PKP 2007 Opening Keynote

Last night’s energetic keynote address from John Willinsky was humorous and engaging, and offered several interesting insights on the history and future of OA. Under the title 10 Years After, he recapped the history of the PKP, which started out as a “project” he expected to last a few months in 1997 and morphed into the much larger body of works and research that it is today. I won’t try to recap the details of that history, but I’ll report some of the current statistics that show the success and variety of the PKP Open Journals System (OJS) software. Currently over 1000 journals make us of the software to offer their contents online in 11 languages (69% of them English). The first to go live was Postcolonial Text, which is still running on zero budget. 49% of the journals offer their contents entirely OA, 40% offer delayed OA (embargoes on current issues apply), and 11% are “undecided”, meaning that not a single implementation charges a subscription. On a disciplinary basis, 50% of the journals are in the sciences, 23% are social science, 14% are humanities, 12% are interdisciplinary, and 1% are non-academic. John suggested a visit to The Pink Voice as a nice example of the latter.

On the research that has been produced as part of PKP, Willinsky highlighted a few strains (some of which are noted at the PKP website), including studies of school teachers and *registered* massage therapists that demonstrated their keen interest in research and strong propensity to self-education, when access to the literature was provided. Following the indications there of a way to encourage intellectual and political engagement, PKP is also looking at how to create online reading environments that allow that engagement to flourish.

In all, his talk centered on three themes: how sharing knowledge encourages constructive engagement, how the internet offers the possibility of ameliorating the colonialism that is embedded in traditional publishing models, and how it can also redress the failure of universities to create an accessible body of knowledge by eliminating the necessity to decide who has access.

There followed some great questions, including one from an Australian librarian, “What about 10 Years Hence?” John said that in 10 years the print journal will be a rarity. OA will be a public and scholarly expectation, especially as younger people are exposed to access though public schools and libraries. Widespread access to knowledge will improve the quality of knowledge generally.

On the digital divide, he commented that it is the job of scholars to continue applying pressure for it to be reduced. On the scholarship of the future he said that the journal will dissolve over time, as it is an artifact of paper-based publishing. In conclusion he asserted that the battle for OA is effectively won, and only mop-up remains (I’m paraphrasing of course). Open data is the next frontier.

Amusingly, a US scholar had the chutzpah to interrupt the closing speaker, Frits Pannekoek the President of Athabasca University, to ask one last question, and it was a good one. He asked for John’s thoughts on the ongoing infringement of the public sphere by private interests who control intellectual property. The response put me in mind of Ben Berger’s work on the position of the SCC on religious disputes. While his research leads to a broader point, what it brought home for me was the legal delineation of the public sphere as a place where knowledge is established though the presentation of evidence. Without evidence, there can be no useful discussion.

When Pannekoek regained the floor, he noted some of the very interesting thing that Athabaska University is doing in terms of OA: they have established canada’s first Open Access University Press, the have committed 1% of their total budget to OA initiatives, are dedicated to open source software, and are a leader in the open courseware movement. Check out their commitments here, and also have a look at their innovative library systems, which are all available on cell phones and other mobile devices.

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