yourlibrarian: Buffy on the phone (BUF-WorkingGirl: eyesthatslay)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian posting in [community profile] sim_studies

This news
about the spread of institutional repositories struck me as a real contrast to the other recent news about Elsevier and Merck. It seems to me that institutional repositories for academic work are a much better alternative, both for preservation and access, than commercial publishing today. What I also wonder is if they wouldn't be a more legitimate source of material than for-profit publishers who don't seem to offer any great benefit compared to non-profit outlets. (Just as an aside, take a look at the tactics Merck is employing during the court case that inadvertently revealed the campaign Elsevier helped Merck produce.)

Of course, libraries have long been under a terrible crunch from the escalating cost of periodicals, so open source publications are simply a must in the future. But just as there is current discussion about the necessity for print journalism, and what its unique and important qualities are, it seems to me the same discussion needs to be going on about academic publishing. One difference, of course, is that news is a prized commodity to the recipients but spread in many ways, of which print is only one. But academic publishing is a must for the producer for indirect reasons that have less to do with distribution than prestige. It seems to me in the discussions I'm reading, that the people most objecting to the loss of print journalism are …print journalists. And while I can understand the upset over the loss of a steady paycheck versus the job insecurity of freelancing (this article pointed out how people make more money in larger corporations than small businesses) this doesn't really tell us anything about the value of the end product based on its form of production. It seems to me that rushed deadlines and competitive urges are as likely to skew news reporting as the lack of resources hampering independent journalists. And then there's the motivation factor. In the same program that discussed how local bloggers had already been covering news neglected by Seattle's two daily newspapers, was the story of how the NY Times may have had a major lead on Watergate before anyone else, but did nothing about it. As a commenter pointed out " Media scholars have long observed that because the Post's reporters weren't part of the sometimes cozy relationships between reporters and officials, they were better able to follow the story. The administration wasn't going to provide the everyday leaks and "background" briefings that so much Washington journalism depends on to this day."

All of which is to say, can institutional repositories provide not just better access and lower costs for academic publications, but perhaps provide other benefits in terms of the quality and reliability of research? In what ways are for-profit publishers needed?


Social Informatics and Media Studies

April 2010

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