21 November 2014

Worried about the privatisation of public education and research? - Go to the Commons

South Central Farm by Jonathan McIntosh on Wikimedia Commons
Before you are compelled to sign over the rights to works you morally, ethically or legally own - or are custodian to, consider harbouring it in The Commons first.

Some researchers and teachers who are concerned about their publicly funded research reports, teaching materials and data becoming locked into restrictive publishing arrangements, are using the Commons to develop and publish the elements of the project before going to the private publishers. They preserve their own access to the data and elements of the publication, and a wider audience at the same time.

For example, a GIF graph visualising the data collected in the project is loaded to Wikimedia Commons BEFORE the report is written and BEFORE it is submitted for publication through a restrictive publisher. This ensures that at least one key bit of information about the project remains reusable and re-distributable. I personally take this further by making the Commons intrinsic to my data collection and management strategy, including the edit history data for the development of the project and report, as well as the comment and direction from peer reviewers.

Some teachers who are concerned about their course (content, library, curriculum design and assessment methods) being claimed away from them, and/or sold to restrictive publishers or third party providers, they too are using the Commons to ensure a more equitable arrangement for all involved.

This approach doesn't prevent the commercialisation of the work, nor does it block the ambitions of a hosting institution or publisher 'capitalising' the works. It just prevents them doing so exclusively - thus ensuring the original authors maintain ongoing rights, as well as other interests and opportunities not yet known.

What all must do though, is get good with open source exchange models. It's only fair!

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