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 The policy only covers journal and conference articles (not unpublished works, books, or other scholarly works), and faculty members can request that this policy be waived for articles, on a case-by-case basis.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 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: