Tag Archives: willinsky

John Willinsky – The Open Access Advantage for Research: It’s more than the Price

My notes from John Willinsky’s talk at the APSR Open Access Publishing Workshop (they are a bit rough):

What is important = Mobilisation of knowledge

Background on PKP – a humble project with humble origins
Business model = PKP gets grants for research projects, and in the course of that research they develop software
John started out in 1998 with this out of frustration as an educator – his primary goal was being able to excite kids about knowledge
Once he become Prof – goal was exciting teachers about knowledge
Frustrating as an educator to not be able to share knowledge with students except when they were at the university, on campus, talking and accessing the material that the university pays for. But once they leave the university they have nothing – library cards are taken away – essentially told their thirst for knowledge must end once they leave the university
So why are we teaching people to be interested in learning and knowledge if we don’t make the knowledge available to them?

Consequences of the serials crisis was about access to knowledge in a fundamental way
Internet was exciting and filled people with hope because suddenly access was possible

Principle of the 1990s – asking, how are we going to make this work? On what basis can we circulate this?
People didn’t wait for an answer
They just started putting things up
And discovered that they got traffic; there were readers; people were interested

PKP started in 1998 – but realized they weren’t going to be able to convince people to put their journals online and make them free
Because then people were asking, what will it cost?
And we are still trying to answer that

Now, John proposes that this is a misleading question
He is not asking us to reconcile how some journals are publishing entirely with a zero budget while other journals have huge expenses
Different journals work on different economies, habits etc
All PKP wanted to do was contribute to this
Another piece to a complex puzzle
A piece that said, YOU can decide how much this will cost – will you use open software or not, will you have volunteers or paid work…etc?
There are some journals that have always been run on nothing more than the enthusiasm of academics and they deserve the proper software for this
That is why there is such a DIY focus to the software
And why PKP uses open source software

Business model for open source software = people don’t pay for software but they contribute to the software and build a community of users
This sounds a lot like scholarship
The software and the publishing model could come together

Saw value of work not in its profit or loss, but the value in its circulation

PKP continues to be funded from research grants, principally from Canadian Government

Want to provide a choice for the academic community – academics deciding how they want to shape the products they are creating


1. Research e.g. – Open Medicine

Series of editors for Canadian Association of Medicine were fired because Association was not happy with the direction they were taking with the journal ($$)
Board resigned because they were upset the editors were fired
PKP offered the free software as an opportunity
Not fair that CMA and pharmaceutical companies could interfere with the research being disseminated
So these formerly well paid editors decided to form an open journal called Open Medicine
Agreed they would not accept medical advertising, and they would make their content available immediately for free
Has been difficult
Now on the brink on being indexed
Established for themselves the possibility of running a journal on a different economy
Interesting academic freedom questions – not just about the money
About keeping universities and academics at the forefront of what makes research daring
We need to see the libraries of our universities as public institutions

2. Eg – research on registered massage therapists

It was discovered that registered massage therapist they were entirely engaged in the research in PubMed, and frustrated that they could only see 15% of research that was available. They were not prepared to tell their clients about the research unless they could see the methodologies – interesting that this group would raise their standard of care in accordance with the open access of material

3. E.g. – Wikipedia

Finished a study on Wikipedia as a public point of entry
Fact that so many people are coming together to discuss and debate knowledge is itself a public good
Asked how much research is being included in wikipedia
Compared with Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – peer reviewed, free, in text links, etc
Found that 80% of entries in Stanford E of P are being cited in Wikipedia [me: that’s pretty cool]
Wikipedia may not be accurate about some things, but it is accurate about Aristotle, Descarte, the meaning of life – to the extent that it is citing peer reviewed literature
In a 2 week period, ¾ of the 80% cited were viewed and discussed
180 000 references to peer reviewed literature in W (but most of it not freely available)

Where are PKP going next?

Open access = public access

(1) Monograph is one of the most exciting developments moving forward
What we have done with journals has only harmed monographs
“shrinking monograph budget”
The thoroughness of an argument in a monograph is an important intellectual property that we cannot allow to disappear
If we discourage people from thinking in book length thought than the quality of research will decline

Want to create a digital option with print on demand for monograph
Want to use the same principles of OJS and OCS
Monograph system for monographs that would not otherwise get published – e.g. studies show that if you are working in Latin American history at an American university, then you will not get your monograph published

Want to bring in some ideas:
1. Bring back the great ideal of a wonderful editor – using the social network
2. Want to build an incubator where authors can start to put their work and where an editor could say – “I think this looks promising – let’s see if you have a book here”
3. Encourage people to think about whether they have a book or not and start developing it at an early stage
4. Make sure people are aware of what is already out there
5. Mainly about conceptualization – the monograph is something that needs an alternative approach to – the universities have set the parameters of what they are willing to publish as a monograph and we think that it is unacceptable – need to foster more extensive work
6. Want to create a publication area that lasts for longer – build a place for the book to be a permanent part of a growing culture – all comments received in the incubator become part of the book’s development

(2) how can we create better quality layout in a way that costs less
product = lemon8-xml
like a great copy editor
e.g. can compare bibliography with bibliographies in PubMed and correct mistakes

(3) Working with Dataverse Network (out of Harvard with Gary King) to make data citable and will give the data a “thumbprint” so that if people download the data and use it and don’t credit you, then you can find them