Open Access - a Panacea? Science, Society, Democracy, Digital Divide

From: Ulrich Herb <u.herb_at_SULB.UNI-SAARLAND.DE>
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 15:58:34 +0100

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Dear list,

I just published a preprint at SSRN, it focuses on sociological
implications of Open Access. I still have to fix some things, but
perhaps it might be of interest for some of you. It would be very nice
if the ones that read it could give me some feedback.


Claims for Open Access are mostly underpinned with
a) science-related arguments (Open Access accelerates scientific
b) financial arguments (Open Access relieves the serials crisis),
c) social (Open Access reduces the Digital Divide),
d) democracy-related arguments (Open Access facilitates participation)
e) and socio-political arguments (Open Access levels disparities).

Using sociological concepts and notions this article analyses some of
the presumptions mentioned. It focuses strongly on Pierre Bourdieu's
theory of (scientific) capital and its implications for the acceptance
of Open Access, Michel Foucault's discourse analysis and the
implications of Open Access for the Digital Divide concept. Bourdieu's
theory of capital implies that the acceptance of Open Access depends on
the logic of power and the accumulation of scientific capital. It does
not depend on slogans derived from hagiographic self-perceptions of
science (e.g. the acceleration of scientific communication) and
scientists (e.g. their will to share their information freely).
According to Bourdieu's theory it is crucial for Open Access (and
associated concepts like alternative impact metrics) how scientists
perceive its potential influence on existing processes of capital
accumulation and how it will affect their demand for distinction.
Considering the Digital Divide concept Foucault's discourse analysis
suggests that Open Access may intensify disparities, scientocentrisms
and ethnocentrisms.

Keywords: Open Access, Scientific Publishing, Scientific Communication,
Theory of Science, Sociology, Democracy, Digital Divide, Pierre
Bourdieu, Social Capital, Scientific Capital, Journal Impact Factor,
Michel Foucault, Discourse Analysis

Best regards

Ulrich Herb

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Saarland University and State Library, Germany
Repository Manager, Specialist Electronic Publishing & Open Access
Address: POB 15 11 41,
                  D-66041 Saarbruecken
Telephone: +49-681-302-2798
Fax: +49-681-302-2796
Received on Tue Nov 04 2008 - 22:23:04 GMT

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