2020: The Year of Open-Access Research on SSWN (Updated)
We’ve talked a fair amount over the years at SSWN about “open-access” (OA) but starting in 2020, we wanted to focus more fully on OA and how we’re working with individuals & partner organizations to create and share the most SSW-related OA content we can. We kick off this new decade with a brief introduction to OA, some details about OA resources we’re developing at SSWN, and introduce a powerful documentary on OA that you can watch and share with your colleagues, “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship.”
What is Open-Access (OA) and what’s the big deal?
SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) defines OA in this way:
Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.
Most of you reading this will remember the days when you could get access to (most) of the research you wanted–that was when you had electronic access to articles via your university time in undergrad or grad school. And lots of you will likely have a story of how you realized after leaving that university library system, your access to that very same research changed dramatically.
This is no accident: universities pay high subscription fees to publishers of research journals, and are under pressure to NOT extend that online access to alumni once they leave campus with their degrees. Moreover, the journals themselves (often owned and disseminated by large publishers like Elsevier, Springer, or Sage) charge a high per-paper fee, making it highly unlikely that a school clinician is going to spend the $30-40 per article to learn more about how to handle some issues that have come up on their caseload. And all of that work (labor) provided by the researchers and reviewers is itself unpaid, making it possible for most academic publishers to make hefty sums off the research products they publish, even when many of those research products were developed in part by funding from federal and state agencies. (I did a quick calculation of some of the articles I published in non-OA journals over the first 10 years of my work, and some quick calculations showed that for the number of citations of this research, the journal publisher would conceivably have been able to charge ~$15,000 for this research, money that certainly never came back to me and my colleagues, and a paywall that would have made it unlikely that these articles were widely read by an audience that didn’t have access to university subscriptions. )
And as the 2018 documentary film “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship” argues, this model of academic publishing is very old (dating back to the 1700s in the UK) and has produced profit margins for publishers that outpace those of massive corporations like Apple, Amazon, and Google.
The Good News: What we are doing to build OA in SSW
As the “Paywall” documentary shows, there is a lot of activity in the research and non-profit communities to fight for OA and to build ongoing infrastructure to get the best available evidence to practitioners and regular citizens. There may even be an Executive Order forthcoming from the Trump administration that also demands that federally funded research be made OA immediately, though publishers and scientific organizations that publish their own journals are lobbying against it. (Update 1/13/2020–SPARC, Creative Commons and 6 other OA advocates sent a letter supporting the potential Executive Order, see it here)OAWG-WH-Letter-Jan-8-2020
In the meantime, here at SSWN we have featured OA articles from time to time:
And here at SSWN we have put some effort into creating a new “SSWN Top 5” feature where leading researchers and practitioners are asked to share their Top 5 resources on a topic they know a lot about, with the requirement that all those resources be OA. (If you have an idea for a SSWN Top 5, reach out to us on Twitter @SchoolSocWork or e-mail me at [email protected])
Finally, we have our very own OA journal, the International Journal of School Social Work. I am proud to be part of the editorial team, and hope you find the articles we’re going to be sharing this year from IJSSW useful for your practice and research work. We’ll start later this week with an article we did for Vol. 4 of IJSSW:
In 2020, we’ll share lots of articles from IJSSW (always OA) as well as other OA resources and links as we find them. Happy New Year 2020: The Year of Open-Access Research on SSWN.