A Public History Newbie's Thoughts on Everything and Nothing

Public History. Comments. Questions. Sarcasm. Maybe Some Hippie Rants.

To Free? Or Not To Free?

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Should academic scholarship should be free to the public? Professors, researchers, students and institutes around the world, have been asking that question for almost ten years now.

In 2005 Roy Rosenzweig wrote a now famous (at least in the academic community) essay on the question. To read it yourself, explore the link below.

In an obvious way, the 2005 article has dated itself. At that time he stated that “For the student and amateur, the Web seemingly is a free library and archive, but as most teachers and scholars know, this library has relatively little serious scholarship—especially scholarship in the humanities.” When he wrote the article he included that in the field of computer science there was a growth in online articles being cited much more than offline articles.

This is simply not the case now. Serious scholarship from the humanities and history has found a new home on the Internet and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. But, that point is irrelevant to the larger concern over who can access scholarly writings and at what cost.

Rosenzweig offers many routes to publish or access works. One, ‘self-archiving,’ is scholars themselves making “their work available for free through personal web sites.” This concept has been debated in my Digital History course in Grad school. After the class discussion I was left wondering, what looking for info will be searching personal sites or blogs instead of acceptable and peer reviewed publications that can be used in their own research? And, some of my peers pointed out the side of the self-archiving academic-that they are frankly worried about others pilfering their work.

An article by Jason Schmitt in the Huffington Post looks at the universities and the system of academic publishing as a whole. I agree with his stance that money used by “universities and funding agencies on journal access could otherwise be spent on reducing tuition, supporting research, and all things that are more important than paying corporate publishers.” I come from a very low income family and am not ashamed to say that. That has made me hyper aware of the demand of tuition, books and housing while struggling to keep enough gas in the car just to get to class. While I now have reached a place financially that undergraduate-me would have drooled over, it still makes me sad to think of the university money spent paying for journal subscriptions that could be used to alleviate undergraduate costs.

Like many people, I am clearly torn about the prospect of free journals. As a Grad student in need of large amount of journals at any given moment I would love to be able to have free access to everything.

However, I am not a publishing academic, therefore I don’t have the same concern over the protection of my professional papers. Academics spend time and effort as well as funds (if they don’t fight to get a research grant) in order to produce a piece. Then, they must go through peer reviews and editing hoops in hopes of receiving academic credibility. How can their work not be protected on subscription journals? They deserve to have their work protected and receive a cut.

In summary… I have no idea.


Author: greengoddesshistory

Public History Masters Student. Museum Director. Trail Runner. Gym Lover. Dove owner.

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