[open-science] Open access, scholarship and business

Heather Morrison heatherm at eln.bc.ca
Mon Dec 12 18:30:21 UTC 2011

One of the arguments for open access is that is is good for business, as I wrote about a while ago:

The idea of scholarship as a benefit to business merits scrutiny, for a number of reasons. 

In recent decades, we have seen an encroachment of business (both corporations and processes) into the university. To some extent, this is our environment and we need to work within it. However, this is also a challenge to scholarship, and there is much to be said for pushing back rather than going along. The Edu-Factory website links to a number of the groups currently actively involved in pushback on the corporatization of the university:

More broadly, there are many who critique the neoliberal (free market) ideology of the past few decades. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, my understanding is that even some of the intellectual founders are now questioning the wisdom of this approach. The reason that this is pertinent to the present discussion on CC-BY licenses and public funding is that many of our arguments (e.g. return on investment in public funding) are very much imbued with neoliberal ideology. In some areas, this may be necessary to work with local funders and administrators, if this is all that they understand. Then too, some OA advocates may well be proponents of free market liberalism. However, not every open access advocate is a supporter of neoliberalism, and in some places there may be opportunities to push for BOTH the public good AND open access, for example through arguments centered around the public interest rather than ROI. I don't think that consensus on these political economic issues is possible, or even desirable, for the open access movement. I do think that it is important to understand that we have this diversity.

If business benefits from the public funding in scholarship, shouldn't this be a two-way street? Over the past few decades, businesses and those who benefit from them have successfully lobbied in many of our countries to reduce taxes for corporations and those who profit from them. The taxpayer access to publicly funded research argument works for businesses, too, I would argue - but only if they pay their share of taxes. 

Similarly, if business benefits from our work, shouldn't they have SOME obligation to reciprocate? In my area, data about the revenues scholarly publishers gather from our work as scholars is gathered by a company called Outsell, which charges in the range of about $800 - $1,200 for a report. As a scholar, I can't access this, even through my library, even the dollars counted on based on the work of people like me. To see what I mean, have a look at the Outsell store:


Heather Morrison, MLIS
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

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