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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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