Sunday, 19 January 2014

Conference Write-up - Open Access Futures in the Humanities and Social Sciences #HSSOA

Open Access Futures in the Humanities and Social Sciences was a conference that truly embraced the power of social media. Every presenter had their Twitter handle clearly displayed on slides. Tweets were displayed on the screen next to the speakers. Even Google hangouts played a part as people became involved in multiple strands of conversation.

I attended this event on 24th October 2013 because I currently look after the Social Sciences within my institution and have learned from my experience with them that they tend to like to do things differently. Also, it was a conference mainly attended by academics, as opposed to librarians, and I thought it might be prudent to check that we are correct in our thoughts about what academics issues are.

Found on Flickrr,net
Looking back at my notes from the day, the main issues seemed to be:

Some audience members were concerned that plagiarism would increase if work was openly available. It was remarked that students do attribute correctly in essays (so library staff are getting something right!) but often mix their own words with academics - students need to write for themselves and in their own voice. Both Brian Hole and Professor Charlotte Waelde on the panel at the time responded that plagiarism depends on the ability to hide so open access will help prevent plagiarism as it is easier to detect. This made sense to me yet it remains a sensitive topic as academics consider their livelihoods to be at stake and wish to ensure rules like those set by the Berne Convention remain in place.

There was a lot of emphasis on the publishing of books and chapters as social scientists and humanities scholars still rely on these for much of their research output. The general impression I received was that while open access can increase the visibility of monographs, the logistics for these still need some thought as they can be both costly and awkward to manage. It will be interesting to see if they remain viable in the future.

Visibility for new staff was also raised as a key issue for which open access could be a solution, e.g. easily accessible urls can help with job applications, however, publishing in traditional high profile journals is often what it is expected of academics to build up a reputation.

There was much heated discussion about the cost of open access; it is not free as some might think but comes with a hefty price tag. Libraries have to pay costs to publishers whenever they choose to publish an open access article and this can sometimes run into thousands. While a few are in receipt of RCUK funding to reduce the burden, my own included, libraries just can't afford to keep doing this, especially as quite often they are paying twice - once for the article to be published and again for the subscription.

While this is only a brief snapshot of the conference (more information can be gleaned from the Storify created by the organisers) I left feeling that no-one really had the answers yet and that there is much more to discuss and discover. There are some innovative projects created by forward-thinking enthusiastic people, for example, new ways of publishing and collaborative projects like the Mark Twain Project Online , but these seem to remain few and far between.

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