OER14 homeApplication › Mr Gareth Johnson

Policy, practice and problems: UK university cultures and responses to open access

Tuesday 14:30-15:00 (2), Blaydon/Gibbs

Type: Lightning talk

Theme: Open policy, research, scholarship and access

#oer14 #abs22


Mr Gareth J Johnson, PhD Student, Nottingham Trent University, [email protected]



2012-2013 were momentous years that reshaped the open access landscape in UK academia, and a time ripe for study. As such this talk will present the early results from my doctoral research into the attitudes, practices and influences that shape UK academics cultural responses to open access (OA) and the intellectual commons. In particular it will present the results from an extensive interview programme focussing on the institutional commonalities, differences and trends evidenced across UK universities. Using ethnographic methods this research aims to establish across a broad spectrum of universities a solid grounding in the genuine institutional discourses and reactions relating to OA. As well as providing qualitative insights into the current progress of open access across the UK, the results are being used in the critique, analysis and systematisation of the influence actors and power relationships impacting on the beliefs and scholarly practices of UK academics (Benkler, 2011; Suber, 2012).


During mid-2013 a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews, were conducted in person and via VOIP, with practitioners, research librarians and professional staff representing a substantive number of UK universities. Interviewees, typically leading open access practitioners within their institutions, were selected as being well placed to accurately represent their professional perceptions of the local impact, uptake and reactions to OA within their organisations. While semi-structured questioning was utilised and exact phrasing varied, the central focus was on establishing a historical and current responses, the levels and topics of resultant debate engendered from within the academic corpus, along with the institutional level responses, drivers and policy. Additionally an effort was made to establish insight into local barriers to the adoption of OA dissemination practices. Finally information on those actors perceived to be the most impactful in terms of swaying academics themselves was collected. All interviews were transcribed for analysis with attributable quotations utilised in representing the genuine insight and voice of the interviewees (Rubin & Rubin, 2005).


In total 81 institutions across the country were represented, out of a sample of 125 who were approached. A surface analysis of the transcripts has revealed many commonalities in the OA activities, policy and practice, but a considerable divergence in others. A deeper level of critical analysis, as of this writing, is being applied to the transcripts. This will allow deeper ‚Äúrevelatory and emancipatory‚ÄĚ analysis to lay bare underlying mechanisms, cultural conventions and power relationships (Alvesson and Deetz, 2005). The results from this analysis will be briefly presented in this talk.


Finally, a critique of the impact of the neoliberal ideology applied to education by successive UK governments resulting in the increasingly marketised education and commodified knowledge production roles of universities has been developed in parallel with this work. This will allow the exploration of the conflicting purposes of HE today and examines the relation this has to the adoption, embrace and uptake of openness in academic scholarship dissemination practice (Fosket, 2011).


Benkler, Y. (2011). Networks of power, degrees of freedom. International Journal of Communication [online], 5, pp721-755.
De Angelis, M. and Harvie, D. (2009). 'Cognitive capitalism' and the rat-race: how capital measures immaterial labour in British universities. Historical Materialism, 17(3), pp.3-30.
Lessig, L. (2004). Free culture: the nature and future of creativity. USA: Penguin Books.
Rubin, J.R. and Rubin, I.S. (2005). Qualitative interviewing: the art of hearing data. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications.
Suber, P. (2012). Open access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Funding acknowledgements

Research funded by AHRC Studentship.


Recap recording


Further details

Keywords: culture, academic, research, ethnography, attitudes, power relationships, influence , universities, UK

Mr Gareth Johnson, PhD Student, Nottingham Trent University

Twitter: @llordllama

Twitter abstract: Results of a qualitative investigation into the culture and practice of OA across UK universities