Electronic Resources & Libraries 2013: Notes from “The Social Economy of Open Access”

This year I’m getting the amazing opportunity to attend Electronic Resources & Libraries conference for FREE by being a volunteer. (For any library students looking for a way to attend local conferences at reduced rates, ask the organizers about volunteering—not only is it a great way to get access to a conference, you also get a lot of great networking opportunities by working at, for example, the registration/information desk and meeting and greeting presenters or vendors.)

I’m also doing a lot of tweeting about the conference and engaging in conversations. ER&L is very active about promoting discussions and live tweetings through resources such as TweetChat (I’m in the #erl13 room). A lot of people seemed energized and excited about my quotes and musings about the session on “The Social Economy of Open Access,” so here are some of the notes I took this afternoon:

The Social Economy of Open Access

  • Social Economy
    • Exchange happens
      • Through the market (private sector, trade)
      • Through the hierarchy (public sector, redistribution)
      • Through social economy (community, reciprocity)
    • “A third sector in economies between the private sector and business or, the public sector and government. It includes organizations such as cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, and charities.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_economy)
    • Society tends to organize activities through the method of exchange that works the best
      • Technology can be disruptive to this
    • Social communities and economies are founded on reciprocity — both give & take
      • Gift exchange: obligation to reciprocate but uncertainty in the nature of the return gift
      • Knowledge gifts are awkward — if you give someone a gift of knowledge, they have to find a way to give it back to you constructively
    • Trust and reputation effects: benefits of continuous cooperation
    • Weaknesses in social economy
      • Potentially oppressive
      • Too much selfishness
  • Social Economy and Open Access
    • Articles are donated — they represent a knowledge gift exchange
    • Peer Review
      • Community inclusion
      • Shared values
    • Subscriptions (market distribution)
      • It works, it creates the metrics by which we understand the relative value of a resource, how “scholarly” an article is and how much quality it has
      • Print & electronic journals
    • Open access (social distribution)
    • Open Access is a chess game between a market economy and a social economy
      • The social economy serves to maximize shareholder value
      • Social economy’s victory when market serves to enable universal access and use outside of the walled garden of scholarly institutions
      • Society will ultimately choose the better method of exchange
    • Peer Review is the heart of the scholarly publishing machine
    • Costs
      • Subscription costs vs authors paying to cover the cost of producing journal
        • Gold OA model
    • Legal mandates — President Obama’s new mandates to make government-funded research open & public after embargo period
    • Green vs Gold
      • Green represents more cooperative strategy
        • Peer review and transaction costs
        • Subscriptions aren’t falling and prices aren’t falling vs traditional journals
      • Gold represents a more competitive strategy
    • “The Three Pillars of the Social Economy” by Dr. Marguerite Mendell
    • Leadership
      • Crucial — people have to be talking and working with different models
    • Social enterprise
    • Favorable policy environment
    • Chantier de l’économie sociale
      • Cooperatives
      • Non-profits
      • Community Economic Development Organizations
      • Social movements
      • Wide arrange of social services and community programs/services all under a single heading
    • “The risk that the social economy may also add up to numerous fragmented initiatives at the margins”
      • Relevant insight to open access as so many different organizations/players/acronyms spring up and vie for success/resources
    • It’s hard to force a journal to lower its prices — too many people are invested in the availability of a resource, i.e. faculty wanting access to traditional journals reduces the ability of librarians to negotiate for lower prices or better deals with e.g. Elsevier
  • What’s missing?
    • “Integrated Systemic Approach”
      • “Network of networks”
    • “Negotiating Capacity”
    • “Institutional Innovation”
  • Recommendations
    • Unprecedented social coordination and innovation
      • Between faculty/users and librarians — serve their needs and desires while also working with and for them for change
        • Cater to their self interest and develop prestige
    • A new non-governmental organization
    • Take care of both green and gold OA models
      • Can libraries become the largest publishers of gold journals/articles?
    • Evolve libraries and librarianship to empower change by incorporating new models while serving users’ traditional wants
  • Hybridize policies to address why OA is good and build bridges between new and old models
  • Libraries are the most logical and efficient agency to manage and participate in global OA publishing models
    • Is publishing interchangeable with librarianship?
    • Are libraries really the most efficient institutions?
    • Librarians CAN offer strong skills in evaluation/review of articles

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