Retrospect – Topic 5 – Who’s The Dinosaur In The Room?

To be honest, this isn’t a subject I’d thought about before; like all of our community, when I’ve been completing my University assignments I have found it difficult or impossible to access key articles. So before looking into this topic I would have been 100% in favour of Open Access. Similarly, if someone had warned that this can effect quality I wouldn’t have worried (in English Literature we get extra marks for well-structured criticisms of published work, which is obviously easier if the quality of that work is poor).

However, having looked at the topic it became clear that the dynamics are different in different subjects. In my case – being an English Literature student -the goal of researchers is unambiguously to publish, publish, publish. But in science and engineering there is an inherent conflict between the desire to publish, and the realisation that publication can destroy value. This is a theme that no one else seemed to have picked up on so, I chose to emphasise it in my exchanges with Zia, Ben and Bartosz. Accuracy is also a difficult concept; in English Literature all that counts is having a well-structured and defended view – there is rarely a right or wrong answer. In science there is right and wrong – so peer review of published work is vital.

The theme that underpinned all of my postings was the concept of business models. I believe that with the right business models Open Access can work. Without it, it will fail.

And that is my “Dinosaur in the Room” – business models.

Otherwise, I have again learned much about my fellow bloggers. I note there are few scientists amongst us, and as a community I think we have taken a narrow world view as a result. Indeed, I suspect that the views I have taken would have been reflected by someone taking scientific subject.


Who’s The Dinosaur In The Room?

This week I’m using PowToon and ScoopIt to present my thoughts, backed up with some old-fashioned text.

The Open Access ethos equates to making material publicly available, so that it can be freely read and used. As highlighted last semester by Lucy Hewson, in the case of academic papers this enables academia and industry to use and build on such publications. However, as there are reduced controls on these dissemination routes, it can result in poor peer review and hence there may be an accompanying reduction in the quality of published work. Further, in the case of science and engineering, the funding body – a country or a business – will want to see an economic return on their investment. Here, the cost of turning a University’s idea into a product is generally so high that the investment will only take place if the core idea has been kept secret or patented.

As Unesco note, the conflict between publication and secrecy is reflected in the system of Intellectual Property, which seeks to balance the needs of the author/inventor and the needs of society.

So, does the system of intellectual property rights match today’s need? Patents protect inventions for up to 20 years and can cost £100,000 pounds. In contrast, copyright which protects music, costs nothing and lasts 70 years after author dies. Unsurprisingly, many regard current system as flawed, including the European Commissioner for Telecom and Media, Viviane Reding.

Indeed, it could be argued that internet piracy is a natural response to unfair legislation that has led to the accumulation of massive wealth by pop-stars, footballers, and alike. But as Viviane Reding highlights, we not only need changes to intellectual property legislation, but also the business models used to generate money from people’s work.

  • Perhaps music should be made freely available online and revenue sought from radio plays, product endorsements, concerts and alike; Ed Sheeran seems to reflect this view, as shown in this Guardian article.
  • Similarly, as highlighted by Calum Burgess last semester, the online game League of Legends is free to use, but generates income by selling optional clothes and alike for the online characters to wear.

So, for me, science and engineering need secrecy and intellectual property rights; otherwise companies will not invest. But the creative sector, the arts, media and social sciences need to embrace Open Access and develop new mechanisms to benefit from their work – this may mean pop-stars have to accept a reduction in income, but I don’t see them giving up their careers because they are destined to be very-rich rather than mega-rich.


Australian Open Access Support Group, Benefits of Open Access,

Calum Burgess, Spotify, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web,

David Willetts, Open, free access to academic research?, The Guardian, 1st May 2012.

David Y. Choia and Arturo Perezb, Online piracy, innovation, and legitimate business models, Technovation 27, pp. 168–178,

John Paul Titlow, Why 3D Printing Will Be The Next Big Copyright Fight, Readwrite, 2013

Lucy Hewson, Open Access for all, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web.

Stuart Dredge, Ed Sheeran talks Spotify royalties: I’m in the music industry to play live, The Guardian, 30th September 2014

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, The ABC of Copyright, 2010


Viviane Reding, Internet Piracy is a “Wake-up Call’ for Policy Makers, YouTube video