Review Essay: "Open Access" and its Social Context: New Colonialism in the Making?


  • Jaan Valsiner Clark University



open access, closing of access, social capital, peer review, journal evaluation, history of journals, knowledge, scientific communication


I claim that what is called "open access" is actually a transformed form of traditional ("closed") access, and is "open" only by its obviously appealing label. As a re-organizational move of institutionalized kind, it benefits the economically powerful—usually "first world" based—research groups and corporations, and leads to new economic limits for the publication of innovative research emanating from less affluent researchers and laboratories. By shifting the costs of scientific publication from the recipients (journal subscribers) to the authors of published articles, "open access" creates a social scenario of one-sided information flow rather than a new form of "openness" in scholarly communication. By monopolizing the sources of scientific communication the "open access" initiative defeats its stated purpose. The articles in the reviewed Special Issue of Historische Sozialforschung have productively outlined a whole range of specific issues related to this rapidly developing social movement in scientific communication, but have failed to analyze the wider sociological nature of the ongoing negotiations of the control over scientific communication channels of which the "open access" movement is a part. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0602230


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Author Biography

Jaan Valsiner, Clark University

Jaan VALSINER ( is interested in the ways in which human psychological systems regulate themselves through constructing and reconstructing sign hierarchies. His work unites anthropological, sociological, and psychological ideas into a framework of cultural development of persons. He is editor of Culture & Psychology and since 2005 he has, together with Peter MOLENAR and SARAH STROUT, edited the online journal International Journal for Ideographic Sciences ( To previous issues of FQS Jaan VALSINER contributed reviews on "The Games of Gods and Man: Essays in Play and Performance" (, "Handbook of Ethnography" (, and "Qualitative Research in Information Systems" (




How to Cite

Valsiner, J. (2006). Review Essay: "Open Access" and its Social Context: New Colonialism in the Making?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(2).

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