Gentlemen & Scholars Only. No Tradesmen. University Websites.

Tradesmen Entrance web

Photo by Chris Radcliff  (CC BY-SA 2.0)     “Sign in Washington D.C. near the U.S. Capitol building. The arrow pointed to a blocked narrow staircase leading down to an unused basement door.”

Another comment, following my earlier one,  posted in response to  the Guardian article .

“Where are university websites hiding all their research?”

 The descriptive text for the photo above seems very appropriate to how Universities treat research pages on their websites.

Got a bit steamed up at the end – aux barricades citoyens and all that- but why not?  Am beginning to wonder if researchers give a damn about their research pages on university websites. If they “owned”  them it might be different.

(Comment follows)

“I submitted a clunky comment earlier.I’d like to repackage and try again.

First, I’ll declare an interest. I want to make money from the information about the research going on in UK universities. Let’s be clear, what I’m interested in is not the published papers. They are probably the most important output of university research but they are not the only product of that research. There is also the “translate and engage” information that you will find on the website pages about departmental research and in the research councils’ grant databases. This where a research unit can sketch out who’s doing what, where, and who’s paying. Where researchers can blog and post videos. Where they can engage possible collaborators from other disciplines and other countries. I want to take this information mix and mash it and sell it on to the world.  Why? Because the UK public sector research base is one of the few strengths the UK still has since Mrs. T’s long bet on the banks went bust. Why commercial? Because a “push” model of getting that information out as far as possible would serve UK universities better at engaging with the world outside the research units than the present “pull” model of researcher looking up researcher. And to push that information out requires an incentive to me, and others like me. And no, given the volume of UK research, I don’t think a trickle feed of research news items from university press departments counts as an effective push model

So what do I find when I get to a university departmental research page? A big sign saying “Gentlemen  and scholars only. No tradesmen”.That is what the present  “all rights reserved except for fair dealing exceptions” copyright T&Cs that are applied to university websites amount to.

Things are changing, Gateway to Research the beta phase RCUK portal to grant database information is under Open Government Licence- that is I can do more or less what I want with it, including commercial re-use, so long as I attribute source and don’t misrepresent.

Cicero21 quite rightly points out that universities don’t do research, it’s the researchers in departments who do. And who writes the departmental research webpages?  The researchers not the university administrators. So here’s my modest proposal to you researchers – take back control of your intellectual property, of your copyright over what you have written on those webpages, and decide for yourselves, unit by unit, what licensing terms you want to apply. You want to keep the No Tradesmen sign up, fair enough- but you decide.  And don’t be put off by being told that the university website can only support one level of licensing for everyone and everything. A modern CMS based university website that does not support explicit granularity of content licensing is not fit for purpose- especially with the emergence of MOOCs and OERs. And don’t be put off by administrators telling you that in your contract of employment you assigned your website page copyright to the “university”. Remind them that when you write for your departmental webpages it is no different from when you write a research paper. And if research papers are moving towards Open Access and Open Licences, and the research councils are behind that move, then why should your departmental web pages be different. Place them in the position of being perceived as Elsevier and see how they like it.”

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One Response to Gentlemen & Scholars Only. No Tradesmen. University Websites.

  1. I do accept as true with all the ideas you’ve introduced to your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for beginners. May just you please prolong them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

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