Born in Toronto, Ontario, John Willinsky taught school for 8 years before taking a doctorate in the study of education, and subsequently became a professor of education at the University of British Columbia (UBC). In 2008, he moved to Stanford where he is currently the Khosla Family Professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Willinsky’s interest in what later became known as open access began in 1998, with his efforts to bring the evidence of research to bear on local journalism. He quickly realised, however, that his ambitions were significantly challenged by the fact that most scholarly journals required a subscription to read, and many had yet to move online.
So he shifted focus, and instead began trying to convince journals and conferences that they should go online, in the hope that this would enable greater public access to research. To help persuade editors and journals to make the move he founded the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), which subsequently evolved into a partnership with the Simon Fraser University Library (which is where the development team is based, led by SFU Associate University Librarian Brian Owen) and Stanford University.
PKP’s first project was to develop an open source publishing platform called Open Journal Systems (OJS). This proved hugely successful, and by 2013 around 8,000 journals were actively using OJS as their online publishing platform.
PKP has gone on to develop a portfolio of other open source tools as well, including Open Monograph Press, Open Conference Systems and Open Harvester Systems.
Willinsky is greatly valued and respected by the open access movement, although he does not have the high public profile of OA advocates like Peter Suber, Stevan Harnad and Jean-Claude Guédon. This is partly because he was not present at key OA initiatives like the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), but mainly I suspect because he did not actively participate in the often-heated public discussions and debates that initially made the case for open access, and which brought the movement to the attention of the public.
While others were doing “the heavy intellectual lifting”, says Willinsky, “I was essentially tinkering away in the garage over the software, and scrambling with Brian Owen to find funding for the master builders of OJS.”
This of course is far too modest, if only because it ignores the fact that in 2006 Willinsky published one of the key texts of the open access movement — The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship.
The Access Principle, explains Willinsky was an attempt to establish open access as a worthy topic of scholarly treatment. “I wanted to assert that this was not simply a side line, like choosing the title of a journal, but really was part of what it meant to do research and scholarship, part of what it meant to claim to be producing knowledge for the benefit of the world.” ...
If you wish to read the interview with John Willinsky, please click on the link below.
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To read the interview (as a PDF file) click HERE.