Why academics may not share openly

Steve Walker provides an interesting insight into why there is a strong disincentive for him and fellow academics to publish research in the context of otherwise open explorations with practitioners, like the Practical Design for Social Action (PRADSA) project.

Academics get recognition through publication - and Steve explains that these days the framework for determining research funding includes measures of how far articles are cited by other articles. What counts are traditional closed, subscription-only publications rather than open access ones. So here is a direct reward for not-being open. As Steve says:

Frustrating though this may be for the general public who (after all have paid for most of this research already through taxation), this may not be a major problem for research whose ‘users’ are primarily other academics or researchers in large corporates who will have access both to the bibliographic databases and journals.

For those academics working in PRADSA-like contexts, though, it raises a substantial disincentive to publishing research in journals which are openly accessible to research users. If we publish in open journals, it may not be recognised as legitimate by resource allocators in HE; if we don’t, then potential users won’t be able to access the results and a completely unnecessary boundary is erected between those with access to the academic databases and those without.

So how can academics be helped and motivated to make a useful contribution to the emerging field of open, collaborative innovation?