Open Access Week is October 21 – 27

oa week

Today marks the beginning of International Open Access Week, a celebration of access to scholarship. Open Access is a movement in scholarly publishing which endeavors to sidestep or bypass the traditional barriers that block people from accessing scholarship. The most common barrier is the cost of subscription journals which are usually too expensive for individuals to own and have increasingly become a burden on academic libraries as well. Generally speaking, academic libraries and librarians consider open access to be a worthwhile or virtuous endeavor, because librarians are the people most aware of the ever increasing costs of scholarly journals. Librarians have long realized that under the current scholarly publishing model, libraries will not be able to sustain the journal collections that scholars need.

Open Access comes in a few different forms, but the common characteristic that unites all types of Open Access is that scholarship is accessible. That is to say, scholarship is not written in laymen’s terms or overly simplified, but rather articles that are made to be Open Access or articles published in Open Access journals are freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Open Access is more equitable, allowing all individuals to have the same access to the scholarship traditionally only accessible by those with the financial means to purchase multiple expensive subscriptions.

Since its inception, Open Access publishing has continuously been under attack. Some individuals do not recognize the value of Open Access publishing and tend to discriminate against publications in open access journals. Though this seemed to have been on a decline with Universities such as Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and UPenn signing open access mandates supporting scholars who publish in open access venues (http://roarmap.eprints.org/). However, the debate seems to be on the rise again with the rise of predatory open access journals. These journals seek out scholars encouraging them to submit materials to their “peer reviewed” journal, accept the articles without undergoing peer review, and then charge the author a publication fee (the-scientist). These journals are simply exploitative of the open access movement and do not truly represent the vast, high quality scholarship that is being published in legitimate open access journals.

Recently, a sting on “open access” journals published in SCIENCE has given the anti-open access cause some ammunition (sciencemag). However, the study is not without considerable backlash from open access proponents who have noted, among other things, that the sting was selective about which journals the author chose to submit and the tone of the article was misleading about open access in general (blogs.law.harvard; Peter Suber’s plus.google.comscholarlykitchen).  It is also worth noting that the source of the “open access sting” article (SCIENCE), is the same subscription based peer reviewed publication that published a fake article in the past. This is of course a similar peer review indiscretion that the sting article sought to illuminate (michaeleisen).

Predatory Open Access journals are a real concern to the advancement of open access publishing, but there are resources for determining which journals are legitimate peer review and which are predatory. The Directory of Open Access Journals is an index of Open Access Journals. Currently, the Directory is undergoing a reevaluation to assure open access journals found in the directory are all legitimate peer reviewed journals (doaj). In addition, Beall’s list of predatory Open Access Journals lists journals and publishers that the blog’s author, a scholarly initiatives librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, deems to be predatory in nature (scholarlyoa). However, it is important to note that the Directory of Open Access Journals was found to have a few predatory open access journals in its index, this is primarily the reason it is currently undergoing internal evaluation, and Beall’s list was found to list journals that deny publication to articles based on recommendations from peer reviewers.   The best safety measure is to ask colleagues their thoughts about specific journals, research the journal and the articles that it has published, and consult a librarian for their recommendation.

It is true, there are open access journals which do not have high peer review standards and seek to exploit the movement. However, the same can be said for subscription journals as well. In and of itself, Open Access does not make a journal low quality. Though Open Access has a long road ahead of it, it is only going to grow from here. The ideals of Open Access are important to scholarship and will continue to rise as more scholars become aware of the goals of Open Access and become attuned to picking out predatory open access journals. This will take a considerable amount of time to fight the misconceptions that surround Open Access publishing (theguardian).

In closing, there is a reason libraries support the Open Access movement, it is because it is for the advancement of knowledge and it is for equality. For example, there have been position statements by the Canadian Library Association (cla), the Association of Research Libraries (arl), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a coalition of more than 800 libraries (sparc), and the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association (ala).

For more information on the specifics of Open Access please see the University’s research guide on Open Access (http://guides.library.scranton.edu/openaccess).

Open Access Simplified

Due to what many consider to be unfair business practices, the Open Access movement continues to grow, but what is Open Access anyway? In order to better understand the movement, the library created an Open Access page on our Research Guides. However, one important thing to keep in mind is that though libraries and librarians are usually the ones asked to explain Open Access (and often run Open Access programs on campus) , the decision to adopt Open Access is a campus wide issue, not one the library can make unilaterally.

On the page you can find a definition of Open Access, its subtle nuances, the various issues, and the multiple roads toward knowledge that is more open and accessible to everyone.

For more on Open Access, check out our previous post “Princeton, Open Access, and the Evolution of Scholarly Communication.”

Princeton, Open Access, and the Evolution of Scholarly Communication

Yesterday, the faculty of Princeton University unanimously voted to adopt a new policy for scholarly publications (PDF). In support of open access, the policy prohibits faculty members from signing away exclusive rights to publishing companies. Instead, the policy assigns to the University a nonexclusive right to copy and provide access to faculty publications. The policy only covers journal and conference articles (not unpublished works, books, or other scholarly works), and faculty members can request that this policy be waived for articles, on a case-by-case basis.  With this vote, Princeton joins a growing coalition of higher education institutions that have enacted open access policies.

What does this mean for the Weinberg Memorial Library?  This increasing support for and interest in open access has a lot of important implications for academic libraries.  Princeton’s new policy (and the media attention it’s getting) may be a harbinger of major change in the world of scholarly communication.  As Karin Trainer, university librarian at Princeton, noted to the Chronicle:

“Both the library and members of the faculty, principally in the sciences, have been thinking for some time that we would like to take a concrete step toward making the publications of our extraordinary faculty freely available to a much larger audience and not restricted to those who can afford to pay journal subscription fees.”

We, too, have high hopes that movement towards open access will make scholarly works more accessible and more affordable for our University community. So tomorrow at our Library Advisory Committee meeting, we’ll be starting a conversation about open access with our faculty members to hear their questions, concerns, and suggestions.

Princeton’s report also points out another significant implication for libraries:

“Although it makes sense to adopt such a policy even if the University does not establish an open-access repository of its own, we believe that the University and its faculty will benefit most from this policy if it does establish such a repository… An open-access policy without a ready means for faculty to post their scholarly articles and an equally ready means of retrieval would be of very limited value.”

In some fields, well-integrated open access repositories already exist – like arXiv.org for physics, math, and computer science. But in other disciplines, especially the humanities, these types of repositories are unusual.  So universities all over the country have started to create their own institutional repositories to host the scholarly works of their faculty and students, and academic librarians with expertise in information organization and preservation have stepped up to create, manage, and maintain them.  Here at the Weinberg, we’ve been thinking about an institutional repository over the past few years – but when we asked our faculty about it, we didn’t hear much demand for that kind of service. Now, after Princeton’s announcement, it seems like a good time to ask again.

To join in our campus conversation about open access, post a comment here or talk with a UofS librarian. We hope to hear feedback from our students, faculty, and community.

Open Access resources:

Pandora Radio, Music Genomes, & Beautiful Sounds

Here we are, in the thick of finals. All-nighters. Citation madness. Dum-dum lollipops from the Reference Desk.

I know all about it — I’m the trusty librarian that is up at least half the night with you this week, at the Reference Desk ’til 2 am when we close.

But boy, did I come across a gem of a website that I believe you will love as much as I do. Because we all love music, right? But of course we love very different kinds of music… And that’s where the brilliance of Pandora Radio comes in.

This website allows you to create personalized, customized Internet radio stations that play only the music you love. When I first heard about it, I was very skeptical as to how user-friendly, effective or accurate such a claim could be. But I moseyed on over to the URL, where I was prompted to input a favorite artist or song. I humored Pandora, and typed in “Jason Mraz.” A station called “Jason Mraz Radio” started playing, with the first song as “I’d Do Anything” off of his first studio album, Waiting for my Rocket to Come. Okay, that’s neat, and I figured it would just play Jason songs in succession… But then, the second song began, and it wasn’t Jason, but a groovy rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by a Hawaiian artist whose name I can’t remember, accompanying himself on a ukulele — a version of the song I had heard about but never gotten around to looking up. A little pop-up from Pandora told me they were playing this song because, essentially, it “sounds” like Jason’s music. Well, it wasn’t Jason, but it was groovy in all the ways Jason is, and I was pleased. And the neat part is, now I have learned about an artist I never would have known about, for free, who plays the same kind of music as Jason — the kind of music I like. This is very cool indeed.

So I started creating other stations, and decided it was well worth creating an account at the site, so I could save my stations for future use. Right now, I am listening to “Bluegrassy Instrumental” (one of the genre-stations they also offer), and I’m loving it. And when Pandora plays a song I like in particular, I have a few options: I can rate it w/ a thumbs up, so the station knows to play more songs like it, and I can also Bookmark the song, so I can remember the artist and album for future reference. There are also ways to interact with other Pandora Radio listeners, recommending songs, creating profiles, etc. This site rocks my socks, and it will rock yours too. Just trust me on that one.

But you may ask, how does Pandora achieve this? How can a website or even an extensive database of music know what songs are really like other songs? That’s where the Music Genome Project comes in. I won’t go crazy trying to explain how the participants do what they do, but in short, they basically map the musical DNA of every song, characterizing and analyzing each song for many things like “melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics” (taken from About Pandora — worth reading too). Then Pandora takes these DNA maps (as I’m calling them) and uses them to match songs with other songs, to create a stream of music that can continually be customized to fit your taste in that style of music.

I think this is just awesome, and I felt the need to share it with all of you. We all love music, and this tool not only gives open access to the thing we love, but it enables us to discover artists and songs we might never have before.

So, if you need music in the background while you work on papers and finals — for my part, certain kinds of music (like “Bluegrassy Instrumental”) help me concentrate — check out Pandora Radio.

This is technology and the Internet at their best.