This past October, I was invited to give a talk at a university as part of its library’s Open Access Week programming. During the course of my presentation, I mentioned the fact that within the community of people who consider themselves supporters and advocates of OA, there is significant disagreement about the definition of OA — and also about what the ultimate goals of the movement should be, however OA itself may be defined. After my presentation there was a panel discussion, which opened with one of the panelists taking strong exception to a number of things I had said, but particularly to my assertion that there is a meaningful diversity of goals and definitions in the OA movement. “Look,” he said, “everyone in the OA movement wants all scholarship to be freely available. We all agree on that.”
The problem, of course, is that this simply isn’t true. Not only is there wide disagreement as to what “freely available” really means, but not everyone in the OA movement even agrees that all scholarship must be freely available, or how quickly it should be made freely available, or what mechanisms are appropriate for making it that way. Since the fact of this ideological diversity doesn’t seem to be self-evident, I thought it might be helpful to lay out some of the evidence for it here, and then briefly raise some of the important questions and issues it suggests.
(By the way, attentive readers may be getting the nagging sense that this particular issue has been discussed earlier here in the Kitchen. It was, by me, just over two years ago. At that time I suggested that there was a “hardening consensus” in the OA movement regarding the definition of “true” OA. In 2014 I believed that. Today I’m not so sure, for the reasons I’ll now lay out.)