[Humanist] 25.416 open access

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Oct 26 09:33:47 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 416.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    D.Allington <d.allington at open.ac.uk>                      (22)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.412 open access (in defense)

  [2]   From:    "Prescott, Andrew" <andrew.prescott at kcl.ac.uk>            (89)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.412 open access

  [3]   From:    Leif Isaksen <leifuss at googlemail.com>                    (101)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.412 open access

        Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 13:44:45 +0100
        From: D.Allington <d.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.412 open access (in defense)
        In-Reply-To: <20111025081354.A61D41E4799 at woodward.joyent.us>

Willard, I agree that it's not quite fair. The open access problem faced by researchers in the humanities (as well as in the social and natural sciences) is not technological but institutional. One is putting one's career at risk if one doesn't aim to publish the main part of one's work in major journals and scholarly presses - yet doing so places severe restrictions on the ways in which that work can be made available to the wider public. This problem is not insurmountable, but to overcome it may require a form of political action to which academics are unaccustomed. What would it take to persuade an appointments committee that a digital object linked to from NINES was equivalent to a monograph published by Oxford University Press?

As I understand it, things are a little easier for computer scientists, for whom the conference paper is a much more important form of research dissemination.


Dr Daniel Allington
Lecturer, English Language Studies & Applied Linguistics
Centre for Language and Communication
Stuart Hall Building
The Open University

        Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2011 09:13:22 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: in defense

Researchers in the humanities are in the course of this discussion of 
open access taking flak if not direct fire for being uninvolved in open 
access discussions and movements. I wonder, however, if this is 
fair. [...]



        Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:54:22 +0100
        From: "Prescott, Andrew" <andrew.prescott at kcl.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.412 open access
        In-Reply-To: <20111025081354.A61D41E4799 at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard,

I heartily approve of making pre-publication versions of articles
available, but sadly it still does not avoid involvement in questions of
the infrastructure of scholarly communication, since it raises the
question of the role of institutional repositories, which in many
institutions actively solicit such deposit. The institutional repository
movement traces its origins to such pioneering advocates of open access as
Stevan Harnard, but the banner for the institutional repository has
recently been borne chiefly by librarians, who often face considerable
resistance (or at least active apathy) from academic staff, as I remember
only too well from my involvement with the Welsh Repository Network. How
far do members of the digital humanities community support their local
institutional repositories, and work for development of those
repositories. A good presentation on some of the issues is:


But the relationship between open access and the IR is a complex one, and
the IR model is by no means a simple route to dealing with all the issues
of the future of scholarly communication:


This certainly makes it clear that if IRs are to be successful, they need
institutional support, but is it fair to leave all the heavy lifting to



Professor Andrew Prescott
Department of Digital Humanities
King's College London
28-29 Drury Lane
London WC2B 5RL


        Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 16:53:18 +0100
        From: Leif Isaksen <leifuss at googlemail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.412 open access
        In-Reply-To: <20111025081354.A61D41E4799 at woodward.joyent.us>

Hi Willard

I'm not sure if I'm one of the flakkers although I know I've been
nudging a number of folks recently on this topic, hopefully in a
constructive manner for reasons which I'll come to.

The question you raise is (for me) an important one. For the record
I'm against the idea that people should be expected to take an ethical
or philosophical stance on issues that aren't related to their field
of inquiry. As an example, I believe quite strongly that
archaeologists, qua archaeologists, should not be required to make
statements for or against the military invasion of another country. In
that role I feel they have the right to remain agnostic (which does
not relieve them of any ethical demands incumbent on them as human
being!). By the same token I don't expect (non-digital) humanists to
have a strong opinion in this debate (although I wish more of them

In the case of the DH I think it's harder to avoid the issue of open
access however, and at the very least it seems curious to me that
someone would _wish_ to ignore it. I am aware that there is a
traditional model of Humanities Computing in which people apply
closed-loop algorithms to finite bodies of text and publish the
results (hopefully with some analysis added). For folks that still
adhere to that model I agree that the issue of Open Access is somewhat
out of scope. The more recent trend in DH however (and almost
certainly the one that is driving the growth in interest and funding)
is towards the impact of, and innovation in,
collaborative/interactive/networked (and overwhelming Web-based)
models of scholarship. For teachers and researchers working in that
space I find it very difficult to see how one can _not_ take a stance,
as access to information is fundamental to participation. I hasten to
add that I don't have any view as to which stance they should take
(and a number of people who used to beat the 'open' drum now advocate
more nuanced models), but assuming even a moderate level of
generalisation, it seems either ingenuous or naive for DHers to
promote these new models of interaction while simultaneously
professing either ignorance or agnosticism as to how they might be

I'm sure that's provided plenty for people to disagree with, which
brings me back to my original point - while we should encourage as
many people as possible to take part in this evolving debate, it needs
to be done in as civil, and indeed inclusive, a manner as possible.
'Open' isn't merely a technical or legal issue, it's also about the
social communities that build up around resources. Sadly the Open
Source debate was lost (in archaeology at least) not because of the
arguments themselves (which were often very sound), but because they
were frequently presented in a way which completely alienated everyone
who didn't sign up to them. As Openness has become a bit of a
zeitgeist among policymakers and funders lately, I make no apology for
trying to keep the pressure up on those who can make resources
available to those unable to access them, but I do apologise if in
doing so anyone has felt under fire. This should most certainly be
seen as an opportunity to catalyze positive change and not pitch (yet)
another ideological battle.

All best wishes


>        Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2011 09:13:22 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: in defense
> Researchers in the humanities are in the course of this discussion of
> open access taking flak if not direct fire for being uninvolved in open
> access discussions and movements. I wonder, however, if this is
> fair. Aren't we (I include myself among these researchers) busy
> enough without having to pay significant attention not just to the
> manner in which our writings are published but more to the
> infrastructure of publication? I agree that the problems we touch on
> here are very, very important, i.e. they bear sharply on the central
> purpose of research, at least for me, which is to communicate
> thoughts, findings, constructs. But infrastructure, while important
> to everyone, does not, cannot be everyone's job to build and
> maintain.
> The action I take is short-term and individual, so perhaps culpable,
> but it is action, and it is what I can do without diverting my time for
> research. I put penultimate versions of what I write online whenever
> possible. And I am *enormously* grateful to others for the same. (And
> please note that, as I am fond of saying, one of the main effects of
> doing that is a dramatic increase in my book-buying.)
> Wouldn't it be better to paint a variegated landscape in which a
> portion of its denizens are worthily employed with open-access
> concerns while others do various other things?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
> College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor,
> Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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