Friday, 2 November 2007

Open journals

Well everything was going swimmingly with Block 2: A great selection of readings relating to theory, with carefully crafted materials and integrated online activities to support them. But then... one of the readings on Activity Theory turned out not to be available through the (very expensive) journal subscriptions we already have. Recent issues of the journal yes, but not the particular issue with that reading in it.

Our Rights department dutifully trotted off to ask the publisher how much it would cost us to include this paper in the course, and they came back with a figure of £1,791 (about €2600 or US$3700)

Hmm... that's more than our rights budget for the whole course, so no thank you. Less law-abiding organisations would simply scan or photocopy the paper for their students. But we don't do that. So we've gone back to ask the publisher (who shall be nameless at this stage) to reconsider, otherwise we shall have to replace the paper and rewrite Week 9 of the course.

In the long-run of course, this kind of behaviour is likely to increase the attractiveness of open access journals, or some variant. At the same time, the OU already makes as many of its researchers' publications as it can freely available online. But the general public might not be aware that often academics have to sign away the copyright of their own work to the publishers of the journal in which it's published. And so academics might be unable to make their work freely available, even after some years have elapsed.

We'll see what happens...

Update 7 Nov: A happy resolution. A current subscription covering that particular journal issue has now been found.