The spirit of openness is gaining traction in academia, both with faculty who are coming to embrace openness in their teaching, research, and publications and with administrators who work to introduce openness in institutional policies. More than a dozen major universities now offer some of their course content to the general public through the use of OpenCourseWare or similar tools; hundreds of universities have committed to making research available through open access policies; and more than 5000 open-access journals are publishing scholarly work.
Yet this progress -- and for the HASTAC community, there can be no doubt that this must be considered progress --can obscure or restrict important conversations about the significant challenges to embracing openness in academia. For one thing, the stakes vary depending on an academics career stage and trajectory. A tenured faculty member with an established reputation has little to lose by making research, publications, developing theories, and pedagogy open and accessible. The risks are higher for newer or pre tenure academics, whose careers depend on accumulating peer-reviewed publications, protecting and nurturing unique contributions to a field or discipline, and limiting failures in research, teaching, and collaboration.
Further, many academics are faced with difficult decisions about managing multiple professional and personal identities at a time when digital footprints are deep, wide, and difficult to rub out. Non-professional activities and affiliations now co-mingle with an academics record of scholarly pursuits, and academics who embrace openness and transparency are nonetheless finding themselves struggling with how to keep aspects of their private lives separate from their professional identities. Some academics choose to develop anonymous or pseudonymous identities online in order to manage their digital footprint; others make conscious decisions not to participate in certain communities or in certain ways.
Finally, the ivory tower -- an social institution whose very survival depends on scarcity of knowledge and expertise -- continues to struggle with conflicting impulses: universities strive to make knowledge available to the public, for the public good; at the same time, universities can only remain profitable insofar as they offer something unique that people are willing to pay to access. What would it look like all universities embraced the OpenCourseWare model? How would that affect enrollments? How would this change the value of the college degree?
Please join us in a conversation about openness in academia, focusing on the following interlocking categories:
Openness in research and publishing: How can new academics gain prominence in their field while still embracing openness? How can academics and scholars who are committed to openness negotiate this in their interactions with institutions that rely on scarcity and closed access?
Openness in professional and personal identities: To what extent is privacy at odds with openness? How can academics make decisions about how public to make their engagement with non-academic communities and networks? What is the value of or drawback to developing anonymous or pseudonymous identities, and do these conflict with the spirit of openness?
Openness in teaching and learning: How can we engage openly and transparently with our colleagues about what happens in the classroom? How would this affect our students?
Openness in policy: Is openness a threat to the university model? How can institutions embrace openness and still remain necessary?
If you're interested in these questions, HASTAC is hosting a collaborative tent called Storming the Academy at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona from November 3-5. Our group attending the conference will be blogging and joining in this conversation!
- Edward Maloney (Georgetown)
- Joshua Danish (Indiana University)
- Clay Whipkey (OpenCourseWare)
- Mark Sample (George Mason University)
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