The logic of Open Access (OA) is gradually spreading in the scientific community, mainly thanks to the help of important areas of public libraries. OA basically describes a phenomenon that sees many scientific communities publishing through the Internet their results (papers, articles, books, etc.) on archives accessible to anyone (and without payment of a price). OA seems to have the possibility to become a very powerful tool for the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
As part of the general phenomenon called “Transfer of Knowledge” (broader category than the more famous “Technology Transfer”), which sees universities and research centers increasingly interested in showing in the market the quality of their scientific production through various activities aimed at exploiting the foreground of their researches (IPRs, licenses, spin-off, etc.), OA plays a pivotal role: it could make transfer of knowledge – previously conveyed (under payment) by private intermerdiaries – more transparent, fluid, and accessible to anyone.
Despite the initial delay, the OA movement is quickly growing in importance for legal scholarship. Nonetheless, the institutional arrangements and the technological features of OA to legal scholarship are variegated and pose a vast array of problems.
OA to legal scholarship changes the form of the legal publication – e.g., we face new kinds of publications such as blog posts or Wikipedia articles – and shifts the “quality selection” function of the publication system from traditional intermediaries (publishers, learning societies, editorial boards, etc.) to new ones (e.g., search engines, social software, Open Archives, etc.) and readers.
In this perspective, a prominent issue is represented by the Open Archives. Open Archives, as well as other OA tools (OA journals), increase the reputation of authors and improve the future impact of their articles. A vast literature – although referring to other subjects – shows that papers deposited in OA repositories are cited more often than those which are not.
Moreover, the OA repositories enable a new form of evaluation process. On one hand, it is possible to develop innovative bibliometric indicators. On the other hand, through them you can easily trace the entire life of a scientific product: for example, the OA repositories will allow the display of all the evolution stages of an article from the presentation at a conference to its final version.
Given the enormous power of the Net and the rise of these OA repositories, we are still suffering – especially within the Italian context – the low number of uploads and the lack of innovative tools fit to navigate through the OA legal materials. The governance of legal Open Archives should pay attention to the following main features: interoperability, redundancy, multilingualism, evaluation criteria and tools, policies.
These kinds of issues can be solved only by using an interdisciplinary law and technology approach which clarifies the various, complex aspects of the relationship between Open Archives and legal scholarship.