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Introducing the Open Access Directory, a wiki resource about Open Access

Published Feb 25, 2009, 1:10pm

Ed.: I’m pleased to welcome our next guest blogger, Athanasia (Nancy) Pontika. Ms. Pontika is a doctoral student at the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, specializing in open access. She is an Assistant Editor of the Open Access Directory, which is hosted by Simmons, and an active member of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T).

The Open Access Directory (OAD) is a wiki that hosts factual lists about open access. Its purpose is to serve as a useful and fast tool for reference and searching. The project was conceived by Peter Suber, Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, and Robin Peek, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. These two academics and experts in the open access movement recognized the importance of involving the international community in the promotion of scholarly communication and envisioned a joint publication where users will have the power to build and edit content.

The first lists that were hosted to the OAD were moved from Prof. Suber’spersonal Web page, which he had maintained for years by himself. As his workload was growing, it was harder for him to keep them current and decided to open them for the community, to ensure that the lists would be more comprehensive with the help of the users. The spirit of OA had to be promoted broadly with the creation of an open publication. Due to this reason, the OAD is published in a wiki environment, is open under free registration to everybody and it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.

The OAD was launched officially on May 1, 2008 with approximately half a dozen lists. As of today, the OAD counts a little bit less than 320 registered users, and almost 40 published lists. This rapid growth of lists would not have happened if it weren’t for the help and engagement of the worldwide community. The cultural diversity of the international users, and their access to remote information enriched the wiki with information that covers a broad spectrum of the OA and it is freely accessed.

The characteristics of the OAD

The OAD does not include narratives in its pages; only factual lists that link to groups, documents, events and other primary or secondary resources. The wiki content is viewable by anyone, but only registered users can add or edit content. In order for us to protect the wiki content against spammers and violators, it is required from the users to register with their real names and not to use pseudonyms. Since this is a community publication, users are welcome to propose new lists, which are launched after the approval of the Editorial Board. Constructing a new list is sometimes a long procedure that requires consultation and considerable rethinking before finalizing their format and launching them.

My personal experience

Almost four years ago, I experienced a pleasant shock, when for the first time I read about the costless distribution of scholarly communication and the benefits for students and scholars. Currently, I am a second year doctoral student in the School of Library and Information Science atSimmons College, focusing on open access. My involvement with the OAD started almost a year and a half ago, where I was serving as a project manager and after its launch I have been the Assistant Editor. All this time, I have built from scratch some of the lists and I have assisted other users to compose other lists. Since the nature of my studies demand that I become informed about both the past and current issues on the movement, I don’t know how I could have made it so far if the OAD did not exist. When I want to study a subject area I always consult the lists, where I can find organized and trustworthy information. When I want to investigate an issue that is not developed yet in the OAD, I propose the new list and I volunteer to build it, either by myself or by cooperating with other users. Personally speaking, the most unique and challenging experience is to build a list from scratch. This procedure demands investigation in several online resources and allows me to apply critical thinking and personal judgment to decide whether the information is relevant and important to be included in the list. Sometimes building a concise list can take a couple of months, but at the end I have learned all I wanted about the subject and it is an ethical reward when other users consult it and find it as useful as I do.

Students, contribute to the OAD!

For students who want to help promote scholarly communication and gain invaluable knowledge at the same time, the OAD is waiting for you. You can use the OAD two ways. You can use the lists to learn more on a subject area of the open access movement or to collect information for your courses and assignments. On the other hand, you can help to develop the OAD by constructing new lists or improving the existing ones: for example, correcting dead links or updating information. Plenty ofvolunteer opportunities are offered to everyone who wants to get involved, either with the OAD or with the OA movement in general! Please feel free to contact the editors for more information.

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