Faculty Perspectives on Open Access at Boston College

By | September 5, 2019


So if you’re not– material is not
accessible via Google, it’s as if you don’t exist
to a huge portion of academe. So I’ve been on the
faculty for 14 years, and since that very first year,
whenever I had the opportunity to post my material
online, I would do that– my scholarly
research work. And in several
cases, since I’d been doing this for quite some time,
I was the first person that asked the journal, and
they reworked their policy or they gave me
written permission to be able to do that. I can say as a result, it
bumped up my citation count. That’s a cynical
way to look at it. I think the most important
thing as faculty members people are reading your work. You spent so much
time on it, hopefully you’re proud of the
work that you’re doing. You want it to be
accessible, and Google is a huge engine around that. And I think it’s very
positive that, for instance, the American Economic
Association has now started four new journals,
second tier journals, that are open access and
that essentially are trying to draw
some of the best work away from the for profit sector. Because I think
ultimately, we all recognize the for profit
journal publishing industry is not a sustainable
model in economic terms. If health care will eat up
the entire GDP of the US in 50 years, journal publishers
will eat up the entire library budget of everybody
in the country in shorter time than that,
and that can’t happen. When I got involved with
it, it was about, oh, early 2000 or thereabouts when
I had quite a few articles and publications relating
to one major figure I worked on Ibn Arabi, and
there’s an Ibn Arabi society. And I remember at
one point saying, why don’t we take some
of these things that are in your journal that only
go to 150 university libraries and try and put them up
online on the web site and see what happens. And I think the first month
we had 2000 downloads, and the next month,
there were 10,000. And of course,
most of these were from people who had never
have had around the world would have never had
access to the articles and because the journal goes
to university libraries, so that really sold me on it. It was a conversion experience. Or even in different
communities, rural communities and whatnot, even
high schools, you could have a lot
of different access points to a lot of different
types of information through open access
that would hopefully contribute to the
academic welfare, the social and spiritual
welfare of people in the world. So we are definitely
committed to it, not only from the point of view
of what BC is all about, but I think what our
Jesuit Catholic mission is we’re compelled to do, as
members of this BC community and as part of the
library community. Open access a lot
of us to rethink what is it that our purpose is. And providing an
international readership, providing a broader readership,
inviting a much broader group of folks that could
perhaps participate in the conversation. So it completely re-invented
our whole thinking about how it is that
we publish scholarship and how it is that this
Catholic journal fit into the open access model. Which gave us a great platform
for both access, a new business model, and an appeal
to our sense of justice in the terms of new scholarship
accessibility, authorship, ownership, and a
new distribution, a new distribution model. For those people who are outside
of the academic community right now, in some
cases just simply somebody who’s graduated,
they don’t have access to most journals online. And that’s a huge
problem for those who want to maintain
their scholarship or maintain their ties
within the scholarly world. Whereas an open
access journal, which is just there on the internet,
is available beyond the access through specific
university libraries. So that creates a very
different dynamic. I suspect most people
not in university don’t know it exists and
don’t know that there is these resources out
there that they can go to learn about stuff without
having to pay or be affiliated with a university or a
company that pays to use it. They can get the initial
aspects of knowledge by looking at these– what papers are out there. These are all basically proposed
papers, they’re all pre-prints. But it’s free and
open to everybody, and so, it’s a useful
thing for the world. So I encourage
everybody to use it. All the clinics I know do
support the open access. I’ve never heard of anyone
being opposed to that, supporting restricted access. No, everybody is happy
and encouraging that. Maybe it’s not well
known, and many colleagues believe, for instance, that they
are giving away their copyright on their intellectual
production as soon as they are publishing it
somewhere, which is not true or systematically. Or you can negotiate retaining
some form of copyright. First thing that comes to mind
is like the world campaign slogan for the
university, the idea that a university
and its mission to research, to
teach, to educate is in service to making
the world better for not just our students but for
the broader communities– Boston, national,
and international that we’re a part of. Open access seems to connect
very nicely to that larger institutional value. The idea that the work that
we’re doing here as students, as faculty, across our
departments, across the schools holds the power to make
a difference in the lives of people all across the globe. Open access seems to
encourage those best aspects of Jesuit higher education.

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