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Open Access, Education Research, and Discovery

Originally published as: Furlough, Michael. "Open Access, Education Research, and Discovery." Teachers College Record 112.10 (2010): 2623-2648. This version represents the final version post-copyedit. ABSTRACT: The open access movement has successfully drawn attention to economic and political aspects of scholarly communication through a significant body of commentary that debates the merits of open access and the potential damage it may do to scholarly publishing. Researchers within the field of education research, notably John Willinsky, have discussed the value and potential benefits of open access to fulfill the research mission and to improve the visibility of the field. There are now thousands of open access publications or content aggregators online. Researchers have adopted open access to varying degrees, but not as rapidly as proponents have hoped, while readers using traditional discovery services are less likely to encounter open access materials in their research than they are traditionally published scholarship. This essay examines the opportunities that are available for researchers to adopt open access distribution and the factors that may impede their adoption. I synthesize recent studies of researchers’ attitudes towards and understanding of open access, and examine the extent to which influential education research journals permit it. I focus on one of the primary methods of adopting open access—archiving versions of articles in open repository services—and demonstrate how that model can contribute to de-contextualizing of research findings during discovery. This essay is based primarily on a literature review and analysis, but also builds upon an investigation of publisher policies through publicly accessible Web sites. CONCLUSIONS: First, the success of the movement, and the ease with which data can be readily shared by anyone with net access, has contributed to an increasing expectation of “openness” and will change how research is conducted, shared, and authorized. Second, more research is needed on the attitudes and behavior of researchers in specific fields, especially education researchers, to understand how open access can support their needs as authors. Third, that understanding should be deployed to design services that can help close gaps in the research process. Openness should be adopted as a value in these services, not an end in itself.

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