An ethics of care: what kind of open access do we want?
The UK’s research libraries are at the forefront of progress towards open access. But despite broad policy consensus that OA is both necessary and achievable, conflict regarding the best way forward remains. In part, this is because OA has been co-opted by vested interests, demonstrating that openness is not enough by itself to ‘work collectively towards equity and the betterment of society for all’. Viewing OA as a commons may offer a way forward. Effective governance of a commons requires self-governance by the community that sustains and uses it – if orders are imposed from on high, the resulting resource is not a true commons. Building a plurality of local scholarly commons attuned to the needs of different communities cannot rely on mandates from central authorities; instead, it is important to support spaces where people can explore alternative values from those found in mainstream library and publishing communities. One such value is an ethics of care, i.e. attentiveness and responsiveness to both individual and collective needs. An ethics of care can inform our collective action towards building and sustaining scholarly commons more aligned with the values of openness and access to knowledge that are at the heart of the library community.