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Open Educational Resources and #PDFTribute
by Ron Mader


Publication date: February 2013

#pdftribute = Movement to improve open distribution of documents #openaccess


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. Yet there is a divide between the academic and policy insiders and locals and travelers without whom we'd have no responsible travel, conscious travel and ecotourism. Notably 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 conference on Open Educational Resources last year, the tipping point was made clear. There's a new way to share information particularly as we work to protect global heritage.

Making academic journal articles accessible to all 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. We've made this call before, but it's never been easier or inexpensive to do this as it is today.

It's time 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. 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.

I'm not suggesting that everything has to be open, nor that everything has to be free. But things could be more open, more free, more accessible. If we want to better understand our world, it's time to set the default to open. Comments are welcome on my blog and let's explore our options during RT Week.




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Ron Mader

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