27 April 2012

PaleoJudaica.com: Open Access controversy

A little morning-coffee post for this lovely April day...

This morning over at his blog (PaleoJudaica.com: Open Access controversy), Jim Davila weighs on with a thoughtful post on the on-going open-access controversy and the AIA's recent Archaeology editorial firmly opposing it.

A number of friends and colleagues have already made public statements about this (for example, Sebastian Heath and Charles E. Jones) and there's plenty out there on the benefits of OA, so I'm not going to rehash those specifics, but I do want to comment on the role of government. Jim writes that on the question of "whether governments should step in and enforce [OA] now, top down. The AIA says no, and I agree."

So let's be clear on just what Jim and AIA leadership are agreeing to: the more particular question here is whether the US government should require that data resulting from research paid for by the government (that is, by those of us who are US taxpayers) should be made freely available to those people who paid for it. It's already well established that lots of data that the US government pays for is freely available. Go to the Census website for example, and there you can download literally gigabytes of census data, much of it already very conveniently organized and presented in easily understood ways.

The government isn't saying that everyone has to make all their data freely available to everyone, just that those of us who benefit from government funding to obtain those data need to do that. I just don't see how that's not a fair request, and the argument that a wealthy industry will be harmed by it doesn't do much for me. Was the government supposed to shut down the internet because newspapers took a big hit? They paid for that too.

(For the record, I'm myself a beneficiary of government spending on technology as a co-PI on an NEH Digital Humanities Grant.)

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