Professor in Potsdam produces, directs 'Paywall: The Business of Scholarship' documentary
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 6:45 am

POTSDAM -- Jason Schmitt, Clarkson University associate professor of communication and media, has received a grant from the Open Society Foundation in Budapest, Hungary, to produce and direct a documentary on open access, "Paywall: The Business of Scholarship."

The open access movement is an international effort focused on making research widely available for a worldwide community.

The scholarship that is produced in science and academics fuels a large profit-driven industry, Schmitt said, which often promotes paid access to information that has been publicly-funded in some capacity. This cost limits developing nations from accessing the studies which further separates power and privilege.

However, as support for open access grows among academics and scientists as well as philanthropists and politicians, the movement lacks a coherent image, face or brand. Schmitt said the documentary will help unite individuals from broad backgrounds to further support, and champion, open access.

"Open access is important to accelerate innovation and growth in a worldwide community of scholars, scientists and practitioners," he said. "I feel this documentary could play a role in exciting a worldwide conversation about access to scholarship in a digital age."

Clarkson Director of Libraries & Associate Professor Michelle L. Young said the three big pieces of open access are that the information is free to read, unrestricted and available online.

When library budgets are not able to meet the demands of publisher contracts, subscriptions are canceled and access to information is lost. Young said open access benefits academics by increasing the visibility and impact of research.

"Information hidden behind a paywall is seen as a disadvantage for everyone," she said. "Open access allows more information to be added to the intellectual record, and people can continue to research because access is available and there are increased opportunities for collaboration."

Several prominent academic writers have signed on to help write the documentary storyline, including Science magazine contributing correspondent John Bohannon, Birkbeck University of London Professor Martin Paul Eve, and futurist, educator and consultant Bryan Alexander.

Schmitt will have additional video crew support from Zach Brunelle '17 of Burt Hills, N.Y., and professional videographer Russel Stone of Burlington, Vt.

The grant will support the travel, editing and final mastering, as well as provide a streaming and downloadable file for global viewing of the documentary.