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Universities and Open Access

Posted: August 8th, 2011   |   Category: Open

A group of universities – including Concordia from Canada – has announced a Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI).

This type of initiative will prove to be vital in the coming years as more organizations seek out information that is created and organized by universities.

Several other Canadian universities have made declarations that their scholarly materials will be made available in an open format, including the Universities of Waterloo, Saskatchewan, Guelph, Queen’s, Calgary, York, and others.

Michael Geist covers the topic in great detail via his regular Toronto Star column on copyright and digital matters.  What’s important in this discussion is the notion that universities that dump the Access Copyright requirements in favour of open access will likely increase their prospects with respect to attracting students who won’t have to worry about the high cost of accessing information or academics that no longer have to worry about their content being buried in a legal bureaucracy.

The other thought is that universities in Canada and elsewhere will have to allow professors and instructors to retain control over the content that they generate.  This is a fundamental ‘game changer’ as far as content generation goes and recognizes the dynamics associated with crowd-sourced content and discussions, along with ownership of ‘ideas’.

Over the past few years, I’ve met with a number of people with local educational programs and was shocked at the limitations that are placed on instructors when it comes to content.  Universities and colleges look at this content – my ideas, my research and my outlines – as their content as soon as you cash a cheque from them.

Is this fair?  They obviously have their rationale for this, but the reality is that the market – ie. me – doesn’t fell it’s fair and the market – ie. me – has no interest in providing services to educational institutions as long as they have this attitude.  As a result, students may not be getting the best possible education because instructors ‘hold back’ in terms of content, course materials and other program details.

No one wins under this kind of a model and as information changes rapidly, it’s important that we understand and feel confident about discussing the multitude of opportunities and changes that take place every day in order to maximize the benefits for instructors, students and ultimately, the institutions they work with.

In summary, Open Access policies are vital to the exchange of ideas at the university level.

With all this in mind, what is the University of Western Ontario doing to push forward with Open Access and will they join an organization like the COAPI?

Bill Wittur
Bottree Digital Services

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