(Editor’s note: Today marks the start of International Open Access Week 2023. Four years ago we published this post by editor Krista McCracken, explaining why open access is a core value of their work as a historian, educator, and archivist. “Where we publish matters,” argues McCracken, particularly when we work with communities or for non-academic audiences. That commitment to access has been part of the Active History project since its inception, and no one has done more to put it into action than Krista. This fall, after a decade with the editorial collective, Krista is stepping down from their role as editor. We will miss you Krista!!!)
This week is International Open Access Week. This global, community-driven week is designed to promote discussions about open access and to inspire broader participation in open access publishing. It is celebrated by institutions, organizations, and individuals all around the world.
Open access to information – free, immediate, online to scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results – has the power to reshape scholarly conversations and create new communities of research.
Since its establishment, posts on Active History have been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License. In October 2018, we adopted a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, allowing for further use of Active History content in a range of settings. Our ebooks series has also been openly licensed with the goal of making them accessible as possible.
Both Tom Peace and Sean Kheraj have written Active History posts about the impacts of open pedagogy and open educational resources on historical practice and teaching Canadian History. If you’re unfamiliar with the philosophies behind open access and the potential benefits for teaching and research, Peace and Kheraj’s posts provide a good introduction.
What does open scholarly publishing look like in Canada? Tri-Agency Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications created from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication. This can be done by ensuring open access through the journal or by depositing publications in open access repositories.
If you’re looking for open access journals in your discipline, I suggest starting with the Directory of Open Access Journals. This community curated database contains information on over 12,000 open access journals and can be browsed by subject. Additionally, the Canadian Knowledge Research Network maintains a list of Canadian open access journals produced by their member institutions.
Beyond grant requirements, why bother publishing in an open access forum? For me, it is about accessibility. I work at a small institution that has limited database access. I know what it is like to run up against paywalls and be unable to access content. This challenge is even more real for community scholars, precariously employed folks, consultants, and others who many not have institutional journal access. I want as broad of an audience as possible to be able to read what I write.
Additionally, much of my work is centered on community and is in partnership with Residential School Survivors. Ethically, I feel I need to make any work I do in partnership with Survivors accessible to them. This often means publishing in open access venues, negotiating copyright restrictions, and begging for embargoes to be lifted early.
For example, in the case of my recent Canadian Historical Review (CHR) article, “Challenging Colonial Spaces: Reconciliation and Decolonization in Canadian Archives,” I negotiated a separate open-access link for community members, archivists, and others who might not have institutional access to the CHR. In other cases, I’ve received permission to deposit pre-prints in an institutional repository and have negotiated the length of time an article spent behind paywall from 24 months to 12. None of these cases are ideal. They are an attempt to bridge the gap to open access, with varying levels of success.
The next two articles I have in the works are slated for open access venues. I’m trying harder to stick to my conviction around open access publishing and open scholarly communication. This might mean passing up on publishing in certain venues. I recognize that I have a huge amount of privilege in being able to pick where I want to publish. I have a stable job in a university staff position and academic publishing isn’t a requirement of my job. I can stick to my publishing ethics and it won’t hurt my career. I realize this isn’t the case for everyone and that tenure and promotion committees have varying opinions on open access publishing.
Where we publish matters. Who has access to that information matters. As someone who works with community, I know I have to do better. Is your next publication going to be open access? Why or why not?
Krista McCracken (They/Them) lives and works on Robinson-Huron treaty territory, in the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe and Métis. Krista is a Researcher/Curator at Algoma University’s Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and, until recently, an editor of Activehistory.ca.