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My dissertation abstract

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Open Access Repositories in the Cultural Configuration of Disciplines
Applying Actor-Network Theory to Knowledge Production by Astronomers and Philosophers of Science

This qualitative study provides an understanding of the role of self-archived disciplinary open access repositories in the cultural configuration of scholarly disciplines. It examines the implications of the technological and organizational layers of access tools and open access repositories and researchers' lived experiences and perceptions layer on researchers' localized knowledge production context and the construction of disciplinary knowledge production contexts. The actor-network theory, which posits that technological and social actors reciprocally affect each other, is applied to compare and contrast the information practices of two groups of researchers: the use of arXiv by astronomers, and the use of PhilSci by philosophers of science. Six astronomers and five philosophers of science were identified through purposeful selection. The interviews with the researchers were conducted over a period of five months, ranging in length between 40-75 minutes. Primary documentary evidence, describing open access repositories and access tools, is also used for the analysis. The findings show that the open access repositories, the access tools, and researchers' individual knowledge production contexts are co-constructed as researchers search, discover and access scholarly artifacts. Open access has impacted researchers' knowledge production by realigning the existing processes and by instigating the emergence of new actors and constructs. Four themes emerge as researchers articulate their perceptions about the value and the role of open access: impact on scholarly process, impact on scholarly output, integration with scholarly context, and democratization of the scholarly discourse. Congruent with the domain-analytic approach, two distinct socio-technological models emerge. Astronomers perceive arXiv as important and critical in their scholarly information practices, with a central role in their discipline. However, philosophers of science perceive PhilSci as having a limited value in their scholarly information practices and rather minimal role in their discipline. The properties of disciplinary cultures, such as the mutual dependence between researchers and the task uncertainty in a specific discipline, are implicated in the appropriation of the open access repositories and access tools at individual and disciplinary level. The socio-technological co-constructionist approach emerges as a viable theoretical and methodological framework to explicate complex socio-technological contexts.

From Preparing tomorrow's professionals: LIS schools and scholarly communication:

How are LIS schools preparing tomorrow's academic librarians to deal with the emerging changes in scholarly communication? What more can they do? In this brief overview, we will look first at specialized courses dealing with various aspects of scholarly communication that have been added to the curriculum in many schools. The next section will look at how existing courses have been modified to include scholarly communication. Finally, we will explore the benefits of field experience, graduate assistantships and participation in institutional projects.

The authors present some interesting insights about the type of current curricula throughout the US schools.

As a conclusion, I think that there should be a stronger emphasis on the role and the implication of digital libraries (DL) and open access (open content, open communication) in scholarly communication. Understanding DLs both as social as well as technological constructs is important because most of the scholarly communication is mediated through some flavor of DL. Knowledge about open access (and open content, open communication) is critical because as an actor in the web of scholarly communication, the concept of openness as related to content and access seems to be influencing and shifting the research focuses of many disciplines.

On Open Access

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The Open Access page at the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) presents a critical viewpoint about the need and the necessity of open access in the midst of the corporate attempt to control all major access channels.

Besides the need for open access, there is a need for open content and open communication if there is to be a viable and substantial public discourse on digital democracy.

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

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