BILETA 2008 : Open Access

The last (official) business of the day was a series of parallel presentations/experiments/workshops; I passed by the fun-looking projections and computers and went to an interesting panel under the banner of the recently relaunched SCRIPT-ed (the open access periodical managed by the University of Edinburgh). Journal editors Wiebke Abel and Shawn Harmon put together a session on open access and legal scholarship.

Speaker Andres Guadamuz (Edinburgh), co-director of SCRIPT, previewed the session on his blog, here and session chair Shawn Harmon, after introducing the panel, discussed SCRIPT-ed and their approach to peer review and rapid turnarounds (always welcome). He pointed in particular to the interdisciplinary nature of work in the technology-law-society area. Finally, he highlighted the call for papers and registration for the March 2009 conference.

Andres then spoke about the importance of open access to legal information. Licences such as the GNU FDL (used by Wikipedia) or those developed by Creative Commons are important; it’s not just about making something available online without charge, although a lot of publishers/republishers have yet to grasp these subtleties and are still quite risk-averse. The Berlin Declaration, on the other hand, is more about access, but requires peer review. Policymakers and research councils, then, may have different definitions again; the latter are interested in the role of public money and the making available of the resulting work to the public, and policies on public sector information (including caselaw) add further complexity. In response to a question, he also discussed pre-prints (SSRN etc).

John MacColl (St. Andrew’s University Library), spoke about open access repositories and his experience in developing such at the University of Edinburgh. Librarians come at these issues with lots of reasons in mind : in particular, budgets are stretched (research libraries can spend over three-quarters of their materials budget on periodicals including licence fees). Interestingly, the debate has been a more gentle one in Australia, because without a strong publishing industry, that major source of opposition wasn’t present as it is in the UK. He explained how ERA, the Edinburgh Research Archive worked, and how academics deal with it, referring to the two databases for checking on publisher and research council policies (Romeo and Juliet). Institutional, national or funding-council ‘mandates’ are extremely important; the new research assessment methods in the UK, which will include metrics, will also be relevant. (For the record, the institutional repository at my own institution was very much influenced by Edinburgh’s; our library is still working hard on getting staff and research students to submit, so if you’re one of my TCD audience, think about doing so?).

Diane Rowland (Aberystwyth) opened with a story about a colleague who didn’t want to publish in an online-only journal (“I like paper” was his reason). The serious issues are quality, prestige and impact – and the perception of these issues. A stronger commitment (from the discipline, as well as from individual schools or departments) is necessary – for example, in the RAE just gone by, articles in web-based journals were not in the same category as ‘journal articles’ more generally. Like John MacColl, she was interested in the development of new metrics and what this would mean for the journals as well as for individual behaviour.

Prof. Abdul Paliwala (Warwick) is the director of the Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). He reflected on the development of the journal and in particular looked forward to a forthcoming issue on legal education that would make some use of multimedia, reinforcing the decision not to have a paper-version. He suggested a meeting of all those people involved in the free and open access movements.

Finally, Burkhard Schafer (Edinburgh) spoke about the purpose and status of peer review more generally. He went from low-copy numbers in DNA to the credibility and accuracy of citations and wondered about the development of standards (‘seals of approval’, perhaps?)

And now my battery is dying, so that’s it for ‘live’ blogging for today, but there’ll be more tomorrow…

One single comment

  1. Good effort! I’ve put in a link on the UKCLE front page and will be following your blog closely…

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