The Need for Openness in Professional Publications

kimura80By Bert Kimura
Editor, Ed Tech in Japan

[Note: On Aug. 7, 2010, in an ETCJ listerv discussion, and two days later, in a personal email, Bert commented on the subject of requests for permission to republish ETCJ articles. The following article combines both those sources. -js]

With regard to the republishing question, I don’t see any problem with doing so as long as the “republisher” understands ETCJ‘s chosen Creative Commons* policy.

I see this discussion as an opportunity to update the information in ETCJ’s policy statement since CC licenses have been updated. Provide a link to the “License Deed”** rather than the “Legal Code” since it is more understandable and less intimidating. (Click here to go to the CC site.)

I strongly feel that information should be freely accessible and reusable, and in the bigger picture, will be of greater value to society and, in particular, to educators globally. I also feel that attribution is necessary and credit needs to be given to the author or creator, for better or for worse. CC is an excellent vehicle for doing this.

Personally, I’ve had articles published in scientific journals during my graduate and post graduate research years in the early ’70s. These articles are now available online, but for a fee (e.g., US $30 for 48 hours of access). It is frustrating for me, as a co-author, to have to pay such fees for every article that I co-authored that is available on the Net. In fact, I don’t think that any agreement to publish in a journal, at that time, covered rights regarding online publications.

In my mind, academic work and the expression of related thoughts and ideas are directed toward the search for new knowledge. The existing knowledge base enables others to collaborate and build upon it. I believe that this is an important goal for ETCJ.

I’ve become much more of an advocate for such licensing (there are other ways, including GNU) simply because I feel strongly that academic research contributes to increasing society’s knowledge base and that our opinions are based on the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of others — and that these ideas are “free.”

After all, in academia, many of the thoughts we express are based on a wide range of interactions with our colleagues and students, yet we, in situations other than professional publications and presentations, often don’t credit or compensate them for it. I don’t think that great ideas are created in a vacuum — they come about by interaction with others or by the products they create via text, video, images, etc.

I also believe that knowledge is global. That is, it cannot be constrained by geographical boundaries. CC has started addressing this issue in their licensing options.

It might be instructional and useful to post something in ETCJ that’s related to Dr. Lawrence Lessig, founding CC member, Harvard professor, formerly at Stanford. He has posted an eloquent presentation of his ideas in “Open.”

Today’s culture is one of “we share,” with monetization a “lucky consequence” of it. Look at today’s successful sharing sites — they are all free, and most are “open.” However, Lessig argues that they need to be completely open, e.g., the creator determines if advertisements are to appear along with his/her creation. If this is to be the case, then a legitimate concern would be, How can a distributor (who owns the server, contracts a programmer, etc.) recover his financial investment?

Lessig argues that the rights of the “creator” need protection — not the publisher’s or distributor’s. Could this ever happen? Or, perhaps, is there a model for academic publications that accomplishes this?

I don’t know, but then, ETCJ could become a model “best case” for this to happen.

* Disclosure: I (Bert Kimura) have made cash contributions to CC fundraising campaigns. However, I do not hold a position with nor do I provide any services to Creative Commons.

** On Aug. 8, 2010, Claude Almansi set up a CC license deed that now appears at the bottom of ETCJ’s right sidebar.

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