Open = Allowing access, passage or a view
Planeta readers are motivated by noble ideas that have inspired the movements for responsible travel, conscious travel and ecotourism. But academic articles and books remain behind pay walls. During the 2010 European Ecotourism Conference I asked one of the professors, why we should cite his work if it remained behind a pay wall. Immediately I got the feeling that academics do not like being asked such questions.
The issue came up this past month when on January 11, Aaron Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment where he had hanged himself. This computer programmer and Internet activist had been a longtime proponent of open access and was facing severe prosecution from the U.S. legal system when he committed suicide.
Supporters of Swartz responded to news of his death with an effort called #pdftribute. Scholars posted links to their works, accompanied by the hashtag #pdftribute. Timely in action and generous in spirit, the movement is still in its early stages. The future is unclear but what is certain is that across academic, scientific, government sectors the mainstreaming of ‘open’ has taken hold. When UNESCO sponsored its 2012 conference on Open Educational Resources, the tipping point was made clear. There’s a new way to share information as we work to protect global heritage.
Making academic journal articles is a good starting point for those working in tourism and conservation. As part of the 2013 Responsible Travel Week, I’d like to extend a call for these articles that are available online to the public to be tweeted with the hashtag #pdftribute.
If we want to go further – and I hope we do – I think it’s incumbent that academics and tourism professionals make their meetings accessible to the public, at the very least via livestreaming video. Far too many events are still held behind closed doors.
And I would suggest that we explore the concept of open textbooks. Could we make the educational materials for students available to everyone online free of charge? The ideas promulgated by Creative Common’s Cable Green are inspiring. Check out how open textbooks allow their free use, sharing, and adaptation to local context. Question: How can this be applied to ‘responsible travel’ education?
As the notion of open educational resources, open science, open journalism and open government become part of the mainstream, we are seeking partners who would like to explore these efforts in making knowledge about travel and tourism, conservation and heritage, available to anyone who is interested.