An honest attempt at conversation

Thanks again to Josh for another post!

With the first 6 weeks finished- I imagine many of you are similarly wondering how we can generate a bit more conversation and engagement with this blog. What is it’s purpose? Is this an advice column? Are we suppose to share our research (what research?) Although I often loathe group work- I find it much easier to sit across from colleagues and share thoughts and ideas than to scrap together valuable comments or blog posts. My apologies for being so inimical- I imagine we could generate some excellent conversation in a different setting! 

For those who have not stumbled across this story- or are not in Prof. Caidi’s Foundations class, our southern neighbours are “celebrating” open/public access to federally-funded research as of last Friday. According to the statement released by the White House, “the final policy reflects substantial inputs from scientists and scientific organizations, publishers, members of Congress, and other members of the public – over 65 thousand of whom recently signed a We the People petition asking for expanded public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research.” (

According to the new legislation access to taxpayer-funded research is now required within 12 months of publication, similar to NIH’s current policies. 

But to who’s advantage is the access of this information? Sure the “politically-active” and the information professionals are on board- but the general public? Really? 

As mentioned by a classmate, one disadvantage to public access of research is the so-called edge given to competitors and private institutions conducting similar/same research. And where is this information going to be accessible? From the internet? From the publishers? Archives? Government?

While I have only touched on this topic- I am wondering what you all think about this move. Is it indeed a “landmark”? How does it affect the researcher and/or publisher? Who is going to use this information?

– would love to hear your thoughts, and thanks for putting up with me 🙂

5 thoughts on “An honest attempt at conversation

  1. Hey Kait! Thanks for the great conversation starter. Access to information is one of the most interesting aspects of our field, in my opinion. I think it probably is a landmark, but I’m not sure if it’s a “good” thing, or not. I’m also wondering how it could put copyright at risk, especially if people are able to peek into one another’s research whenever they want! While it can be easy to prove something is plagiarised when there is a clear link, how does it work if it’s only an idea? How could someone prove an idea was stolen? These are genuine questions, as I actually have no idea.

    This topic reminds me of a recent presentation I did for my Museums and Indigenous Communities for my course. Basically, we were presenting on the issue of repatriation drawn from several course readings, and my section covered ethical dilemmas relating to repatriation. I actually touched on the issue of archival material and repatriation. Essentially, this 2010 article by Aileen Runde called “The Return of Wampum Belts: Ethical Issues and the Repatriation of Native American Archival Materials” in Journal of Information Ethics 19(1) raises the issue of who should be allowed access to archival material containing culturally sensitive information. Many Native American groups wish to restrict access to these materials, but some archivists are lamenting doing so because they are concerned with public access. The thing is, archives restrict many things for many reasons…ie; donor requests, items related to national security, etc. So our group wondered why sensitive archival material pertaining to Native Americans couldn’t be restricted in a similar way, as a matter of national/tribal security, or as a type of donor request, in order to honour the groups who wish archival material pertaining to their cultures be accessibly only to those who they deem fit. I think that would be fair…but check out the article if you get a chance, and feel free to reply! I think it’s very relevant to this issue that Kait has raised for us!


  2. Fascinating! I am definitely going to check out this article Katherine. Being an ARM student- I am enthralled by archival restrictions (both legal and ethical) and accessibility.
    Will return to this conversation a bit later-

  3. Thanks for a great conversation starter Kait!

    These are very important questions and I imagine the landmark aspect lies with the nature of the research data and it being federally funded.

    I agree that accessibility must be considered for numerous reasons but I imagine that public access will be made through internet sources and/or institutional access?

    This actually made me think about an article I read last semester about Digital Humanities. In it, Christine Borgman (2009) explains how access to data can change the role of that data. She gives the example of The Sloan Digital Sky Survey which “was the first major astronomical survey founded on the premise that the resulting data would be openly and freely available, both to the astronomy community and to the public at large. Not only did astronomers mine the Sloan datasets for research purposes — more than 1700 scholarly papers were published — but manifold more users of these data were students and amateur astronomers. Amateurs, whose backyard telescopes could never yield data of such quality, also made important discoveries.” (2009, para 39). Borgman argues that the openness and subsequent research productivity of this project “instantiates the “value chain” of scholarship.” (2009, para. 39) I wonder how one would measure that value chain?

    I hope this example isn’t too lateral but I think open access is a very good thing and I also think the questions you raise with specific regards to the White House expanding access to federally funded research are important. I only wish I had better answers!

    Thanks again,
    – Vanessa

    Borgman, C. (2009). The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities. Digital Humanities Quarterly 3(4). Retrieved from

  4. Hi Kait!
    I actually did come across this story, and this is a fantastic conversation starter (that I’m only seeing a week later).

    Katherine, your question specifically, “how does it work if it’s only an idea? How could someone prove an idea was stolen?” is an interesting one for me. I was introduced to the topic by a literary studies class I took in my undergrad called, ‘Authorship and Fragmentation’/ ‘Mixed Media and the Copy’. Where we talked a lot about whether or not ideas could/should be copyrighted, what impact this kind of thinking would have on art, music, and writing, and as such where ideas or inspiration originate. Issues I discussed in that class have come up over and over again in both in other courses and my personal life, and I’m REALLY wishing that I had saved the syllabus for that class. I’ll have to search for it.

    I managed to find an one of the articles we discussed, “A Stroke of Genius or Copyright Infringement? Mashups and Copyright in Canada”:

    I’m a huge fan of musical mashups, particularly Girl Talk. In a sense, I believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due. But I also think it gets tricky when ideas become locked down, air tight, for fear of them being stolen. What room does that leave for innovation?

  5. Hi Jessica! Thanks for the reply. I too am a fan of Mashups and I think it’s really interesting to consider what happens when ideas and creativity intersect with copyright laws. I don’t have a very good grasp of copyright laws in Canada, so your article was very helpful! For instance, I’ve always wondered how Weird Al Yankovic can get away with using the music from well-known songs, and parodying the lyrics. I know this is different because it’s an American situation, but I still find it intriguing. I am supposing that the line in the article you provided – “Mashups are constructed in such a way that, for the most part, the listener is expected to recognise the source works” would also apply to Weird Al’s song-parodies as well.


    Sidenote: I never thought I’d be writing about Weird Al on a course blog, but there you have it. I did.

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