Author, consultant, and teacher Clay Shirky was the general session speaker on Wednesday, November 7 at the 2012 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado. The session was entitled “IT as a Core Academic Competence,” and within it Clay Shirky described how the Internet, especially as a milieu for collaboration, is dramatically impacting how people learn and changing the ways in which knowledge is created and shared. The video of the session is available on the EDUCAUSE website, and Shirky’s presentation, which starts about 20 minutes in, is well worth a view.
The first question in the Q&A following Shirky’s presentation (at 59:40) was about open access journals. His response:
The real tension around open access journals is that institutions occasionally get to this moment—the moment I think our community is in—where you’re given a choice between conserving your mission and conserving your practices. Institutions tend to want to preserve the problem to which they are the solution. And so we have a world where trying to keep the current structure of journals intact has become obviously a goal of, say, Reed Elsevier, but also it’s just the easy slot to fall into for tenure committees, if you know how to rank them. At the same time, we have open access journals, which are plainly more in line with our academic self-conception, mission, and goals. Not just for the generic spreading of information, but for the internal professional needs for wide self-criticism and conversation.
So the first thing I think you have to say about open access journals is: We have to support them. Interestingly, as the number of submissions to a journal goes up the quality of the submissions they can choose also goes up. … The other thing we can do, as some institutions have already done, is to announce that our institutional preference is for our mission and not our current practices, and that we expect faculty to expose their work widely for feedback and for conversation. That de facto means preferring the open access journals. Not as a way of intervening in the fight with Reed Elsevier, or what have you, but simply as a way of living up to our own stated goals. (emphasis added)