Open Access Discussed on International Radio
Last Friday (17/08/12), representing the Open Knowledge Foundation, I had the pleasure of discussing the new Research Councils UK (RCUK) plan for all UK publicly-funded research to be published Open Access, on a special half hour Voice of Russia UK broadcast radio discussion.
I have written about this policy before and am very supportive of it, just as I am with Open Access in academia in general. I personally believe it will aid transparency and equality in research – so that no researcher has an unfair advantage over another through greater/easier access to vital research literature (just one of many worthy benefits arising from Open Access). But there are certainly also vocal opponents to this plan – mostly those with vested interests in keeping the obscene profits of the traditional subscription access publishing system alive (which commonly generate >30% profit margins largely derived from the taxpayer-spending of the world’s research libraries on journal subscriptions). Others express vague and often unspecified “concerns” about Open Access and further still many academics are notably apathetic towards it, or are even proudly agnostic on the issue.
Thus a publicly-broadcast discussion of this new open policy is well warranted.
The members of the discussion panel included Rita Gardner, the Director of the Royal Geographical Society, noted for her concerns about the potential effects of Open Access on UK Learned Society income and revenue [paywalled link]; Ross Mounce, Panton Fellow promoting open data in science (myself) from the Open Knowledge Foundation; Bjorn Brembs, Professor at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leipzig, noted critic of for-profit publishers and their lack of ‘value-add’ amongst other issues; and Timothy Gowers, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, instigator of the popular academic-led boycott of the for-profit publisher Elsevier.
The ensuing discussion was ably guided by VoiceofRussia radio presenter Daniel Cinna, and recorded by a backroom team with an impressively professional studio setup (Timothy & Bjorn were joining the debate via phone from abroad almost seemlessly, whilst Rita and I were in the London studio). As noted by Rita off-air, it would have been nice to have had a publisher representative in the discussion to add their unique viewpoint but apparently the VoR production team had asked, but no for-profit publisher they had asked was willing to take part. So one cannot attribute any blame to the VoR team if the discussion panel lacked representational balance.
I won’t say anything about the discussion itself, only that you should listen to it here if you are at all interested in the future of science, and the benefits of the new RCUK Open Access policy.
About Voice of Russia (adapted from their own website):
The Voice of Russia is the world’s oldest international broadcaster and is among the world’s top five radio broadcasters today which include the BBC, the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and Radio France International. The London-based team produces programs for VoR that bring our listeners a Russian perspective on our two countries and the world. VoR broadcasts to 160 countries in 38 languages using short and medium waves, FM, satellite and the global communications network. In London we are now also available online and via DAB radio. We aim to welcome a new British audience to our 109 million listeners worldwide.