The Role of Open Access in Enhancing Equitable Curricula and Research Outputs: Global Context

The Role of Open Access in Enhancing Equitable Curricula and Research Outputs: Global Context

Angela Y. Ford, Daniel Gelaw Alemneh
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9805-4.ch007
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When educators have difficulty accessing peer-reviewed research, it is inequitable to expect them to compete with educators who have access to a plethora of resources. Inequities have been a historically-identified educational problem; however, the forced online learning that occurred during COVID-19 restrictions amplified discrepancies experienced by tertiary educators. Scholars who were forced to work without strong information communication technologies infrastructure and who experienced limited access to online resources struggled more than those that had 24-hour uninhibited access. Education came to a near standstill for those that could not easily move their activities online. Prior to the pandemic, individuals working with curricula were already feeling handicapped by the lack of access. When physical libraries were closed, it became nearly impossible for many to move forward. This chapter explores the changing publishing paradigms, particularly the role of OA and how increasing open dissemination of scholarly outputs can reduce inequities in curricula and research activities.
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Educators and researchers continue to adapt to the changes in how scholarly works are published, disseminated, and retrieved. Gone are the days of publications being housed predominantly as print copies of journals and books shipped directly to institutions, organizations, or individuals and stored on library shelves where researchers would spend full days looking through stacks to find specific articles, chapters, or books. Now most educators, researchers, and students use online databases to access digital resources; a process that can be done from anywhere in the world if the correct mechanisms are in place and available for individuals attempting to gain access.

Unlimited and unrestricted access to high quality scholarship is a critical component for effective and efficient curricula building and research in most disciplines. For educators and researchers in developed countries this access is almost a given; something often taken for granted. However, this is not the case for many educators who find themselves in less developed or lower-income countries. For these individuals, attempting to gain access to the desired and even required scholarship is an ongoing challenge.

In high income countries, educators and researchers may occasionally come across an article, chapter, or book that their library does not have immediate access to, and they run into a paywall. Most of these individuals have contacts and resources available to find a free way to gain access. Whether it is through an interlibrary loan, because their library is a part of a larger network, a colleague at another institution who has access, or some other means, this situation is resolved and the article, chapter, or even book are obtained and thus become available for use. This is not the case for individuals in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). These educators and researchers come across such resource restrictions more often due to the limited nature of their online libraries, and when they do experience such obstacles, they do not always have contacts and resources as readily available to assist them. This increases the chances that they will not gain access to the specific resources they seek.

When educators and researchers struggle to obtain the literature they need, it is not only frustrating, but it can also cause some individuals or even whole departments to be unable to complete the goals they have set for high-quality reviews and even for the foundational grounding of their own studies in the current literature. This may cause scholars to use limited or lower quality articles that are not quite as on target as ones that are blocked behind a paywall. The very nature of educational pursuits depends on access to established knowledge. When peer reviewed research is inaccessible or locked away for only certain privileged scholars, we are perpetuating not only the uneven distribution by blocking the less privileged from working with the information, but also blocking production of future research that could enhance areas of knowledge. This is a concern of equity, social justice, and epistemic justice.

The working definition of social justice to be used in this chapter comes from work examining Open Education, however, also applies in the context of Open Access (OA). The preferred definition of social justice is: “A process and also a goal to achieve a fairer society which involves actions guided by the principles of redistributive justice, recognitive justice or representational justice” (Lambert, 2018, p. 227). These principles will be explored later in this chapter with specific emphasis to issues and potential impacts, as well as the need for OA in particular. As to the understanding of epistemic justice, Fricker (2013) explains this as an area of philosophy that either values or devalues the ability of individuals or groups to be knowers. She goes on to explain that distributive epistemic injustice takes place when there is, “an unfair distribution of epistemic goods such as education or information” and further articulates that discriminatory epistemic injustice includes situations where individuals or groups experience a “deficit of credibility” and thus experience prejudice when sharing information (Fricker, 2013, p.1318). Both types are experienced in the case of scholars from LMICs, distributive when there is a lack of access, and discriminatory, when there are undue challenges or even an inability to produce and disseminate scholarly works.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-archiving: The process of depositing your research output to a repository along with bibliographic metadata.

Embargo: Restriction of access to the content of a copy of a work for a defined period of time.

Copyright: A legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.

Article Processing Charge (APC): A publisher’s fee paid by an author (or their lab or grant) that is used to support the process of publishing a journal article. The result is usually gold (immediate) open access to the research output.

Subject Repository (Also Known as Discipline Repository): A digital collection that archives and makes available works of scholarship in particular fields.

Open Educational Resources (OER): Teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

Green Open Access: A version of a journal article or other work of scholarship which is made available through open access in a location other than the official publication of record, such as an institutional repository, a subject or disciplinary repository, or the author's personal website or other web-accessible digital archive, that is compliant with the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Publishers usually stipulate the version of manuscript that can be self-archived and the length of embargo period following publication before the paper is made open access.

Publishing Agreement: A legal contract between publisher and author(s) to publish written material by the author(s).

Creative Commons (CC): A nonprofit organization that offers freely available copyright licenses that provide a legal framework for giving users the ability to freely view, download and distribute content. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are not an alternative to copyright and work alongside copyright to reserve certain rights for themselves and those to whom they grant permission. Authors might be required or advised by their funders to choose particular CC licenses, such as CC-BY, when publishing their research as Gold OA.

Epistemic Injustice: When individuals or groups experience prejudice as knowers. This is experienced through the inability to access knowledge through scholarly works and the inability to produce and disseminate new knowledge.

Open Access License: The license outlines what a person may do with a third-party copyright work. An example of an open license is a Creative Commons (CC) license, which combines 4 basic elements: the attribution, the derivatives, the commercial use, and the ‘share-alike’ principle.

Institutional Repository: A repository affiliated with a specific institution. In addition to preprints and published works, most allow members of the institution's community to submit other forms of scholarship, such as presentations, working papers, reports, etc. (e.g., UNT's institutional repository: ).

Metadata: Data that describes other data. For items in open access repositories, this usually consists of a full bibliographic information that facilitate access and use (e.g., title, creators, abstract, keywords and similar information).

Copyright Transfer Agreement: A legal document containing provisions for the conveyance of full or partial copyright from the rights owner to another party.

Post-Print: A manuscript draft after it has been peer reviewed, often with the publisher's design and page numbers.

Gold OA: A publishing model in which the official publication of research article is freely and immediately available for all to read and licensed for reuse by others. Typically, gold open access publishing models require an article processing charge (APC) paid to the publisher to make the item freely available to read through the publisher website. The model of not charging APCs at all (with publication supported through some other means, like the model in which this book is published) is sometimes called platinum OA or diamond OA .

Pre-Print: Preliminary version of an article that has not undergone peer review but that may be shared for comment.

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