GEORGE SIEMENS: So this is the part I think is challenging. If I'm teaching in a classroom with 15 people-- you mentioned earlier-- you've got a closed environment, I have an article for someone that I want to teach as part of my course, I can share that. Because there's some fair use, fair dealing exemptions that allow me to utilize copyrighted materials without going through that-- dear Dr. Wiley, may I please use-- then I hereby grant you permission, George, you can use it.
So that doesn't happen in a small classroom of 15 people. When you are on the internet though, that fair use is cut off at the knees, and then interestingly, your expression of teaching in a classroom-- you made a really important point. If it's technically mediated, digitally captured. Your words, your video is immediately copyrighted the moment that that's captured.
So essentially everything in a classroom that happens, when technology is involved in capturing data, is copyrighted the moment it happens.
DAVID WILEY: Yeah, I'm afraid that's true. And I want to be clear about fair use, fair dealing in a public kind of setting. We say that it's undercut at the knees.
And I think that's true. But to be technically correct, I think we have to say that in the US, for example, for a use to be a fair use, there's a test that has to be made up of certain criteria that have to be met.
And it seems like doing things publicly really undercuts some of the key criteria for that test for something to be a fair use. But it probably is possible in some contexts to make fair use as in open online courses, but with the world being the world, where anybody can sue anybody and seems to be happy to sue anybody for anything that happens. And the only person who can tell you if a use is fair, really, is a judge, because that four part test is still quite vague.
I think our natural response as educators and certainly as legal counsel at our institutions is to say, just stay away back away from that.
GEORGE SIEMENS: There is there's some-- Michael Geist from Canada and others have written that we should be more aggressive in our approach to fair use or fair dealing. The difficulty, though, is if you get aggressive, you're a lightning rod. And the publishers or the other agencies-- and this isn't an anti-publisher conversation, I really emphasize.
There is a value to limited cycles of commercialization of creative works as an incentive to the originator of those works, whether they're an individual or a corporation. But as Geist and others have argued that we should be more aggressive in pushing that, because we have greater latitude than many of us do.
But I've been involved in systems where-- OK, let's push the boundaries a little bit on this. Well, the university has been architected in such a way that if you got to do-- especially in online teaching, there's got to be an IP and a copyright clearance process that goes through. That's an agency that says no, we don't want--
DAVID WILEY: Very risk adverse.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah exactly. It's quite the opposite. So then, that's teaching content, curriculum, and so on. I want to talk a little bit about scholarship now. Because scholarship is one of those fascinating things that you could not make this stuff up if you tried, if it didn't exist. You could not come up with a more--
DAVID WILEY: Nobody would buy it.
GEORGE SIEMENS: You could not create a more ridiculous system. So for people who aren't familiar with academic publishing, here's roughly how it works. George, an employee of the UTA gets an NSF grant-- public funds. As an employee of the UTA, at least a good portion of my salary is paid for by the state, the rest is paid for by grants or student tuition or other factors that come in.
I take my NSF grant work, I hire doctoral or post-doc students, using public funds, to generate this research, conduct analysis. Then on my own time, I will write up my results. I will conduct the analysis results, produce a paper.
I will submit it to a journal. This journal will have an academic, typically non-paid as the senior editor as well as a series of sub-editors that will edit as well. Non-paid position, prestigious affiliated positions.
Then the journal will take my paper, paid for by the public purse in many ways, and will send it to a group of reviewers who will all be academics, most likely paid for by public or private-person US system. And they will review this paper without fee, they will send it back to this no fee editor, who'll capture the comments, send it back to me and say these revisions need to be happen-- need to be done before we will accept this journal article.
I make those revisions, I submit it back, the editor gives it the stamp. The journal that's doing it will then do some type of typesetting or whatever else to make the article ready for publication, they'll post it.
Now, if I want to use that article in my course, I have to buy back access to that article from the journal or my university does.
DAVID WILEY: Because let's say very explicitly that at the point where they finally make the decision to say, yes, we will accept your article, they'll only accept it conditional on you transferring copyright of all of that work to them. And if you refuse to do that, then they won't publish the article.
GEORGE SIEMENS: And so this part-- if you really stop and think about it, public purse pays for it, public purse reviews it, one period, I sign it over because I want people to be able to read it, and then the university has to buy back my work that was paid for-- and the university in this case is a publicly funded library system that buys back its own publicly funded work.
I find it just fascinating that this system came into existence. Fortunately though, there has been some movement around open scholarship, and we'll talk about this a little bit later in the course, through open journals and open journals systems.
But in a lot of cases, faculty are reluctant to do it because it doesn't have the prestige factors of closed proprietary journals. So how do we get around this system because the currency of academia is reputation, because that'll influence your ability to get grants, your influence for collaboration.
So you want to publish in prominent journals, you want to have your works shared in conference proceedings that are well regarded. How do we work with this system where we're essentially-- we need to eliminate the system before we can get a new system in, but there's no prestige mechanism to make that happen yet.
DAVID WILEY: And the only people tying us to the old system is us.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah, because if all our work. We're doing the editing and the researching and the analysis.
DAVID WILEY: And we're the ones who set the promotion and tenure criteria to say what counts as prestigious and what doesn't, what are we going to accept in terms of moving you from associate professor to full professor. It's easy to want to turn and point and say, boy, the system is keeping me down, but who's the system? The system is academics. So it's confusing all the way around.
Boy, you know there is a famous quote that says that science advances one funeral at a time. And it does seem to me that old ways of thinking about the prestige of journal and old ways of thinking about the prestige of work are changing slowly, but they're changing as older academics retire out and younger academics come in.
When you look at the kinds of ways that we think about prestige-- we overwhelmingly still currently think about prestige-- there are things that are proxies for the impact of our work and not direct measures of the impact of our work. And to the degree that you can explain to someone that a journal impact factor is a proxy for the impact of your work, it's a measure of the journal itself-- it has nothing to do with your specific paper.
But in the past, when these kinds of things are difficult to calculate and quantify, this is the best we could do. We'd say articles published in this journal typically of this kind of impact, so if you publish in that journal, then that indirectly says something about the quality of your article.
That was a great argument at the time and was the best we could do, but now, when I can use a method like Google Scholar or something else to go out and directly say, my specific article, regardless of the generalized impact of the journal it was published in, my article actually had this impact.
When I can report the direct impact of my article, rather than a proxy for the potential impact of my article, it's just hard to see how, particularly academics, who I think want to believe that are empiricists, don't buy in to this story that actually measuring the impact directly is better that then taking it in an indirect measure.
And when you publish articles in an open access way-- this is the thing-- the reason you sent your article to the journals that you wanted people to be able to read it. And if the journal is going to take it, put it behind a pay wall, and charge thousands of dollars for access to it, the act of putting it in that journal actively prohibits people from reading it in many ways.
If you put an article out in the open, publish it transparently and publicly available, lots more people can read it. And if more people can read it, more people will cite it, which drives your actual impact measure as opposed to these proxy measures.
GEORGE SIEMENS: I think the point you're raising there is really important to be aware of, because when you have an open space, you are more granular in your assessment of impact.
What I mean is, if you publish an article openly and it gets 5,000 citations, the value of that article is the citations for that article. When you publish something in a top tier journal, the value is the citations of the journal as a whole or the more traditional role that it's played.
And it's a complex argument to try and tease out, but it's the same idea of the difference being a proxy versus an actual indication. And a journal, by and large, is a proxy of influence, but an actual article says x number of people have cited or referenced this.
I have a colleague from Athabasca University-- Terry Anderson-- who used to be the editor of IRRODL, and that's one of the top journals in open and distributed learning. And he's done some work that looked at the impact of articles that are cited in open spaces versus articles-- at least in the distributed learning space-- versus articles that are published in closed journals.
And it baffles the mind as to why an academic would publish in a closed journal, because you're absolutely right, it handicaps the prospect of that article having the scope of impact that it could.
DAVID WILEY: Unless the other academics you work with have decided that the rules by which they will judge you for promotion and for tenure is whether it gets published in a prestigious journal, rather than whether your work actually has an impact.