Seven Propositions on Open Access

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1. The embargo distinction between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and AHSS (Arts, Humanities and Social Science) is arbitrary and unjustifiable: if there must be embargoes, let them be 6 months for all;

2. Set learned societies free! They can choose not to be open access if it would drain too much from their coffers. Their prestige (and the prestige of publishing with them even if that means not being returnable to research assessment exercises) should sustain them;

3. Moreover, learned societies are not an unqualified good. Some of them may need to, might even usefully, disappear;

4. Open access is a public good, but it doesn’t require that justification. The inequalities of the global academy, and the division of access to knowledge within it, are plentiful reason enough;

5. Any arbitrary barrier to access, however small, should be resisted. Having to sign up to a repository to access research, or click a special request button, or navigate a series of log-in pages, disrupts access. Articles must be as easy to reach as commentariat opinion pieces. Otherwise you get closed access by nudge theory;

6. Access is a big battle, but not the whole battle. The form of research, the mode of its dissemination, the barriers of disciplinarity, and the legitimacy of ‘academics’ and ‘intellectuals’ in public debate are all also crucial, and currently under-interrogated;

7. ‘Knowledge’, likewise, is up for contestation. Who produces it, what gets excluded by the fetishisation of peer review, what the conditions of academic labour are today (and will become in the next decade), how academics represent the authority or sanctity of their work to civilians: all that needs to remain present as the horizon of possibility.