Academics sharing their works – grey literature!

Here’s an….interesting…article from the Australian IT…"Top Down Push for Web" by Brendan O’Keefe 22 Feb, 2006.

It’s a report (sort of) from an unnamed conference (could have been library or information focused?) and there’s some interesting comments captured here – they appear to be quite conflicting, so I’m not sure what angle the reporter is attempting to present  – here’s a few:

"The campaign to encourage academics to store their work on websites open to peers was shifting from a preoccupation with technical issues to consideration of the social aspects, a conference has been told.

The organiser of a conference early this month on open repositories told the HES that the driving force of the movement was now top down, from the federal education department and universities, rather than from the bottom up, such as international campaigner Steve Harnad. [and why would the federal government be doing this?]

University of Sydney library manager of innovation and development Ross Coleman told the conference: "We’re moving from the technical to the community." The social aspects included intellectual property rights, finding ways to broaden the user-base and making repositories sustainable to ensure that "in 10 or 20 years, the stuff is still available". [storing data for long term access is social not technical???]

"People worry about putting their stuff up on open access but there are ways of protecting people’s work," Mr Coleman said. [ what are they trying to protect? – don’t they (the academics) want their works published and read by broader audiences?]

"In DSpace all meta data is open-archive compliant, which means people can find out it’s there but in terms of seeing the content itself, we can protect that. [ So – it’s not openly available then…it’s going to be pay per view? or subscription through libraries…?]

The Queensland University of Technology has begun a project that academics hope will make knowledge free to all, from members of the public to top-tier researchers. [right – now we’re talking open access… ]

QUT school of law professor Brian Fitzgerald has $1.3million and two years to develop the Open Access to Knowledge Law project, which aims to remove barriers to the use of information on university websites. Professor Fitzgerald said that if academics were confident their work was safeguarded, they would be more willing to make it public. "Information could be used by someone suffering from epilepsy, diabetes or asthma to better understand their condition and treatment," he said. [So – it’s not copyright academics are worried about – it’s people using the information?]

Works published on open access were mainly conference papers, pre-publication scholarly papers, post-print papers or, with publishers’ permission, "grey literature" (works in progress), according to MrColeman. [ GREY literature….now there’s a good term – so all those works on weblogs and other forms of scholarly dialogue across distributed networks is…grey? (does that imply "of no value"?…as opposed to…black & white perhaps (read printed / published)?]

Open repositories were "probably not a threat to large publishers, though some people like to think [they are]", Mr Coleman said. [ aaah – now we might be getting closed to the underlying message…..large publishers feeling threatend…]

"Some of the journals allow authors to put their work in the local repositories, but that’s not the final, edited copy. [and therefore it’s of no value?????]

"The large publishers are still getting their heads around this." [ and that’s, of course, the most important issue here….is it?]

Seems to me that the large publishers are inciting a rather clever campaign to de-value anything that’s not black & white and published in their space. Yet the article suggests the federal government are trying to encourage academics to share their works more broadly….looks like some conflict issues about to arise here.

The implications? Go grey….it’s only a matter of time before that becomes a more colourful option! 🙂