open access

Social media and Open Access

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I often make this point in talks on digital scholarship, but don’t think I’ve done it in a blog sized chunk before. There is an interesting relationship between social media and open access. As you develop an online identity as an academic, so the role of social media (twitter, blogs, – whatever is your preferred mix) takes on a more central role in your activity. So it is natural that you use these to disseminate research findings and publications. And this is where the relationship with open access comes in. If you want to disseminate your recent article via your carefully cultivated online network, then it is anathema to share a link that then asks the user to “pay $40 to access this article”. As I like to quip in my presentations, in social media terms you may as well go and bury your article in your back garden for all the access it means in this network.

There are a set of cultural assumptions that are associated with social networks, one of which is that content can be freely accessed and easily shared. Now, you can argue about the economics of this, and whether content should be free, but those are the assumptions that come with this culture, so you either accept them or go elsewhere.

So if you want to utilise social networks as part of your academic practice, then it really puts an emphasis on you to publish open access. Whether this is self-archived or gold route published isn’t that relevant – it needs to be accessible, now, and by everyone. If we assume that social networks aren’t going away and are going to become more and more pervasive as part of academic practice, then this becomes a strong, almost irresistible driver for open access. No wonder publishers are scared.

I also wonder if there are two distinct cultures developing in academia here – those who use social media might have a different set of publications they regard as core compared to others who are using library driven systems, for example.


  • francesbell

    I agree with you. I am trying to publish open access exclusively though there are some co-authored articles still hidden behind pay wall. One point that occurs to me Is that with multiple ‘points’ of publication prospective readers do not always encounter our work through our directed social media links. They might encounter us via social media then search via Google or a research aggregation site. I suspect that the paywall sites are skilled at getting their abstract (through to paywall) in that valued pdf slot on Scholar Google, whilst our self-archived version languishes off search. I have stopped having full text on Researchgate, as their practice seems questionable/shoddy to me.

  • Laura Pasquini

    I think the publishers should be afraid… BE VERY AFRAID. Sound advice, Martin. I hope that more of us in the networked/academic/publishing follow your lead on this.

    As for your last pondering – I think you have just uncovered a new research question to study. I’m in!

  • worriedteacher

    Thanks for this observation/commentary. In refashoning my academic identity the ‘open’ movement has been the necessary challenge for me. It has forced me to think more about ‘who’ I wish to engage with in scholarly/political debate and therefore ‘how’ best to link up with those people. It hasn’t always been easy as I keep meeting new thresholds but the benefits seem so overwhelmingly positive that I keep going. Twitter has perhaps become the most important agent in my networked presence. It is through twitter that I share emergent ideas (often from my blogs – which in turn can be inspired by my teaching), encounter others’ ideas and perspectives, keep in touch with friends and colleagues, gain intellectual stimulation, and slowly build up connections. Perhaps conferences used to do this but my experience is of a culture of welcome through social media networked scholarship that often is missing in the more hierarchical, star studded world of the conference, and far more immediate than the publishing industry. More importantly, though, it is about asserting that academic work, a very privileged work, is both public good and a public practice. Unless we wish to be complicit in the increasing privatisation of knowledge we need to be open.

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