Peer Access vs. Public Access: OA Pragmatics vs. Ideology

The (shared) goal of open access advocates is presumably open access (OA), not abstractions.

If papers are made OA, it means they are freely accessible to everyone online: both peers and public. If not, not.

So the only problem is getting the papers to be made OA — and that means getting their authors (peers) to make them OA.

If all or most peers made their papers OA of their own accord, that would be it: The OA era would be upon us.

But most don?t make their papers OA ? for a large variety of reasons, all of them groundless, but nevertheless sufficient to have held back OA for over 20 years now.

The solution, fortunately, is known, and already being adopted, though not quickly or widely enough yet: OA has to be made mandatory. The peers have to be required by their funders and their institutions to provide OA.

The only other thing that is needed, then, is to persuade all research funders and institutions to mandate OA.

To do that, you have to give them a reason that is sufficient to convince funders, institutions and peers that all research needs to be made OA, hence that OA needs to be made mandatory.

So it all comes down to what is a sufficient reason for funders and institutions to mandate and peers to provide OA.

The public?s need for access is a reason for providing OA, to be sure, but not a sufficient reason. Fortunately, it need not be, because peer access is a sufficient reason, and peers are part of the public too, hence OA provides access to both peers and public.

So why all this empty shadow-boxing about ideology and elitism, when the only thing that matters is pragmatics?

What will successfully get all peers to provide OA? Telling them that it?s because the public has a burning need to read their papers is a joke, since they all know perfectly well that in most (not all!) fields of research hardly anyone needs or wants to read their papers. The few exceptions do not make it otherwise.

Nor do they need to. For making research accessible to all of its potential users (of which the overwhelming majority are of course peers), rather than just to subscribers, as now, is reason enough for funders and institutions to mandate OA, and for peers to provide it.

Anyone is free to say to funders and institutions who mandate OA primarily to ensure peer access: ?No, no, you must do it in order to ensure public, not just peer access access!?

But it?s a pointless exercise. And will not get OA provided for all of us sooner; it will just distract us from pragmatics in favor of ideology.