Library Endorses 'Open Access' Movement


Olson Library encourages NMU faculty to consider submitting their scholarly writing to open access (OA) journals – online, peer-reviewed publications that are available free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. The OA movement is gaining momentum worldwide as journal subscription costs continue to soar.


"Journal prices have increased 8 to 10 percent per year for decades, which is well above the rate of inflation," said Kevin McDonough (AIS). "The pricing structure has forced libraries to cancel many subscriptions. This defeats the whole purpose of scholarly communication, because faculty and students are ultimately losing access to relevant information.

"There's some degree of pressure to publish in distinguished journals, but some commercial publishers charge an awful lot when they sell that material back to university libraries or make it available online. In many cases, scholars may even lose the right to use their own published research in their classroom or post it on public Web sites and archives."


Joanna Mitchell (AIS) said Olson Library's goal is to raise awareness of publishing alternatives, and to help faculty members realize their choices directly impact pricing and access. The library has a Web page dedicated to the open access issue, and has taken several steps to offset increased journal costs.


"We have aggressively pursued opportunities to increase access to electronic journals by partnering with other academic librarians through the Michigan Library Consortium," Mitchell said. "By negotiating as a group, we have more purchasing power. For example, we gained access to more than 170 Oxford University Press titles through a group purchase for only slightly more than the price we paid for 12 OUP journal subscriptions we purchased individually."


One way Olson Library puts faculty and students in touch with open access titles such as PubMedCentral, Highwire Press, and Public Library of Science is through its “article linker” technology. The program connects users from citations in online databases to full-text journal articles. Olson Library also supports enterprises that make journals accessible online at reasonable costs. An example is BioOne, which publishes key journals from many professional societies in the sciences. The price for online access to 80 BioOne journals was the same as the cost of one journal from commercial publishing giant Elsevier.


Mitchell said it is essential that the library monitor print journals and eliminate those with substantial price increases and relatively low use. This is especially important because the use of print journals is declining, she added, and the base budget support for acquisitions has not kept pace with subscription cost hikes.


Create Change is an online initiative from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. It offers the following suggestions for "regaining control of the system":


■Initiate and participate in intellectual property policy discussions at NMU and help develop campus policies that promote the wide and affordable distribution of research, such as an institutional repository.

■Publish in journals that have reasonable pricing practices, such as those from professional societies, university presses, and non-profit organizations that use subscription revenue to promote scholarly communication.

Publish papers in open access journals, which number more than 1,000 -- some of which have a high impact factor (number of citations).

Try to retain as many rights to your creative output as possible when negotiating with a publisher. Many publishers accept an addendum to their copyright transfer agreements allowing authors to post articles on non-commercial Web sites or make copies for use in their classes. A form is available at Addendum.

When sitting on grant-review panels or faculty hiring, evaluation and bylaws committees, give due weight to peer-reviewed publications regardless of their price or medium. And don’t only consider prestige or impact factor — this discriminates against new journals that may be of high quality.

If you are a journal editor, encourage your publisher to adopt an open-access business model.

■ As a member of a scholarly association, encourage your association's electronic publication program, urge them to explore alternatives to contracting or selling their publications to commercial publishers, encourage reasonable pricing for association publications, and encourage the creation of competitors to expensive commercial publications.

"There's a great change taking place in the publishing world," Mitchell said. "Everyone is scrambling to find a business model that's sustainable. Open access is using the technology of the Internet to provide lower-cost, barrier-free alternatives to obtaining scholarly writing that weren't available before."

McDonough added: "Lobbyists for commercial publishers are raising a huge stink because they feel the open access movement is threatening the revenue they generate. It's not about putting them out of business. It all comes down to scholarly authors realizing that there are other options and making choices that will be good for the scientific community as a whole by enhancing the visibility of their work and expanding the size of the audience it reaches."

For more information, go to Open Access.


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Updated: January 18, 2006

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