What is Open Access?
From the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC):
"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment."
Basically, under current publishing models, access to research is highly restricted. Only those willing to pay hefty fees (or those at an institution willing to pay hefty fees) can read the articles in most scientific journals. This leaves a whole lot of people out. The Open Access model makes peer reviewed articles available to read and share by anyone with an internet connection. Typically, publishers cover their cost by charging readers a whole lot of money. Open Access journals cover their costs by asking authors to pay a fee to be included. Many research institutions have designated funding to pay the fees on behalf of their researchers. You can also include it in a grant proposal. Then, the whole world can build upon and benefit from your research. This is the direction that scholarly communication is heading in.
Why should I care?
When information is freely available, everyone wins. Researchers get all of the information they need. Students can enjoy unrestricted access to necessary educational tools. Libraries do not have to make tough choices on which journals to subscribe to. Scientists in low or middle income countries can contribute competitive research. Taxpayers can see the research they subsidize. The ones writing the research articles get more citations and see higher use of their work. Party all around!
Also, you may be required to publicly share your research. The NIH already requires that research funded by their grants be made publicly available within a year of publication. On July 29th, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act. Next it moves to the full Senate. FASTR requires all research funded by a federal agency with over $100 million in annual extramural research grants be made publicly available online. This includes the NSF, the CDC, the Department of Energy and many more.
What are the benefits?
Again, from SPARC (they explain things really well!)
- Increases readers’ ability to find use relevant literature
- Increases the visibility, readership and impact of author’s works
- Creates new avenues for discovery in digital environment
- Enhances interdisciplinary research
- Accelerates the pace of research, discovery and innovation
- Contributes to core mission of advancing knowledge
- Democratizes access across all institutions – regardless of size or budget
- Provides previously unattainable access to community colleges, two-year colleges, K-12 and other schools
- Provides access to crucial STEM materials
- Increases competitiveness of academic institutions
- Enriches the quality of their education
- Ensures access to all that students need to know, rather what they (or their school) can afford
- Contributes to a better-educated workforce
What are some different avenues towards OA publishing?
Once you've decided that you want to make your work Open Access, there are many different ways of going about it. Here are just a few:
- Publish in a fully Open Access journal, such as PLOS
- Even if you are publishing in a traditional subscription journal, they sometimes let you make the preprint (the manuscript version of your article - how it looks before their formatting and pagination) available online for free, usually through an institutional repository (more info below)
- Some subscription journals also allow you pay a fee to make your particular article OA, even if the rest of the journal isn't. Any fees associated with Open Access publishing can be worked into a grant proposal.
But I need to publish my article in a peer-reviewed journal.
All reputable Open Access journals are peer reviewed and well respected. They are indexed in scientific databases. Trust me, it's totally legit.
But I don't want to give up my copyright!
You won't! Open Access is based on the Creative Commons CC-BY license. That means that others may share, distribute and build upon your research, but they must cite you at all times. You still maintain copyright over your material.
How can the library help?
I know this can be really confusing. Even if you were already well read on the topic and knew all of this stuff, there are still tricky issues:
- How do I avoid predatory journals?
- If my research is being used and shared in new ways, how do I measure my impact factor?
- Will this effect my tenure application?
- What is the state of Open Access in my particular field?
- I'm totally on board, but what does the publishing process look like exactly?
- I still don't understand why this even matters.
Don't worry - we're here to help. You do not need to navigate this alone. The good folks over in the library can:
- Meet with faculty or students individually to find appropriate journals to publish in
- Do lots of workshops! From general "What is OA?" workshops to ones tackling specific issues, for the whole college or department specific, for faculty or students- whatever the task may be, we can teach it! In fact, we are super excited to teach lots of workshops throughout the year.
- Bring in guest speakers to lecture on specific OA issues
- Bring in publishers to give workshops on the publication process
- An institutional repository is coming! Remember, I mentioned it before, with regards to preprints? Starting this fall, the library will manage a new institutional repository - or a place for all members of the campus community to store and share their work. We plan on starting with theses and dissertations, but hope to be ready to accept faculty scholarship by November. You can put your articles, preprints and data sets in the repository and choose to make them freely accessible.
- Remember when I said that federal grants are going to require you to make articles publicly available within a year of publication? Putting them in the institutional repository meets that requirement. You're welcome.
- And you know what else is coming? Altmetrics! Making your research publicly available online means that it will be used in lots of new and interesting ways. Yes, you will get traditional citations, but your articles can also be tweeted, blogged about, used in news articles, and a million more things! Plus, you have so many other research outputs, like data sets and conference presentations. Yet still, traditional citations seem to be all we measure. That isn't fair. Altmetrics is a new way of quantifying all of your various citations, so people (i.e. tenure review board) understand your full impact. The library can recommend altmetrics tools you can use as an individual. We are also looking into tools to embed in the institutional repository. We can help you figure out how to best measure your impact and teach workshops on it.
- Basically anything you want. I am passionate about Open Access and willing to take suggestions on any ways to promote it on campus.
I'm still confused.
Check the other tab for additional resources. I tried to keep this as brief as possible, but lots of organizations go into this in further detail. You can also email me, call me, meet with me, tweet me - whatever your preferred method of communication.