Thursday, March 26, 2009

How the Media Frames "Open Access"

How the Media Frames "Open Access", written by Philip M. Davis and published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, was recommended reading at the ACRL Scholarly Communication Outreach workshop.

Some excerpts that capture the argument:

Given the importance of framing in how individuals make sense of the news, defining an issue is an instrument of power. It is not surprising that various interest groups can engage in a struggle to define a controversial issue. Nisbet and Huge (2007) write that “levels of attention to a problem are a function not of objective conditions alone, but are determined by a social contest to define the nature and importance of issues” (p. 196). Frames that emphasize conflict, morality, and uncertainty drive more public concern than frames that emphasize economics, policy, and other more routine issues.

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While many of the editorials and letters employed more than one frame, the public accountability frame played a dominant role in the articles supporting open access. If research is supported by public monies, authors of these editorials and letters argue, there should be some form of accountability, which could be satisfied through public access to the research findings; hence, transparency is a logical precursor for public accountability. The public good frame refers to the benefit such free access to scientific research would confer on society, through advances in science and medicine leading to better medical care, cures for diseases, and economic growth. Essentially, the public-good frame argues that free access to the literature is a social welfare–maximizing strategy.

Arguments against open access were fewer and more complex in their construction. Most did not dismiss the basic argument for open access, but focused on criticizing the producer-pays model of publishing. The quality frame was invoked as a warning that the integrity of scientific research could be compromised by the producer-pays economic model. The sustainable business model frame argued that academic publishing requires financial stability, which cannot be achieved effectively through a producer-pays model. The barriers to participation frame described how a pay-to-publish model would establish new financial barriers for authors while it eliminates barriers to readers. This new financial barrier for authors would introduce bias in the literature by favoring those who can afford to publish their work. The government intrusion frame argued that the government should not dictate the terms and conditions of scientific publishing, but allow competition and the free market to regulate itself. Lastly, the unintended consequences theme described how changes to scientific publishing, through government mandates, would cause negative consequences to other groups who were not the target of the initial legislation. For example, the potential loss of journal profits to scientific societies would compromise their broader mission of public education.

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1 comment:

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