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Putting Money Where Our Mouths Are: Libraries Funding Open Access Publishing

I recently completed a one year appointment with the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries as Visiting Program Officer for Scholarly Communications. This was a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow scholarly communications professionals at the 40 member institutions of ASERL as well as build a scholarly communications program for ASERL and put us on the map nationally as leaders in this growing area of importance. As part of my responsibilities during the last 12 months, I examined the policies and practices of our members in several areas: open access, library publishing and resource sharing. I authored four papers reporting the results of conversations with and surveys of ASERL institutions. The first of these four papers is posted below and at the ASERL web site.

 

Like research libraries around the world, members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) have seen the growth of open access (OA) as a mode of scholarly communication and a resulting rise in the number of open access journals. Today there are nearly 9,000 open access journals published worldwide.[1] A common business model adopted by open access journals for funding their operations is collection of Article Processing Charges (APC) from authors. As a means of supporting the open access movement and encouraging their faculty to publish in open access journals, many universities have established campus-based open access funds. In a 2012 survey[2] of ASERL members about their open access advocacy activities, more than 1/3 of the responding libraries indicated that they currently administer an open access fund, and several additional libraries indicated plans to launch funds in the near future. I recently chatted with several ASERL members[3] about the status of the open access fund at their university. The conversations revealed similarities and differences with respect to management and use of open access funds, which are likely reflective of experiences at other universities.

Fund Structure

Conversations with open access fund administrators revealed the multiple ways in which campus-based open access funds are funded. For most, a combination of sources supplies the monies to the fund. A common funding scenario features equal contributions from the library, the provost, and the university’s office of research. Libraries are also committing portions of their central collections budgets to supporting open access publishing. The collective hope is that diversion of funds from subscriptions to support of open access will encourage publishers to adopt open access as a model and reduce subscription costs. At the same time, universities should be educating their faculty on the cost of publishing and the values of open access. Until there is such a level of awareness to bring about the desired shift in publishing economics, libraries will be faced with the decision of potentially canceling subscriptions in order to continue financially supporting open access publishing activities of the faculty.[4]

Interestingly, ASERL libraries have experienced some very different levels of use of the OA funds. One of the funds is still operating with its initial allocation dating from 2008, while a couple funds have run out of monies several times during their lives, leaving faculty waiting for notice regarding the funds’ uncertain future. Libraries have capitalized on this by presenting evidence about the utilization of the fund by faculty and graduate students from diverse disciplines and the growing support within the greater academy for open access, oftentimes leading to recurring support for the OA funds across multiple years. The funds represented in this report allocated from $12,000-$75,000 annually for support of open access publishing.

Eligibility of Applicants and Publications

ASERL libraries are using their OA publication fund as a “fund of last resort,” that is, researchers with grant monies must use grant funds to pay APC charges. Additionally, all librarians I interviewed noted that the failure to include publication costs in a grant application was “not an excuse” for waiver of this eligibility criterion, and all had denied awards on the basis of available grant funding. There were differences in processes used to verify an applicant’s grant status. While some fund administrators regularly verified the availability of grant funds to the applicant through the university’s office managing sponsored research, others simply took applicants at their word regarding the availability of other monies to cover open access publication costs.

All fund administrators permitted applications from faculty, students and staff. One fund administrator reported no difference in the number of tenured versus untenured faculty applying for assistance. This is interesting because a common argument against open access is the reliance of tenure and promotion upon publication of articles in journals with high impact factors or rankings, both of which may not be assigned to or measured for many open access publications. That untenured faculty are publishing in open access journals at the same rate as tenured faculty may discredit this perceived weakness of publishing in open access journals. Additionally, two fund administrators indicated that the faculty at the medical colleges affiliated with their universities were not eligible for support through their campus-based open access fund. Interestingly, these same two funds experienced slower rates of fund depletion experienced at universities that provided APC funds for medical faculty. This supports the common perception that open access is most prevalent and accepted within medical and other life sciences.

There was some variance in practice regarding support of APC charges in “hybrid” open access journals. Hybrid open access journals are those that charge a subscription for access to journal content but also permit open access to those articles where the author has paid an open access fee. Most OA fund administrators believe publishers have added to their revenue stream by collecting the additional dollars from authors willing to pay to make their work openly accessible. As a result, most OA fund administrators in ASERL do not provide funding for hybrid journal articles. However, one fund administrator supports hybrid journals as their library did not want to close any avenue to making research available through open access; if an author was interested in making his/her article available open access, even if through a subscription journal, the library felt fund should support it.

Perceived Quality of OA Journals

There was also much discussion of the quality of open access publications. Most administrators reported that they had rejected applications on the basis of poor journal quality. Quality decisions were typically based upon a listing in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and adherence to OASPA’s Code of Conduct[5]. The use of Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers[6] for determining eligibility was also discussed. While all admired the thought and work that is put into maintenance of Beall’s List, many believed it should not be relied upon exclusively as an arbiter of quality or ethical practice. Some administrators believe the criteria of Beall’s List, if applied, could potentially exclude high-ranking traditional, subscription-based scholarly journals on account of their business and editorial practices. Others felt the criteria also have the potential of mislabeling good quality journals that are too new to be fully tested as predatory, or those that focus on such niche or specialized topics that their coverage and appeal to a narrow group of scholars matters more than adherence to potentially arbitrary criteria.

Fund Usage

The usage of the campus-based funds within ASERL libraries mirrored the national trend of open access prevalence in the sciences. Administrators reported that the departments most often using their funds came from medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, and engineering. All funds had applications from the social sciences and humanities, and one fund administrator indicated that support through the fund of publication of open access books would likely encourage usage in those disciplines. The fund administrators also concurred that faculty and students from business related disciplines had not applied for funds. It is unclear whether a paucity of open access business journals, attitudes of business colleges, or availability of other funds has led to the lack of participation from these disciplines in open access publishing.

Related to the usage of the fund, we discussed how our campus-based funds had been marketed. Typical marketing venues were reported – websites, brochures, and targeted emails. However, the most effective marketing tactic appeared to be word of mouth; most applicants learned about the fund through other applicants. Further, despite their marketing efforts, administrators were still dismayed by how many faculty had never heard of the fund, even after it had been in place for a few years. Through this discussion, administrators indicated a desire that library liaisons or subject experts engage more with faculty and students about scholarly communication issues and inform them of the resources available for publication support.

A few administrators noted spikes in the number of applications submitted at various times during the year. There was no clear correlation between the timing of these spikes and the academic calendar nor discernible publishing cycles. This was a point of considerable curiosity, and we determined this may be worth investigating on a larger scale.

Future of Open Access Funds

The conversation about campus-based open access funds concluded with a discussion of their sustainability. While all agreed that the availability of open access publishing funds was an important part of a university’s overall open access advocacy plan (“it’s putting money where our mouth is”), most fund administrators agreed that the business model of authors paying APCs was not sustainable in the long-term. The administrators were intrigued by emerging business models adopted by the journals eLife[7] and PeerJ[8], and the success of these new models will be watched closely. The outcomes of the directive from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy[9] and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act[10] will also greatly impact the future of funding open access publishing and will be closely monitored. The group pondered whether libraries should be diverting funds used to pay subscriptions to large, expensive bundles of largely low-use journals into support of open access, and how libraries could better advocate the many open access journals that do not charge any APCs. Regardless, the APC model of funding open access is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future; if universities want to support open access in more than words alone, the administrators believe universities – not just libraries – should plan to sustain campus-based open access funds through recurring funding.

Conclusion

The Fall 2012 survey of ASERL member libraries regarding their open access activities revealed a keen awareness of and a high percentage of participation in open access advocacy and support. Distribution of funds to support open access publishing is just one of the ways ASERL members promote open access to research. In order to facilitate further conversation and collaboration in open access and other scholarly communication initiatives, ASERL has undertaken development of a scholarly communications program. Through presentations on scholarly communications topics such as altmetrics and library publishing, an in-person event on the role of open access in liaison activities, and the appointment of a visiting program officer for scholarly communications, ASERL hopes to inspire its members to continued advocacy and leadership in the area of scholarly communications

[1] See Heather Morrison’s “Dramatic Growth of Open Access” for quarterly updates on the increasing number of open access articles and journals. http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.ca/2006/08/dramatic-growth-of-open-access-series.html

[2] For a summary of the full survey, please visit http://www.aserl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ OA_Survey_Exec_Summary.pdf.

[3] I interviewed Gail McMillan (Virginia Tech), Lisa Macklin (Emory University), Claudia Holland (George Mason University), Kevin Smith (Duke University), Molly Keener (Wake Forest University), and Robin Sinn (John Hopkins University). I also administer the Open Access Fund at University of Florida Libraries and have included my experiences in this reflection on campus-based open access funds.

[4] For more on the cost of open access publishing see Richard VanNoorden’s article “Open access: The true cost of science publishing.” Nature, v. 495, Issue 7442, March 27, 2013. http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676

[5]http://oaspa.org/membership/code-of-conduct/

[6]http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/12/06/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2013/

[7] http://www.elifesciences.org/

[8] https://peerj.com/

[9] “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” Memorandum of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, February 22, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf

[10] Sen. 350, 113th Cong. (Feb. 13, 2013). H.R. 708, 113th Cong. (Feb. 13, 2013).

Better than FASTR?

On February 14, 2013, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both houses of Congress. A successor to the once again defunct Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), FASTR covers the same agencies as the former proposed legislation and similarly mandates public access within 6 months of publication, through unspecified open access repositories, to the final versions of peer reviewed manuscripts that report results of certain federally funded research. FASTR differs from FRPAA in its inclusion of a provision for covered agencies to coordinate the policies they develop in response to the legislation and inclusion of provisions requiring open licensing of research so that it may be reused under certain conditions.

The introduction of FASTR, particularly its open licensing provisions, immediately drew praise from open access supporters, including library and public interest organizations, and scorn from publishers. Association of College and Research Libraries President Steven Bell stated in that organization’s letter of support: “I am particularly pleased that this legislation addresses both greater access to research and greater reuse through open licensing. As scholars undertake new research, it is crucial to build on the works of others who came before. Open licensing is an important step towards a more open system of scholarship as it facilitates subsequent reshaping into new scholarship.” On the other side, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) called the new bill a “boondoggle.” AAP Vice President Allan Adler complained: “This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology all the while ignoring the fact that its demands are already being performed successfully by the private sector.”

While the press and others were still spinning support and criticism of FASTR, the Obama administration through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a public access directive on February 22, 2013 that commands Federal agencies with over $100 million in annual research expenditures to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government…[including] any results published in peer-reveiwed scholarly publications that are based on research that directly arises from Federal funds.” Similar to FASTR, the directive encourages agencies to work collaboratively in the development of public access plans. The directive, drafted in response to a 65,000 signature petition calling for action and to comments filed in response to 2011 OSTP Request for Information, specifies the features these plans must incorporate, including strategies to foster public discovery and access of scholarly research and to either utilize existing archives and repositories or develop new partnerships for creation of modes of open and public access. Unlike FASTR and its predecessor bills, the directive calls for a 12 month (rather than a six month) embargo. Drafts of these plans are to be submitted by covered agencies to the OSTP within six months for its issuance.

As expected, the OSTP directive garnered immediate praise from open access advocates. Surprisingly, however, the AAP also came out in support of the directive, leaving one to wonder if perhaps a better alternative to FASTR had been born. One way the OSTP directive improves upon FASTR is in its stroking of publishers’ egos by recognizing the services they provide and by seemingly recognizing their interests as stakeholders. As the AAP response praises: “As one of its core principles, the policy ‘recognizes that publishers provide valuable services…that are essential for ensuring the high quality and integrity of many scholarly publications. It is critical that these services continue to be made available.'” The incorporation of the 12 month embargo similarly makes the OSTP directive more palatable to publishers. The writers at the blog Scholarly Kitchen, which frequently directs criticism at open access endeavors, specifically called out the 12 month embargo and the ability for agencies to petition for an extended embargo period if data was presented to support the request. Embargo periods, as the blog points out, are often established without much rationale or evidence (and are frequently the subject of debate among open access advocates and opponents alike). The provision for establishment of an embargo period supported by data may very well be a positive step.

Aside from seemingly making publishers happy, there may be other reasons to position the OSTP directive as superior to FASTR, or at least as a necessary complement or supplement to the as of yet enacted legislation. The FASTR bill only covers public access to scholarly publishing; the OSTP directive covers both publications and data. This recognition of the importance of access to research data is certainly an improvement and a recognition of changes in policy already taking place at some federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation. Another improvement of the OSTP directive over FASTR is by its definition it applies to more agencies than FASTR.  This larger umbrella includes agencies such as the Smithsonian Institution, which are excluded from FASTR. A final positive of the OSTP directive is its effective date: immediately. Agencies are under an immediate mandate to start crafting policies and publishers are put on notice that they must be open to working with agencies to carry out the objectives of the directive. Rather than spending energies lobbying for or against proposed legislation, these groups can direct their attentions to doing real work that will culminate in real results. Granted, the directive could easily be stricken in four years with a new administration; whereas legislation takes an act of Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court to be nullified. However, the force and effect of an executive order to move forward rather than continuing to spin wheels is certainly a better and perhaps truly “faster” means to an end than the FASTR bill.

Closing Another Open Access Week

Open Access Week 2012 has come and gone.  Across the globe, institutions of higher learning, funders of research, library groups, and publishers of open access works celebrated the theme “Set the Default to Open Access,” challenging us all to work toward open access as the norm for publication of scholarly works rather than an option. At the University of Florida, several events commemorated Open Access Week. The Libraries hosted two events featuring presentations on open data, publishing in the Open Journal System, and open access in the humanities. Additionally, I had the privilege of presenting on open access at Graduate Student Research Day. During this presentation, I observed dozens of “lightbulbs” go off above the heads of students when I used this scenario to demonstrate open vs. closed access:  I asked them to imagine conducting the research they now do after they graduate without the benefit of University paid subscriptions.  It was not surprising that several of them were unaware that the electronic resources they use regularly were available on account of expensive licenses paid for from the Libraries dwindling budget. But it was surprising to see their reactions upon realizing that the scholarship and knowledge they depended upon for their education and training was not available to all.  Once the lightbulbs of shock dimmed, discussion ensured about why open access was important not only for education and creation of new knowledge but also for purposes of public access to publicly funded research.

Reflecting upon the graduate students’ reactions and questions, I concluded that for real change to happen in scholarly publishing we should advocate more to our graduate students. They are not only the future producers of scholarly content, but also future tenure track or tenured faculty, future editorial board members, future employees of publishers and research funders, etc.  This is a large population of agents of change. In her own blog post about Open Access Week, librarian Barb Fister also recognized the importance of students in the open access movement.  She cautions other librarians against “extinguishing their common sense” by promoting our paid-access resources too heavily. We are perpetuating the problem of equating quality with closed access by not exposing students to the full range of resources, open and closed.  Fister writes:

When we teach students that the library is a terrific shopping platform that they get free access to as a member benefit, we aren’t preparing them for life-long learning. We’re reinforcing a number of false premises: that knowledge is stuff somebody out there created, stuff you can acquire if you are among the privileged few, that answers are things you go shopping for, that what anyone can read without paying for it must be, by definition, inferior to our designer goods. We’re trying hard to help students see knowledge as a social act, that when they do research they are joining a conversation, that the point of research isn’t to find the answer, it’s to build a new understanding that involves the student and the people who are speaking to them through the sources they encounter. Apart from these intangibles, I don’t want to build an artificial wall between what we pay for and what is available to all. I want to make it as easy as possible for students to find good sources, whether they are paid for by the library or not – because the future is open.

This is excellent advice for librarians.  Students are an essential, but often overlooked, component to the movement to make open access the default.  Whether we are engaged in information literacy or in open access advocacy, we must be mindful in the message we send to them. If we are successful in converting students to the cause for open access, we stand greater chances of success overall.

Across the Border and Across the Pond

Important copyright and open access news has come out of Canada and the UK in the past several days:

Supreme Court of Canada Issues Several Copyright Rulings
On July 12th, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its rulings in five separate copyright cases.  Four of the five cases concerned music royalties and the fifth case concerned the charge of royalties for photocopying short excerpts of works for use in education. (The controversy over assessment of this tariff was previously discussed on this blog.) In sum, the Court’s rulings established a broader reading of “fair dealing” — a phrase nearly equivalent to “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. Specifically, the Court held that photocopying textbooks for or by students for private study, even if in the context of instruction, or research is fair dealing, thereby dismantling the expensive licensing scheme put into place by Canada’s version of the CCC, Access Copyright. Duke University Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith made a nice analogy of the Canadian Court’s ruling to the recent decision in the Georgia State University e-reserves case.  He writes:

Another important part of these decision about instructional copying is that [Supreme Court of Canada] Justice Abella found little or no harm to the market for published work caused by this copying.  The excerpts copied were short, forcing students to buy the entire books was unrealistic, and there was no link demonstrated between this copying and any evidence of declining textbooks sales.  This sounds quite a lot like Judge Evan’s conclusion in the Georgia State case that permission income for publishers was of negligible importance  and that there was no evidence that the permission fees lost because of fair use actually threatened the well-being of publishing businesses.  I hope we are seeing the beginnings of an international consensus around the idea that limited copying for educational purposes is more important for societies to support than a small additional  revenue stream for publishers is.

The reason I really like this expanded definition of research in Justice Abella’s opinion is that it gets at the heart of the analogy issue that was central to the Georgia State case.  The plaintiff publishers in that case wanted the court to accept a strict analogy between electronic reserves and the commercially printed course packs that were found not to be fair use in the Michigan Documents Services case, while many of us argued that, in the absence of a for-profit copy shop’s involvement, the better analogy was physical reserves, where a copy of a work is made available for students to use (in this case by downloading into their own computers) or not.  By tying the copying done by an institution to the private study purpose of the individual students, Justice Abella makes this latter argument for us.  In cases like Georgia State (and the UCLA streamed video case) the law clearly allows individual students to view and even to copy works for private study.  In both situations, technology simply enables the same group of students to use the materials in essentially the same way, but at their own convenience.  Instructors are, as Justice Abella puts it, simply guiding the students to the resources which they will then use for their private research.

UK and EC Mandate Open Access for Government Funded Research
The Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK), a body representing the UK’s seven government-funded grant agencies, announced on July 16th that it had approved a policy mandating that all publications produced from grant funded research have to be made public 6 months after publication beginning in April 2013. (The blog for the  journal Nature provides a great summary of the policy and its effects.)  A day later the European Commission announced that it would similarly mandate open access. Its proposal endeavors to open up all the work funded by its Horizon 2020 research program, set to run in the European Union from 2014 to 2020 and disburse €80 billion (US$98.3 billion).  The EC says that it is aiming for 60% of all European publicly funded research articles to be open access by 2016. Meanwhile, in the United States, the National Institutes of Health remains the sole federal agency mandating open access for grant funded research, and a bill (FRPAA) proposing to expand this mandate to all federal agencies remains in limbo until after the November 2012 elections.

Sparks of Wisdom from the SPARC Open Access Meeting

Although the SPARC Open Access Meeting concluded several days ago, I find myself still processing the information that was shared by the slate of wonderful speakers. I finally took the time to review my scribblings and found that there were a few takeaways worth sharing and expounding upon.

John Wilbanks (bioinformatics entrepreneur, former VP at Creative Commons, and current senior fellow working on open data for the Kauffman Foundation) gave the keynote address. During his enlightening and engaging speech, he enumerated three uncomfortable truths that we must face as we proceed in the quest for open access to knowledge. The 1st uncomfortable truth is that we currently exist in a Veruca Salt generation — consumers want information now, they don’t care how. They want to be able to access their music, their e-books, their personal data files, etc. on a variety of devices in a variety of places. Scholars are no different than members of the general public in their demand for anytime and anywhere access.  The 2nd uncomfortable truth is that data publication is not the answer.  There are many unanswered questions about when to publish data, where to publish data, etc. And there is the larger issue of who will perform the work; there is a global shortage of data managers to perform the tasks necessary to preserve and publish the data.  The 3rd uncomfortable truth is that the Research Works Act is not the worst threat to be seen against open access.  The attacks will continue in even more subtle forms — it may be legislation buried in more omnibus bills or it may be through misleading claims about a publication’s open access status.

Neil Thakur of the National Institutes of Health provided me with the next takeaway of note.  Thakur, speaking about the NIH Public Access Policy, explained why the NIH policy is not open access and should not be confused as such. He noted that the NIH policy relies upon the current copyright framework, primarily the limits of fair use, to achieve its goals. He also explained that public access policies are not the answer to the serials crisis. It does not reduce costs (and further, does not hurt the publishers’ bottom lines) or obviate the need for subscriptions. But the most important point Thakur made was about the greatest challenge posed by the NIH policy. Although the NIH policy opens the doors to thousands of pages of research, such access is not beneficial if researchers or the public are not reading the “right” papers.  We need to be doing more through machine access and analysis to connect people with the papers that are most beneficial for to their research.

A final speaker of note was Caroline Sutton, president of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. Speaking about the importance of open access publishing, Sutton noted that open access is a key support for innovation and competitiveness in the greater economy; the real value of open access is value creation and innovation, not the freedom from cost. In the rhetoric that often accompanies open access promotion, the real value of barrier-free knowledge is often overlooked.

For more on the SPARC Open Access Meeting, please visit the SPARC website for author bios and slides.

There is Strength in Numbers, But is There Also Change?

Whether it began with the civil rights marches of the 60s or the Vietnam War protests of the 70s, the modern method of working to bring about change is by communities of like-minded or similarly-situated citizens joining in a single act of defiance of an identified “evil.”  Last year we witnessed the rise of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, a gathering of citizens in protest to the greed and corruption in the financial sector of our society. Although the movement has received much attention in the press and experienced expansion and presence in cities across the country, there is question of whether this collective activity can bring about real change. Similarly, researchers, librarians, and other academics have been engaged in collective action intended to bring about a change in proposed and existing intellectual property laws, including copyright and fair use.

Last fall, two separate bills (the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) were introduced in Congress to address the problem of copyright infringement online. The bills’ opponents claimed that the net effect of the enforcement scheme outlined in the bills was a violation of First Amendment freedoms. On January 18th, nearly 50,000 web sites intentionally went dark in protest to SOPA and PIPA. Millions of citizens expressed opposition to SOPA and PIPA through social media venues, email, and other forms of digital communication. As a result of this mass online outcry, several U.S. Senators switched their position on the bills. And within three days of the blackout, the sponsor of the SOPA bill tabled the bill indefinitely. In the short term, it appears that this form of Internet-fueled democracy has resulted in a desired change. However, this does not mean that other bills will not be proposed or that more dangerous legislation, such as ACTA which is currently under vote in the EU, won’t soon be threatening our rights.

Another avenue through which change has been attempted is through development of community-based fair use best practice codes. The Center for Social Media, in partnership with various communities of users of copyrighted content, has created a series of best practice codes outlining principles for the fair use of copyrighted material by those particular communities. One of the most successful best practices codes was developed by the Center and documentary filmmakers. Following interview and survey of numerous notable and veteran documentary filmmakers and distributors, the documentary filmmakers’ best practices code “makes clear what documentary filmmakers currently regard as reasonable application of the copyright “fair use” doctrine.” That is, other filmmakers can rely upon the code for guidance in determining what is fair use of copyrighted content and when permission should be sought. As a result of this community-based approach, the number of infringement claims arising from documentary film making has decreased and errors and omissions insurance have more readily offered coverage for fair use claims.

Last week, the Center, along with the Association of Research Libraries, released the long-awaited Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. This Code is the product of nearly two years of surveying and interviewing librarians regarding their employment of fair use in their daily work. To date, librarians have relied upon various fair use guidelines that have cropped up since the enactment of the Copyright Act. However, unlike some of these other guidelines, the Code did not solicit the input or buy-in from those most often on the other side of the fair use debate with librarians, publishers standing as rights holders. Further unlike the prior guidelines, the Code does not attempt to set forth quantifiable fair use limits, which have only served to impede and limit the employment of fair use. The Code, as fully admitted by its authors, is not the silver bullet many librarians were hoping for since learning of the project; as stated in the introduction, this Code is “not a comprehensive or exhaustive guide to all possible applications of fair use in and around libraries.” Rather, the Code enumerates eight scenarios in which clear consensus regarding fair use was identified. However, each of these scenarios, or “principles” as the Code refers to them, is accompanied by a series of limitations and enhancements, which merely articulate the nuances librarians routinely grapple with and try to reconcile within and without the strictures of existing fair use guidelines. The eight principles also include a couple principles that I believe to be “no brainers” and not the subject of debate or confusion among my peers, namely reproducing materials for disabled patrons and digital preservation of at-risk items.  Nevertheless, I am not surprised by the limited guidance and clarification in this new Code; as I predicted last January, without “a judicial or legislative clarification of fair use as applied to the ever-evolving  modes of publishing and content delivery” a best practices document will not be an effective vehicle for change.

A final example of an academic community trying to bring about change through numbers is the recent call by researchers for a boycott of publishing giant Elsevier. In support of the scholarly prize-winning mathematician Tim Gowers recent scolding of Elsevier for its high journal prices, strong-arming of libraries to buy bundled subscriptions, and support of the Research Works Act, as well as SOPA and PIPA, an Internet petition was formed where researchers can publicly declare their intent to no longer write for, referee, or edit any Elsevier journal. At the time of this writing, nearly 2900 faculty members, scholars, and scientists from around the globe have signed this petition.

The rapid increase in petition signatories and the growing press attention to the petition and the problems it highlight leads one to believe that a positive change is imminent; however, this may not be the case. As well-known technology writer Glyn Moody recently noted, this is not the first (or the biggest) attempt that a collective effort to change the business model of scholarly publishing. In 2001, 34,000 scientists signed onto a letter put forward by the founders of the Public Library of Science calling for the establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse. Many of those same signers pledged to boycott those publishers who did not participate in this endeavor, but very few actually followed through with their boycott pledge.  Going back even further, when the Internet was created in 1991, it was for the stated purpose of better facilitating scientific communication and the dissemination of scientific research. “Put another way, the Web was designed to disrupt scientific publishing.” Finally, if change in Elsevier’s (or any similarly operating publisher) business practices does not occur, what “collateral damage” may occur as a result of a boycott, and is this damage something we are prepared to deal with?

I fully support open-access, as a librarian, an author, and a tax-payer. I do not condone the practices of the Elseviers of the world. I believe that change can occur through collective action. However, we need to be mindful of what efforts may truly be needed to bring about the desired result and what consequences may exist if that desired result occurs.

Our Best Defense: Open Access

Is academia at war with the publishing industry? Today, University of Michigan Dean of Libraries Paul Courant wrote that publishers have declared war upon us. Columbia University’s James Neal claimed at this Spring’s ACRL conference that the academic library community is, in fact, at the center of this war. In recent months, with actions being taken that chip away at fair use and other copyright exemptions allowed libraries and educators, it is starting to feel that we may be losing the war; and with shrinking budgets and governmental affronts to our existence, we may even feel powerless to fight for our survival.

However, we may have a viable defense that could very well preserve our place as conduits to learning and knowledge. “Open access alternatives seem more and more to be not just a nice alternative, but the only path scholarly communications has left to survival,” wrote Duke University Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith this morning in response to the latest attack (an STM publishers’ association issued guidelines whose underlying purpose is to undermine international interlibrary loan practices) on educational use of copyrighted works. Open access has been touted for several years as the vehicle for revolutionary change in scholarly communications, and it still stands as our best chance for radically changing the economic climate that is leading to assaults upon barrier-free sharing of knowledge and information.  However, for us to win this war, we all need to participate: librarians and faculty alike. And our efforts need to be consistent and persistent.

In this month’s Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, the open access movement is lauded for single, albeit sporadic, milestones; but “these single events that showed the potential to cause a sudden, radical or complete reform of the entire [scholarly communications] system have failed to precipitate a complete transformation.”  The authors of the Bulletin piece claim that librarians can be the most victorious soldiers in this war that we are in. However, it will take a widespread and collective movement to not only survive but even win. There are many libraries and universities out there who are to be commended for their efforts – who have established open journal publishing systems, who have adopted open access mandates, and who regularly promote open access through Open Access Week and other public events. Librarians at Duke University Medical Center Library, in a recent article in Serials Review, offer even more ways of how librarians can successfully incorporate open access into their work and bolster our defense against the war that is waging against us. In addition, legislation such as the Federal Research Public Access Act needs to be revitalized in Congress as further shoring up of our defenses. With this concentrated, widespread, and united drive for open access, I do have hope that we can survive the war.

Open Access: Not just for research institutions

In this month’s College and Research Libraries News, the scholarly communication feature article examines adoption of open access policies by liberal arts colleges.  The author (Rollins College’s Olin Library director Jonathan Miller) explains that his institution adopted an open access policy as part of a “larger strategy to refocus the faculty and students on a larger world of information.” This strategy also involves migrating print journals to digital, acquiring more electronic resources, and promoting the use and creation of open access resources. The latter mandates the deposit of works by faculty and students into the college’s institutional repository. The author concedes that creation of institutional repositories (IR) and more so drafting of open access policies ordinarily are not the enterprises of liberal arts institutions (the 2007 report of the MIRACLE project supports this statement with only 10% of baccalaureate institutions reporting implementation of IRs) ; however, he urges, faculty and students should not “take advantage of open access to materials produced at the expense of others without also promoting open access to scholarly information that they create.”

I believe that the mandate for liberal arts colleges to participate in open access initiatives extends beyond the appearance of equal participation and giving back to the scholarly community. Liberal arts colleges should concern themselves with open access initiatives in an effort to remain vital and relevant in the larger education sphere. Last week, at the Council of Independent Colleges’ conference for presidents, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham addressed the problems facing the liberal arts. As reported in the Chronicle covering the conference:

President Obama has made much of creating a new “Sputnik moment” to put more federal emphasis on education and science, he said. Most people think of that in terms of high-end science and technology projects—the domain of Research I institutions, not small liberal-arts colleges, Mr. Meacham said. But he noted that liberal-arts institutions should make the argument that they are providing a critical service in today’s political environment: the ability to think broadly and critically, at a time when “everyone thinks they already know the truth.”

Demonstration of the relevance and necessity of critical thinking and broader ideas can be accomplished through open access to the scholarly works produced by liberal arts faculty and students. It also demonstrates a shared commitment with research institutions to dissemination of knowledge. Further, with open access comes discoverability and the increased likelihood of collaboration between large and small institutions.

Ideas Complete, Not Compete: The Spirit of Open Access

In a recent post, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker states (in reference to a recent book review he’s written) that “because ideas complete, rather than compete with, one another, creativity and innovation ferment most noticeably when ideas are allowed to circulate openly and freely.” This statement concisely and beautifully describes the spirit of open access. There are many ways in which universities and their faculty and students can embody this spirit:

  • Adopt an Open Access Policy – In February 2008, the faculty of the Arts and Sciences at Harvard University took a landmark step by adopting a policy a policy requiring (1) that  faculty authors send an electronic copy of their scholarly articles to the university’s digital repository and (2) that they automatically grant copyright permission (“University License”) to the university to archive and to distribute these articles unless a faculty member has waived the policy for a particular article. The cumulative effect of the adoption of such policies by not just major research universities but any academic institution committed to the free dissemination of ideas is the promotion of free communication of knowledge. Further, adoption of such policies sends a message to publishers that exorbitant journal prices will not be tolerated as a barrier to the sharing of ideas.
  • Publish in Open Access Journals – Open access journals are journals that use a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access.  According to the Directory of Open Access Journals, there are now over 4000 open access journals. This represents about 16% of the approximate 25,000 peer-reviewed academic journals now in publication.  While not all open access journals are created equally, many are of high quality with as stringent of review standards are traditionally published journals. By publishing in those open access journals that exhibit certain measures of quality control, researchers promote a system of free access to knowledge. However, universities and funders must, at the same time, give equal credit to such publishing activities when reviewing researchers for promotion and tenure or for eligibility for funding.
  • Create and Maintain Institutional Repositories – Universities and other research entities are increasingly establishing, typically in cooperation with university libraries and archives, digital or online repositories of the scholarly works of faculty and students. Many benefits exist for participation in this type of activity. Studies have shown that deposit of works in digital institutional repositories that are openly accessible result in greater visibility and citation of the works.  Further, when access is not limited to those limited few who can afford the subscription to the journal in which the article would have been traditionally published, the public value of the work increases exponentially. Finally, research funders are more commonly requiring open and public access to works.
  • Support Legislation Promoting Public Access to Federally Funded Research – In June 2009, the Federal Research Public Access Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The Act would require that certain U.S. government agencies with a prescribed level of research expenditures make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet. Because U.S. taxpayers underwrite this research, they have a right to expect that its dissemination and use will be maximized, and that they will have access to it. If this information is shared with all potential users, it will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people of the United States and the world. The Act calls for the manuscripts to be maintained and preserved in a digital archive maintained by the agency or in another suitable repository that permits free public access.

These are just some of the ways that universities, faculty, students and librarians can keep the spirit of open access alive. For more information and more ideas, visit the SPARC website.

Celebrating Open Access

How fitting that the day I launch my Copyright on Campus blog is the first day of International Open Access Week. For those who may have heard the term, “open access” but are unfamiliar with its meaning, I provide the following definition, courtesy of Peter Suber, who, among other roles, is a Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition:

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.

By supporting open access to scholarly works, we unlock the doors to knowledge. Researchers who publish in the nearly 1000 open access journals or forums find that their works are more easily found, read, and cited by students, teachers, scientists, grant funding bodies, and governmental agencies. With this larger audience, the impact of a researcher’s work strengthens, the delay between acceptance and publication is shortened, and the visibility and accessibility of a work increases. Authors of scholarly works typically exchange their intellectual property rights and royalties for the prestige of being published. With open access, researchers and readers benefit from the acknowledgment of scholarly accomplishment through publication and the free exchange of ideas.

Through the initiatives of open access, including unrestricted licensing and open archives,  students enjoy greater efficiency in conducting their own research and studying. Open access increases discoverability and browseability of scholarly works. Universities and libraries also benefit from open access. Increasing journal prices squeeze library budgets and force librarians to make difficult decisions about subscription cancellations. However,  open access allows libraries to continue to provide valuable information to students and faculty without incurring costs. Open access also enables universities and libraries to provide the work done by their own faculty to the campus without paying high subscription fees.

Over the course of the next few days, I will continue to explore in greater detail these benefits of open access and provide additional information on what you can do to support and to participate in the open access initiative.

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