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Scholarship in the Digital Age: Open Access

Accompanies a presentation by Information Commons and eLearning Librarian Amanda Starkel.

What is Open Access (OA)?

Open Access Week

"Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.

In most fields, scholarly journals do not pay authors, who can therefore consent to OA without losing revenue. In this respect scholars and scientists are very differently situated from most musicians and movie-makers, and controversies about OA to music and movies do not carry over to research literature.

OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review.

OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature. The question is not whether scholarly literature can be made costless, but whether there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating access barriers. Business models for paying the bills depend on how OA is delivered.

There are two primary vehicles for delivering OA to research articles: OA journals and OA archives or repositories.

  • OA archives or repositories do not perform peer review, but simply make their contents freely available to the world. They may contain unrefereed preprints, refereed postprints, or both. Archives may belong to institutions, such as universities and laboratories, or disciplines, such as physics and economics. Authors may archive their preprints without anyone else's permission, and a majority of journals already permit authors to archive their postprints. When archives comply with the metadata harvesting protocol of the Open Archives Initiative, then they are interoperable and users can find their contents without knowing which archives exist, where they are located, or what they contain. There is now open-source software for building and maintaining OAI-compliant archives and worldwide momentum for using it.
  • OA journals perform peer review and then make the approved contents freely available to the world. Their expenses consist of peer review, manuscript preparation, and server space. OA journals pay their bills very much the way broadcast television and radio stations do: those with an interest in disseminating the content pay the production costs upfront so that access can be free of charge for everyone with the right equipment. Sometimes this means that journals have a subsidy from the hosting university or professional society. Sometimes it means that journals charge a processing fee on accepted articles, to be paid by the author or the author's sponsor (employer, funding agency). OA journals that charge processing fees usually waive them in cases of economic hardship. OA journals with institutional subsidies tend to charge no processing fees. OA journals can get by on lower subsidies or fees if they have income from other publications, advertising, priced add-ons, or auxiliary services. Some institutions and consortia arrange fee discounts. Some OA publishers waive the fee for all researchers affiliated with institutions that have purchased an annual membership. There's a lot of room for creativity in finding ways to pay the costs of a peer-reviewed OA journal, and we're far from having exhausted our cleverness and imagination."

-Peter Suber, "A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access"

Why are libraries getting involved?

What can you do?

  • ´┐╝Submit your research articles to OA journals, when there are appropriate OA journals in your field.
  • Deposit your work in an open-access repository, like our own Digital Commons.
  • Deposit your data files in an OA archive along with the articles built on them. Whenever possible, link to the data files from the articles, and vice versa, so that readers of one know where to find the other.
  • When asked to referee a paper or serve on the editorial board for an OA journal, accept the invitation.
    • Faculty needn’t donate their time and labor to journals that lock up their content behind access barriers where it is less useful to the profession. Universities should support faculty who make this otherwise career-jeopardizing decision. Faculty don’t need to boycott priced journals, but they don’t need to assist them either.
  • If you are an editor of a toll-access journal, then start an in-house discussion about converting to OA, experimenting with OA, letting authors retain copyright, abolishing the Ingelfinger rule, or declaring independence (quitting and launching an OA journal to serve the same research niche). 
  • Volunteer to serve on your university’s committee to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure. Make sure the committee is using criteria that, at the very least, do not penalize faculty for publishing in peer- reviewed OA journals. At best, adjust the criteria to give faculty an incentive to provide OA to their peer-reviewed research articles and preprints, either through OA journals or OA archives. 
  • Work with your professional societies to make sure they understand OA. Persuade the organization to make its own journals OA, endorse OA for other journals in the field, and support OA eprint archiving by all scholars in the field.
  • Write opinion pieces (articles, journal editorials, newspapers op-eds, letters to the editor, discussion forum postings) advancing the cause of OA.
  • Educate the next generation of scientists and scholars about OA.

-"What Faculty Can Do to Promote Open Access" [pdf], Open Access Week

CONTACT

Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937
CAT: 317-940-8575

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