Protests, Petitions and Publishing: Widening Access to Research in 2012

How can access to important research and scholarship be available to all, not just “the one percent”? OnTuesday, February 28, at 12:00 PM in Columbia University’s Faculty House Presidential Rooms 2 & 3, join us for “Protests, Petitions and Publishing: Widening Access to Research in 2012” to discuss how Occupy Wall Street, the Research Works Act (RWA), the boycott of Elsevier journals by a growing number of academics, and other recent developments are informing the debate over access to research and scholarship. The event is free and open to the public.


The Occupy movement resonated widely on college campuses in America and around the world when it began in Fall 2011 and reinvigorated discussion of socioeconomic inequality and increasing costs associated with higher education. Current debates about scholarly publishing have further echoed these themes. Two bills–the RWA, which seeks to end public-access policies to federally funded research, and the Federal Research Public Access Act, which seeks to expand the reach of these policies–are currently under consideration in Congress. In response, over 6,000 scholars have signed an online petition boycotting the scholarly journals published by the commercial publisher Elsevier, one of the major financial supporters of the sponsors of the RWA. Meanwhile, several societies have begun to address their membership’s concerns about publishing practices that may be seen to exclude scholars at all but the most wealthy institutions. Are scholars and publishers finally ready to change the process by which scholarship is distributed?

The panel will be moderated by Livia Tenzer, Managing Editor of Social Text. The speakers bring a variety of perspectives to the issue of access to research.

Allan Adler is Vice President for Legal and Governmental Affairs in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), where he deals with intellectual property, freedom of speech, new technology, and other industry-related issues.

Gail Drakes is a doctoral candidate in the Program in American Studies at New York University and Associate Faculty at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her current teaching and research interests explore the ways in which copyright (and other forms of private ownership of information) serve to regulate access to the stories, sounds, and images that shape collective scholarly and public understandings of the past.

Alex Golub is assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His research interests include kinship and identity, resource development, and political anthropology. He is a founder of the popular cultural anthropology blog “Savage Minds.”

Oona Schmid is the Director of Publishing at the American Anthropological Association. She is responsible for the daily oversight and long-term planning around a complex publishing program that includes more than 20 specialized anthropological journals.

Peter Woit is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Columbia University and author of the blog “Not Even Wrong.”

This is Columbia University’s Scholarly Communication Program’s third event this academic year in their speaker series, “Research Without Borders: The Changing World of Scholarly Communication.”

Social Text Collective