, rooted in some problems I have with the title/description, is basically that Scholarly Communication should be about authors making well-informed decisions about their scholarship, rather than about libraries and publishers fighting over who’s right/wrong about open access. In that spirit, my talk will call for us, together, to make a commitment to The Author as the only stakeholder that matters. 

I know this has very little to do with Mandates or OA Policies, but the more I thought about the prompt the more it bothered me that anyone actually might think that was true; Universities don’t mandate OA – faculty senates/bodies affirm OA as an ideal and action that benefits them, their colleagues and the institutions they represent, so if anything these OA Policies should be called “OA Agreements.”

Which led me to the thought that kickstarted my brainstorm – Universities ought not determine the disposition of their faculties publications. The faculty ought to make those decisions – well-informed and factually-based decisions. How much control should authors have over their work? All the control since it is their work. And we ought to be empowering them to exercise all the control in whatever way they see fit.

I plan to use some examples on both sides of the aisle to illustrate this, and I do hope that my co-panelists and the attendees will challenge my ideas. I am all for an open debate, as long as we can agree that we should at least be honest: publishers are here to provide a service (that will make them money), libraries are here to fight for equity and access, and that I will never be convinced that it is OK that libraries buy intellectual property that was given away to publishers through misinformation on the part of the author. 

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