Open access

The beast that no-one could – or should – control?

in Science and the politics of openness

Although the idea of open access – making research articles freely available on the internet – was originally envisaged as a means to facilitate communication between scholars, it has meshed naturally, if somewhat haltingly, with evolving the concepts and activities of public engagement. Within the academy the debates on open access have tended to focus on internal issues, as scholars work through the conflicts and opportunities that have arisen through the adoption of open access mandates by funders and governments. But there is also a growing appreciation of the value and purpose of open access at the increasingly porous interface between the academy and the various publics that make up society. The beast of open access is shaping and being shaped by evolving ecosystem at this boundary. In this chapter I trace the origins of open access and seek to explore how well it has adapted (and might be further adapted) to the task of exposing scientists and the public more constructively and more meaningfully to one another.

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