Open Access- Do the ends justify the means?

Posted on September 12, 2012


Recently, I made a trip back to the US for research and to see family and friends. One of the people I connected up with was a friend who recently obtained his PhD in archaeology. We discussed many things from was/is a PhD worth it or not, to cookies. One of the discussions was about Open Access. It was a fun discussion in which they mentioned that every time they submit an article to a non-OA journal they hear my voice in the back of their mind saying, “don’t do it, go Open Access”. The conversation ended with them asking me to consider not going only OA because it will hurt my career. “When you are publishing, let me be the voice in the back of your head when you publish OA saying ‘don’t do it, think of your career’ “.

This got me thinking about the perceived costs of doing OA ( I say perceived because no one knows if it will hurt one’s career or not) and the morality of going OA. The implication is that for my career to develop (in academia)  then I should ignore OA until I have tenure and it will no longer hurt my career. Obviously, the right choice for my career, according to prevailing thought (I disagree but that is another post), is to follow my friends advice. This made me think about what is the moral think to do. Obviously, the moral choice is to do OA publishing no matter what. I say obviously, because I have yet to find an argument that insuring that the public has access to knowledge is immoral. If someone shows me an argument for such an idea then I am more than open to change my assumption.

However, this got me thinking about the gray areas of OA publishing. One could argue that you can not do the right thing if your dead. In  other words, by making it to tenure your could potentially do more good with your choices from a position of power than you ever could as a lowly PhD student. This is the delayed good argument for not undertaking OA as a new scholar. This made me ask the questions is it moral to publish your papers as OA when/if you make it to a position of power but not when it costs you the ability to get that position of power? A classic do the ends justify the means but applied to OA publishing.

I have already made my choice but this is not a one size fits all world. I am interested to see what other people think on this topic. Dear reader, do you think the ends justify the means? What is your personal opinion on the subject?

Would you advice new scholars to avoid OA?

Posted in: Publishing