Online open access (OA) to research publications comes to scholarship as a vision that makes sense and is congruent with the aims of science and scholarship. It is argued that research, often funded out of the public purse, should be a public good. Given its visionary characteristics and its congruence with the aims of scholarship, the purpose of this paper is to examine why OA is not practiced by all researchers, all the time, or more encouraged by library managers.
The findings reported in the paper are built upon analyses of the literature, the current discussion occurring in e‐lists and other public forums, and upon qualitative research using observation, document analysis, interview techniques and thematic analysis conducted as part of a PhD study in two Australian universities.
One of the universities had a long‐standing institutional mandate to encourage OA and the other did not. In terms of findings, of the universities studied, the institution with the mandate not only had a far greater proportion of its research output in its OA institutional repository but also the researchers and authors interviewed there had a deep understanding of, and engagement with, issues surrounding not just scholarly publishing but also OA and other publishing options. Further, OA and the mandate policy were reported by university executives as providing benefits both to individual researchers and to the institution as a whole.
In analyzing the relationships and entanglements that exist between authors, universities, publishers and other actors we see how these reinforce the current publishing paradigm. While proposals for mandates are not new, this paper illustrates how one is acting in practice. It proposes that despite reservations among academic library managers a mandate can work in practice. Sometimes, a new actor, such as a mandate or deposit policy is required, to assist library and repository managers, to encourage authors to look beyond their existing frames and embrace OA.
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