SI521 "Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan" Open Textbook/Scholarship

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What is Open Scholarship?[edit | edit source]

Scholarship, broadly defined, is the creation and dissemination of knowledge, generally taking place with ‘the academy’ or academic institutions, although not exclusively. More specifically, scholarship is the work done by academics to create new knowledge and distribute that knowledge through teaching and publishing. The work of a faculty member in higher education in the western world is traditionally formed around the three pillars of (1) research, (2) teaching, and (3) service, where service can be service to one’s institution or to one’s discipline. This article will focus on scholarly outputs, and less on teaching and learning.

Open Scholarship is an effort to create and disseminate knowledge through open access to the learning and educational materials, research data, and publications. Open scholarship may not be entirely “free” (or no cost), but given the ubiquity of Internet access, it is an attempt to remove the boundaries between users and information by minimizing the financial burden. A key characteristic of Open Scholarship is the implication that by making scholarly discourses available to everyone, people unaffiliated with an institution (amateurs and hobbyists, for example) can engage in a dialogue with academics and researchers.

Open scholarship intersects and overlaps with Open Data and Open Publishing

Open Scholarship benefits students, scholars, and interested users, including those in developing countries who may not have access to academic institutions and resources. Access may take many forms, including lack of Internet access (because libraries in developing nations are underfunded, for example).

More Information, More Access[edit | edit source]

John Willinsky, a leading scholar of Open Access, defines “the access principle” as “a commitment to the value and quality of research [that] carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit by it” (The Access Principle, xii).

There are clear distinctions between scholarly venues and the popular media. As Willinksy points out, and as proponents of copyright reform would agree, making scholarly research available for the general public has additional benefits which cannot be gauged at the time of publication. Whether a journalist stumbles upon the article and uses it to support an article, or if a creative artist re-purposes the material and uses it as an input for another work, current outputs become others' inputs.

The Current Environment[edit | edit source]

As scholars devote more time and resources to open access initiatives, institutions have not made an equivalent shift in how scholarly communication is valued. Several scholars and research institutions are investigating what structural changes would be necessary to create an environment of change within largely conservative academic institutions to place more value on new forms of scholarly communication. Moving away from the “gold standard” of the peer-reviewed journal article or book-length manuscript as an indicator of quality and of professional standing may take time and a deep commitment from all levels of leadership.

For the past several decades, publishers and journals have been the primary means of distributing academic work. Unless a person was affiliated with an institution, access to specialized journals may be prohibitively costly. For example, a doctor working in a rural area may not have access to articles discussing the latest study results about a disease, and may not be able to best advise their patient.

Scholars have a responsibility and a personal interest to make their research available to individuals connected with their discipline and institution. Scholars also bear part of the responsibility for making research available to the general public, and to their students.

Faculty Motivation[edit | edit source]

A key factor to the success of open scholarship is encouraging faculty to contribute to open courseware or to open archives. It is common knowledge within academia only “certain” journals matter. While this may not change in the short term, faculty can explore a variety of options from preprints to institutional archives which make their work accessible and do not detract from the traditional, tenure-track process of publishing in well-respected journals.

Institutional Motivation[edit | edit source]

Institutions may encourage their faculty to participate in Open Scholarship because they believe it is in line with the mission of the university: “to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century” ( Others may encourage open access of faculty lectures to increase the visibility and branding of the university.

Costs and Benefits of Open Scholarship[edit | edit source]

With open access publishing, scholars publish or deposit their work in publicly available journals and archives at no or little cost. With [OpenData| Open Data], scholars can benefit from the data collections of other scholars and build upon previous research with fewer restrictions.

In his review of Willinksy’s The Access Principle Scott Aaronson gives a faculty perspective on the lack of value-added by large publishing houses:

…we in the academic community create the ideas in our papers. We write the papers. We typeset the papers. We review the papers. We proofread the papers. We accept or reject the papers. We electronically archive and distribute the papers. If commercial publishers once played an essential role in this process, today their role is mostly to own the copyrights and to collect money from the universities.

Aaronson comments should be put in perspective, as he is a professor at MIT, which has a deep commitment to Open Access. Swan and Scott argue academics have sacrificed too many rights to publishers: “Universities and research institutions need to take back control of the scholarly communication system, so long out of their hands, and drive a return to the knowledge commons. The base values of this remain as they traditionally were – collaboration, cooperation, sharing and delivering maximum societal benefit from societal investment.”

In discussing a faculty initiative to deposit more faculty work into an institutional archive, Harvard’s librarian writes: “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available through our own university repository. Instead of being the passive victims of the system, we can seize the initiative and take charge of it”

Examples of Open Scholarship[edit | edit source]

Several models for open scholarship are currently underway. These include the physics e-print archive at, the journal PloS Biology,, PubMed, the Public Knowledge Project, and MediaCommons.

PloS – Author Pays[edit | edit source]

One of the seminal moments in open scholarship was when the Public Library of Science launched PloS Biology. Each article published there is free to all consumers, since each author or her home institution pays about $1,500 (as of 2006) to help defray publishing costs. What makes it truly worth a look is that they have become an entity that competes with major scholarly outlets like Nature, Cell, or Science [1] – e-prints[edit | edit source] is one of the earliest and most established forms of open scholarship. Created by Paul Ginsparg, a physicist, and its predecessors make preprints, or pre-publication copies of physics papers available to the greater physics community for comment and feedback. In a speech to UNESCO, Ginsparg claims the origins of were to “provide functionality that was not otherwise available, and to provide a level playing field for researchers at different academic levels and different geographic locations.”[2]

More information about e-prints is available at

Public Knowledge Project[edit | edit source]

Created by John Willinksy and a joint venture with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Stanford University, the Public Knowledge Project provides open source software for open access journal publishing, and more recently, open access software for conferences. The project “is focused on improving the scholarly quality of publishing processes, it also seeks to expand the realm of public education by improving social science's contribution to public knowledge, in the belief that such a contribution is critical to academic freedom, the public use of reason, and deliberative forms of democracy” [3]

PubMed[edit | edit source]

All NIH funded research is required to be published in PubMed upon acceptance for publication, this “ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research” as well as helping to “advance science and improve human health.” For more information, visit

MediaCommons[edit | edit source]

Largely grant-funded, MediaCommons is “a network in which scholars, students, and other interested members of the public can help to shift the focus of scholarship back to the circulation of discourse.”[4] Consisting of blogs, wikis, and journals, MediaCommons hopes to create a community of scholars, where “new communities will be able to get involved in academic discourse, and new processes and products will emerge, leading to new forms of digital scholarship and pedagogy.” Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a Media Studies faculty at Pomona College, used MediaCommons to publish and receive feedback on her book, Planned Obsolescence which was also published in book form.

Access for Developing Countries[edit | edit source]

Institutions in the developing world have been disproportionately affected by the rising cost of academic journals. According to Peter Suber, this cost has been “four times faster than inflation for nearly two decades” [5]. The Kenya Medical Research Institution was reduced to five journal subscriptions by the close of the 20th century, none of which were the leading journals in tropical diseases).

Dr. Alma Swan, editor of The Euroscientist, the European Association for the Promotion of Science and Technology, [6] notes that traditionally the goal of “enabling and encouraging intellectual endeavour, valuing scholarship for its own worth and fostering a collaborative spirit in the furtherance of society, all founded in a collegiate view of the academic community worldwide” is more difficult to attain in a print dominated landscape.

Swan cites Barbara Aronson's assertion in the New England Journal of Medicine that at the beginning of the new century more than 50% of low-income research institutions had been without subscriptions to leading medical periodicals for approximately five years. Aronson stated, in reference to HINARI[7]:

HINARI was created after a study by WHO found that researchers and academics in developing countries identified access to the "priced literature" (i.e., journals) as their most pressing information problem. In the lowest-income countries, 56 percent of the institutions had no current subscriptions to international journals and 21 percent had an average of only two journal subscriptions. In the tier with the next-lowest incomes, 34 percent of institutions had no current subscriptions, and 34 percent had two to five journal subscriptions. HINARI complements efforts by some of the major Web publishers to offer free, direct access to biomedical journals for users in the lowest-income countries.”[8]

Dr. Swan and Professor Bernard Rentier, Rector of the University of Liege, Belgium are responsible for the Enabling Open Scholarship website at, and can be reached at They are in part responsible for the Petition for Guaranteed Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Reports.

Courant's “Scholarship: The Wave of the Future in the Digital Age.”[edit | edit source]

Another leading proponent of Open Access is Paul Courant, University of Michigan Librarian and Dean of Libraries. Writing for an EDUCUASE publication, he begins with a general definition of scholarship: “the production of careful scholarship in the service of the creation of knowledge and understanding” [9]. Knowledge and understanding are informed by the technology available to students, faculty, and other institutional actors. The university serves as part of a larger social context.

One of the issues Courant raises is the notion of “good enough,” information. Students are already “information literate,” but they require “scholarly literacy.” Courant defends a continuation of the traditional role of scholars as individuals responsible for exposing students to new, more skillfully produced and subject oriented, material that they are unfamiliar with. Educators must continue to cultivate an atmosphere of professional discussion and lead students away from ubiquitous social knowledge (“good enough” skill sets) to the vocation-specific knowledge of academic disciplines.

Certainly, though, Courant intends this emphasis on what is “good enough” to apply to new scholars, trained in the age of vastly available content. Opening the field encourages fierce competition between scholars vested with power by an institution, a degree, and publication credits and the talented researcher-on-the-fringe.

Differences in Open Scholarship[edit | edit source]

There are differences in the application of open scholarship by discipline. Faculty in the hard sciences may require expensive equipment, while faculty in the Arts and the Humanities work with primary sources which may or may not be digitally accessible. There are also different academic cultures across the globe, and open scholarship may take a different form in the UK or Japan than it will in France or the United States.

Circa the late nineteen-sixties through the late nineteen-seventies, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and similar majors whatever their designations, held a niche status far lower than they do now. As technologies profoundly affected the way that humans relate socially and financially, technological fields have gained the same ascendancy that scholarship in Business, Economics, and hard physical sciences hold over less obviously practical scholarship (e.g. Literature, Philosophy, and Fine- or Performance Arts). However, the value of Open Scholarship, across various vocations, is that fields that have suffered financial constraints related to the above mentioned Research and Development gain greater portability, and rely less on venture capital or institutional resources precisely like those allegedly impractical scholarly pursuits. Open Scholarship helps return scholarship to a small “s” proposition, and allows for the development of cottage industries, such as CafePress, which sells printed and CD technical manuals, creative writing, cultural commentary and criticism, and in doing so empowers freelance scholars to compete with academic publications for readership.

Access for Institutional Scholars, and Opportunities for Non-Institutional Scholars[edit | edit source]

Open Scholarship is conducive to generating a highly visible academic leadership, recognizable to the general public as well as other academics, or even “one of the tweedy celebrities of cyberspace”[10]. This is an enormous change away from the image of the academic cloistered apart from “worldly things.” Whether “tweedy celebrities” can convert web page hits into grants or other sources of funding remains to be seen. It does increase the visibility of their work to the public, as the New York Times article cited above notes several faculty who receive email from viewers all over the world.

Phil Pochoda, director of the U.M. press claims open access electronic journals will be able to distribute information to a wider variety of scholars, and most importantly, the press will no longer refuse so many strong critical works that that cannot economically justify a traditional print run.[11] This gives gifted scholars, particularly those at the beginning of their careers, more traction in the academic marketplace, a greater opportunity to innovate, and greater opportunities to become known and to develop their tenure files. Yet it also creates problems for young faculty who are held to the same tenure standards which have not adjusted to the changing marketplace of academic presses. While it is true an electronic book may be published, it is still unclear how the electronic book will be viewed by academic institutions who are evaluating faculty performance.

Christine Borgman, in Scholarship in the Digital Age writes about the disparity in open scholarship: “It is essential, however, to recognize that these new opportunities do not benefit all scholars equally” while the benefits “will accrue in different ways, due to the difference types of data, research methods, and practices in these fields” (29).

Future Directions and Implications[edit | edit source]

Consider that we are presently experiencing a swell in academic ranks comprised of new scholars more conversant with searching Wikipedia and Google than traditional resource models, and this displays the conflict Courant described when he wrote:

The typical undergraduate (indeed, the typical academic working outside her own field) is likely to have much the better experience starting with Google than with federated search on library databases.[12]

Young scholars skills with Google or, optimistically, Google Scholar is an example of John Seeley Brown’s “immersion and intelligent tutors” “Opening Up Education” [13]. John Seeley Brown’s view of education as “social learning” which takes place inside and outside the classroom, more through collaboration than through a top-down method of instruction. For more about social learning, see OpenTextbook#Pedagogy:_Cartesian_vs._Social_View_of_Learning.

The traditional model of education became one in which scholarship, particularly in fields outside of the team-effort oriented sciences, could be transcribed prior to discussion. Scholars still debate ideas under this model, but technology has changed the norm from human discourse to journal-published scholarly debates. In the interaction between teacher and students, scholars and scholars, intentions become less clear. The problems here range from minor misunderstandings to journal published "flame-wars" on the quality of a peer's logic. Open Scholarship can do much to reintroduce communal interaction, and consequently communal responsibility and politeness, to scholarly discussion by increasing the real-time or near real-time collaboration over the Internet.

Brown explains, on pages xiii – xv of his introduction, scholars in an open environment can functionally immerse themselves in disciplines with more- and less experienced scholars, their students, and scholars and students across genres, without the traditional dividing lines based on financial resources, conference attendance, departmental politics, or institutional affiliation.

The range of scholarly employment (intellectually and financially) this presents to these individuals is both exceedingly frustrating and promising, in that these young scholars have to work in close proximity to entrenched older models, while working on new forms of scholarly output. Open formats provide scholars with the opportunity to share content with one another and to advance their field.

“Scholarly data and documents are of most value when they are inter-connected rather than independent. The outcomes of a research project could be understood most fully if it were possible to race an important finding from a grant proposal, to data collection, to a data set, to its publication, to its subsequent review and comments…Finding ways to address these requirements while facilitating open access to information, ease of use, and adaptation to local practices is among the grander challenges of constructing an information infrastructure” (Borgman 10-11).

In the process of writing this text, while reading a .pdf of Courant's essay, the web material in his endnotes was readily available to verify the validity of his sources and certify that he did not misrepresent them. Two out of three links led to the material that he incorporated (the other was a dead link) and so not only did this access certify his scholarly professionalism and trustworthiness, but these sources were available for continued contextualization of his work. This electronic model of construction develops a series of intertwined references, in which a researching scholar can follow citations on a given topic, written by experts in the discipline. Students learn scholarly literacy reading based on both the text and the footnotes, endnotes, and other support materials because of the ease with which these texts are available. The challenge that scholars must undertake for these citations to remain useful is to maintain continuity of citation methods, and to uphold provenance. We must develop some methodology for ensuring that content available at a particular site, under a specific URL, is still somehow easily (easily) accessed decades in the future, unlike the dead link endnote. All of this is intended to ensure that the material produced when students and scholars read a text they thoroughly understand the relevance of its content and produce a substantive, non-reductionist document that discuss its implications.

Citations[edit | edit source]

Aaronson, Scott. Review of The Access Principle. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Aronson, Barbara. 2004. Improving Online Access to Medical Information for Low-Income Countries. N Engl J Med 350(10): 966-968. e-Print archive. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Borgman, Christine L. 2007. Scholarship in the digital age: information, infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Courant, Paul N. The Tower and the Cloud. “Scholarship: The Wave of the Future in the Digital Age.”

Darnton, Robert. 2008. [“ The Case for Open Access]. The Harvard Crimson. Accessed April 19, 2010

Enabling Open Scholarship Accessed April 19, 2010.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Planned Obsolescence. Accessed April 12, 2010.

Hafner, Katie. 2010. An Open Mind. The New York Times. Accessed April 17, 2010.

Hafner, Katie. 1998. Physics on the Web Is Putting Science Journals on the Line. The New York Times. Accessed April 17, 2010.

Ilyoshi, Toru and M.S. Vijay Kumar, eds. Opening Up Education. Accessed January 12, 2009.

Jaschik, Scott. Inside Higher Ed. Farewell to the Printed Monograph. Accessed March 20, 2009.

MediaCommons. Accessed April 19, 2010.

MIT Facts 2010: Mission and Origins. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Open Access and Institutional Repositories with EPrints. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Petition for guaranteed public access to publicly-funded research results. Accessed April 19, 2010.

PLoS Biology : Publishing science, accelerating research. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Public Access Homepage Accessed April 19, 2010.

Public Knowledge Project Accessed April 19, 2010.

PubMed Central Homepage Accessed April 19, 2010.

WHO | HINARI Programme for Access to Health Research. Accessed April 19, 2010.

Willinsky, John. 2006. The access principle: the case for open access to research and scholarship. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Accessed December 8, 2009