Alice MacGillivray

Supporting Leadership & Knowledge Work Across Boundaries

Archive for September, 2009

A down side of open access journals

The latest notable milestone in the open access journal movement is the announcement by Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, and U of C Berkeley that they have formed an open access journal compact in order to share research more widely.

Most peer-reviewed journals are not available to the general public (or even the thoughtful public). Annual subscriptions are expensive. The people who read scholarly journals are the ones who tend to write for scholarly journals: faculty members working in universities and paid for doing research as part (or all) of their responsibilities. To compensate for the subscriptions costs, some open access journals charge authors for publishing accepted papers.

According to Harvard professor Shieber who authored the five-university agreement, “Universities and funding agencies ought to provide equitable support for open-access publishing by subsidizing the processing fees that faculty incur when contributing to open-access publications. Right now, these fees are relatively rare. But if the research community supports open-access publishing and it gains in importance as we believe that it will, those fees could aggregate substantially over time. The compact ensures that support is available to eliminate these processing fees as a disincentive to open-access publishing.”

It’s comforting that he acknowledges fees as a potential barrier. However, the article seems to assume research is done by faculty members. What about the independent scholar-practitioner who does good research to enhance his or her work and vice versa? I have seen many exciting presentations at conferences by people who have little or no formal association with universities. My guess is that their university associations are often with young, innovative institutions rather than “top tier” institutions with large endowments. They are an interesting and marginalized group. If we want scholarship to influence practice and have practical experience influencing scholarship in real time, will open access journals with author fees be another barrier to that integration?

As Clarke and Kingsley point out, the unlocking of intellectual property is an idea in-progress; hopefully its directions will be studied from many perspectives.

Universities and Community Engagement

My PhD is from Fielding Graduate University, which is well known and respected in some spheres, and largely invisible in others. Its model is quite unusual, so it isn’t surprising that conventional measures do not always highlight its strengths. Recently, work by Associate Dean Katrina Rogers and others led to some interesting recognition. As Dean McClintock wrote in a recent upate:

  • A highlight of the past year was the designation by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching of Fielding as a university distinguished by its commitment to community engagement. This important classification was made in recognition of the work of our students, faculty and alumni in social justice and change in communities throughout the United States. Key to this recognition was the focus we bring to Fielding research and practice projects through our Institute for Social Innovation. Fielding is the first free-standing graduate university to have earned this designation. We are in good company with the other institutions designated by Carnegie including Colorado State, Duke, Iowa State, Ohio State, Purdue, Swarthmore College, Tulane, U Mass and Washington State.

One of the elements of this recognition I find quite interesting is that the community engagement happens in many ways. Although Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation does organize opportunities for community engagement, many initiatives are initiated through the interests, activities and professions of the PhD students (who are usually mid career professionals). Two of my friends and colleagues–Alex Bennet, the former CIO and CKO of the American Navy, and Juanita Brown of the World Cafe–are two examples of program graduates who have done work that has had influence across many parts of the globe. The 1:1 learning contract approach in many facets of Fielding’s graduate programs provides a rich–though ambiguous–landscape in which to develop new perspectives and skills, and make a difference in the real world. Many academics struggle with how to make time for real-world contributions and many practitioners struggle with how to make use of academic studies. It’s wonderful to see recognition of this bridging of scholar and practitioner worlds through the Carnegie Foundation.