In Service to CUNY’s mission as a public university

A couple of months ago Jill Cirasella wrote a post introducing the recently launched Academic Works site on the CUNY Grad Center’s Library blog.

Why You Should Ditch and Use CUNY Academic Works

Academic Works provides an open repository for access to the research, scholarship and creative work happening around the City University of New York. I like this bit of the way they describe themselves, “In service to CUNY’s mission as a public university, content in Academic Works is freely available to all.” Service, mission, free, and open—add labor struggle and it’s perfectly rounded off to CUNY. What strikes me about this post, and what pulled me into the very awesome Grad Center blog, was the title: “Why You Should Ditch and Use CUNY Academic Works.” It may have been inspired by Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s great post reminding scholars about the limits of venture capital driven sites like, a topic which the Atlantic reported on a couple of months later this past December, noting that the academic social network was feeling it both from traditional academic publishers like Elsevier as well as from the academy itself, in this case referencing Fitzpatrick’s post.

In fact, Fitzpatrick is not simply throwing stones at—although I would have no issues if that’s all she were doing— she actually has led the charge at MLA to build their  own academic social network,  MLA Commons.  The Commons network links members of the Modern Language Association and provides an open source platform for scholarly communication and collaboration. Additionally, the network is connected with CORE, an open-access repository through which members can add their work, as well as share it  with other members of the network. In a rare moment of foresight in educational technology platforms, the MLA is working towards building a network outside of the venture capital-driven bubble.

So, what’s the punch line? Well, the MLA Commons is built on top of Commons in a Box, a product of the work and ongoing funding of the CUNY Academic Commons. What I have always loved about the edtech development work happening at CUNY—and why I jumped at the chance to join the team—is that for the last 6 or 7 years they have been experimenting, building, and investing in their open platforms. Recently the importance of this investment is coming into sharp focus as we begin to realize (yet again) the venture capital funded web is not operating in service to the CUNY mission referenced earlier. Let me repeat and play on that mission here once again for effect: “In service to CUNY’s mission as a public university, the technology that drives the Academic Commons is freely available to all.” This is true. What’s more, it is funded through grants and public monies which means they don’t sell your data, they don’t try and make you pay to promote your uploaded papers, and they won’t have to answer to profit-driven investors for the $17 million in venture capital that they’ve raised and are beholden for.  So, yeah, ditch, and start supporting a sustainable, local future for open access scholarship at you local institutions and professional organizations.

I have a lot more to blog about the CUNY Academic Commons, but I wanted to try and tie my first post closely to the mission undergirding a public institution like CUNY, in hopes that this will drive my future blogging for the Commons.

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