Open with Purpose!

Expanding on the theme, “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity & Inclusion”

From Open Access Week 2020 theme announcement:

Openness can be a powerful tool for building more equitable systems of sharing knowledge. Rebuilding research and scholarship to be open by default presents a unique opportunity to construct a foundation that is fundamentally more equitable. Yet today, structural racism, discrimination, and exclusion are present and persistent in places where openness is a core value. As a global community, it is important to understand that the systems and spaces of the present are often built upon legacies of historic injustice and that addressing these inequities is a necessity.

We need to examine who these spaces and systems are designed for, who is missing, who is excluded by the business models we use, and whose interests are prioritized. As we work together to rebuild these structures, we need to commit to moving from conversations to concrete commitments and to hold one another accountable for making real progress.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be consistently prioritized year-round and integrated into the fabric of the open community, from how our infrastructure is built to how we organize community discussions to the governance structures we use. International Open Access Week is an important opportunity to catalyze new conversations, create connections across and between communities that can facilitate this co-design, and advance progress to build more equitable foundations for opening knowledge—discussions and actions that need to be continued, year in and year out.

As we strive for equity and inclusion, we must also acknowledge that structural inequality and exclusion have inhibited scholarship among many populations. Open Access is only one tool in this battle, as it prioritizes the interests and labor of researchers instead of the interests and gains of the publishers. Knowledge itself is the highest priority of Open Access, and scholars of all disciplines and privileges ought to take action to ensure equity in its construction.

Open Access is also about being inclusive of all of the people, voices, and institutions that want to participate (Alperín and Albornoz, 2016). It is about exposing diverse perspectives and representation of cultures. However, there is still a lot of work to do to achieve this goal. This year’s OA Week theme suggests an important question: Is the Open Access movement inclusive or does it expand structural racism? There is a great deal for the Open Access movement to do to become inclusive in every country.

As Thomas Mboa states in The (Unconscious?) Neocolonial Face of Open Access,

“Western and white literature are idealised over African literature.”

As long as the western perspective is still perceived as “better than…” or “more prestigious than…” non-western perspectives, access to content—either open or not—will be limited and biased, and not representative of human diversity.

[Author: Jonathan Grunert and Alessandra Otero]