Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rosenzweig's "Should Historical Scholarship Be Free?"

This week we revisit the ideas of Roy Rosenzweig for the second of three times this semester. We read "Scarcity or Abundance?: Preserving the Past?" during our discussion about digitizing the cultural record and will read "Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past" next week when we discuss collaborative content producers.

Who is Roy Rosenzweig?

A brief biography of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007) can be found on, an online memorial to the historian. Rosenzweig is attributed as a founder of "digital history" and advocated bringing together popular and academic history. In 1994, he founded the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in Virginia. CHNM's promotes the "democratization" of history through the use of digital media and computer technology. As an advocate of open access in the historical discipline, Rosenzweig is a valuable addition to our weekly discussion.

About Clio Wired

This week's article, "Should Historical Scholarship be Free?" is one of many posthumously published essays included in Clio Wired: The Future of the Past in the Digital Age. Published in 2011, this collection of essays discusses new technology and its implications and applications for historical scholarship (both amateur and professional). The article, "Scarcity and Abundance? Preserving the Past" is another selection from this work.

So, Should Historical Scholarship be Free?

Rosenzweig's answers this question with an unmistakable "yes!" He argues the historical profession should provide open access to their scholarship and states "open access to scholarship fits perfectly with the founding principles of scholarly societies." In the context of the American Historical Association (AHA) and academic discipline of history, he briefly discusses the benefits and issues surrounding open access in historical scholarship.
Reasons why Rosenzweig advocates open access in this essay include:
  • It costs more to maintain "gated access" to historical scholarship.
  • Scholarship becomes more easily discovered and reaches wider audiences
  • Often historical research is possible because of public funding, therefore it could be considered a public good.
Rosenzweig's essay, similar to other readings for this week, recognizes that open access "threatens the economic basis of both the association and the journal" by removing subscription fees to journals and publications.  Rosenzweig summarizes six alternative methods to diminish this problem:
  1. Authors create their own archives online
  2. Publishers charge authors instead of subscription fees
  3. Journals delay access to material
  4. Journals provide partial access to only some materials
  5. Journals publish electronic-only formats
  6. Publishers cooperate with libraries to mitigate high subscription cost

Our discussion about open access to academic scholarship connects to Week 3's discussion about infrastructure. The movement from gated information to open access is restricted by existing infrastructure governing the publication of information. This week's readings are evidence that it is not so easy to alter the infrastructure of information access, especially in the realm of academic publication. What is our role as library and information professionals in this great debate? What can we do to contribute to the pursuit of free information access?

"About." Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. George Mason University. 1996. Web. Accessed March 22, 2014.
"About Roy." Thanks, Roy. Web. Accessed March 22, 2014.
"Clio Wired." Columbia University Press. Web. Accessed March 22, 2014.
Rosenzweig, Roy, "Can history be open source?  Wikipedia and the future of the past," Journal of American History (2006).
Rosenzweig, Roy. Clio Wired: The Future of the Past in the Digital Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.