The Green Open Access: Significant Scientific Considerations in the Light of Public Policy and Access to Knowledge

The Green Open Access: Significant Scientific Considerations in the Light of Public Policy and Access to Knowledge

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1131-2.ch003


This chapter considers green open access (e.g., OARs). OARs constitute a contemporary response regarding the dissemination of information. Thus, it is important to examine theoretical arguments about the desirability of OARs in the digital age. The chapter argues that OARs could be seen as a form of social justice towards strengthening social cohesion in modern societies. The argument relies on the concept of public policy as one means of achieving social justice. The discussion about OARs aligns with public policy, and social justice considerations should be examined. Additionally, the chapter demonstrates that public policy should concentrate on social cohesion, whereas open access could be considered as an instrument towards social cohesion. The chapter is divided into three broad topics. First, two main justifications for access to knowledge are addressed: (1) the philosophical justification, based on the concept that knowledge is power, and it is significant that everyone has access to knowledge; and (2) the pragmatic justification that it is impractical to enforce copyright in the traditional sense in this digital age. Second, the concept of social justice and relevant theories are considered. Third, theories concerning connections between public policy and social justice towards social cohesion are examined.
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In this chapter, it is argued that unfettered access to information and knowledge is important to create a just global society. Access to knowledge through OARs can be understood as a related dimension of this concept. OARs are an efficient mechanism to enable interaction of technical developments with copyright laws to disseminate information legitimately. Scholars argue that knowledge is power and, therefore, OA can determine an appropriate pathway to power (Elden & Crampton, 2012). Thus, current copyright laws and policies should be examined, and such examination would lead to a rigorous theoretical argument about the desirability of OARs in the digital age. OA can also be understood as a form of social justice, which can strengthen social cohesion in modern societies. Public participation can ensure that just policies are enacted and, therefore, the creation of public spaces for consensus formation is necessary (Boeder, 2005; Rawls, 2009). This argument will be developed by relying on the concept of public policy that constitutes a means of achieving social cohesion, as good governance requires that people participate in policy formation.

The chapter deals with three broad, interrelated matters. In the first part, an examination of justifications for OA (as a means of access to knowledge) is undertaken. There is discussion about two main justifications for access to knowledge: (a) the philosophical justification that knowledge is power and for that reason it is important that everyone has access to knowledge, and (b) the pragmatic justification that recognises that in this digital age it is impractical to enforce copyright in the traditional sense. The first justification in the first section relies on Foucault’s views about the relation between power and knowledge, wherein he argues that knowledge is power. The second section addresses the pragmatic issue and uses examples that highlight the impracticability of copyright enforcement, which necessitates reform of the copyright regime. Both justifications for greater access to knowledge are, in turn, arguments for access to information resources like the OARs.

The second matter follows from the above. That is, access to knowledge is necessary to create a just society. For enabling a socially just society, an assessment of social justice theories is required. Thus, in the second part of the chapter, there is a focus on the concept of social justice; the argument in this chapter relies on Rawls’ theory of justice, which attempts to solve the issue of distributive justice. Rawls’ views help to point out the importance of the appropriate form for social justice and the crucial role of distributive justice in society. In the context of this book, justice requires that OA should be integrated with copyright laws. Integration here does not necessarily require changing copyright standards but does require adopting licensing policies, improving government initiatives, and so on. Therefore, OARs are one way of making access to knowledge available in a fair manner. However, for OARs to exist in this manner, appropriate public policy should be formulated (Birkland, 2014; Cairney, 2012; Richards & Martin, 2002). Hence, a related issue to be examined is about whether social justice and public policy are interrelated. Thus, social cohesion could be enhanced by just public policy, and in that sense, OARs could be one means of creating a cohesive society, both nationally and globally.

Therefore, the third part of this chapter examines the issue of generating social consensus for making appropriate public policies. In this regard, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views about the social contract need to be combined with Habermas’ theory. That is, the consensus of social contract cannot be assumed, but must be generated in modern societies (Hillier, 2003). In this part, an examination of Habermas’ views will help create a theoretical foundation for the argument that a cohesive society requires the involvement of well-informed participants or civil society in creating consensus. However, Habermas’ ideas about the public sphere need to be adapted to current circumstances in view of the digital age after the emergence of the Internet. Therefore, in the digital age, the public sphere in Habermas’ terms is constituted, to a significant extent, through the Internet. This is where everyone is or should be able to create, share, disseminate and freely discuss ideas. In this way, the Internet is a crucial component for the construction of social consensus. Such consensus will enable the construction of appropriate policies of OARs.

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