The Open Access movement should be seen for what it is – nothing more but nothing less than a consumerist revolt, academic style. No one in this revolt is calling for what is sometimes called ‘extended peer review’ (whereby relevant non-academic stakeholders operate as knowledge gatekeepers), let alone the abandonment of science’s normal technicality. In fact, the moral suasiveness of a journalist like the Guardian’s George Monbiot rests on his support of BOTH science’s normal authorising procedures AND the free distribution of their fruits. In short, it’s all about making research cheaper to access by those who already possess the skills to do so but are held back by such ‘artificial’ barriers as publishers’ paywalls.
Nothing in this dispute bears on questions concerning how one might democratise knowledge production itself (e.g. how research credit might be distributed across students, informants, etc.; how one might select research topics that people find worthwhile; how impact across many audiences might be made a desideratum for securing a research grant).
Certainly there is no reason to believe that science communication/engagement is served by an open access policy to commercial scientific publications, if the target body of knowledge remains encoded as it has for the last 100 years. I take it that this is the message that Alice Bell is trying to send, perhaps too politely.
Categories: Higher Education