Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Future Of Open Access: Why Has Academia Not Embraced The Internet Revolution?; Forbes, 4/29/16

Kalev Leetaru, Forbes; The Future Of Open Access: Why Has Academia Not Embraced The Internet Revolution? :
"One of the most remarkable aspects of the story of the web’s evolution is that the collective output of the world’s universities has remained largely absent from the open online world, even as most other forms of information have shifted to some form of open online access. In the case of encyclopedias, entirely new forms of collaborative knowledge documentation like Wikipedia have emerged, while journalism has shifted to free advertising-supported distribution and even music and videos are increasingly legally available through ad-supported streaming services or affordable licensed download services.
Academic papers, the lifeblood of the scholarly world of academia, have resisted this transition. To those outside academia it might be surprising that most universities don’t publish all of their books, papers, presentations and course materials on their websites for the world to access...
Yesterday Science published a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Sci-Hub, one of the most infamous academic pirating sites, which provides free access to more than 50 million illegally acquired papers. One of the most fascinating findings is that its download traffic comes not exclusively from the developing world for which journal subscriptions are often claimed to be inaccessible, but also extensively from major Western universities which likely have legal subscriptions to the journals already. One of the reasons for this, the article claims, is the cumbersome and difficult-to-use web portals that university libraries provide to their holdings, making it incredibly difficult to locate a paper even if the university has a legal subscription to the journal. Having spent more than a decade and a half in academia at multiple institutions from public to private, I can personally attest to just how difficult it can be to navigate library portal systems to locate a particular paper...
As the drumbeat of open access continues to grow, the fierce debate over the future of how academic research is published and distributed will only rage louder. In parallel, as the trend towards open access expands to data sharing and replication, the pressure to change how academia does business will reach a breaking point where change will become inevitable. In the end, it is a fascinating commentary that the world of academia, from which the modern web sprung, has been among the most resistant to change and one of the last to embrace the internet revolution."

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