UW News

October 15, 2009

Open access to scholarship in the spotlight Oct. 20-22

The UW will celebrate Open Access Week Oct. 20-22 with a series of four panel discussions sponsored by University Libraries.

Open access refers to the movement away from proprietary journals and toward open access to scholarly research. The event grows out of Open Access Day, which was celebrated by 120 campuses in 27 countries last year. It was organized by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the Public Library of Science and Students for Free Culture.

Although UW Libraries is a member of SPARC, they did not participate last year, said Tim Jewell, director of information resources and scholarly communication at the libraries. But he said they are eager to start a campus discussion on the subject this year by organizing the panel discussions.

“We generally favor open access, but I think we want to be careful about taking too much of an advocacy position because we realize it may not fit very well for all disciplines,” Jewell said. “Traditional journals still serve very important functions.”

The open access movement has gained momentum in recent years largely because of the increasing costs associated with journals combined with the rise of electronic publishing. At the UW, the cost increases have coincided with a time of budget cuts, leading to the loss of many scholarly materials.

Jewell cites an example of a very likely change coming this year. For the last year or two, he said, the UW has subscribed to a package of journals published by Springer as part of the Orbis Cascade Alliance. That has provided access to about 1,600 journals that Springer publishes. “With the financial problems we and other Alliance member libraries have, there’s just not the money to continue with the package that Springer has proposed,” Jewell said. “So instead we’re forced to go to a different arrangement that will mean we’ll lose access to about 1,000 of those journals.”

Jewell will talk about that situation in the first program, “Journal Publishing: Economics and Access,” scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in 102 Johnson. Other speakers on this panel are Lizabeth Wilson, dean of libraries; Charles Wilkinson, former chair of the Faculty Council on University Libraries (FCUL); and Ann Lally, head of digital initiatives at the libraries.

Last year, Wilkinson chaired an ad committee with representatives from the FCUL, the Faculty Council on Research and the libraries to draft a resolution on scholarly publishing alternatives and authors’ rights. The resolution was passed by the full senate last spring. Among other things, it calls on faculty to support moderately priced journals and to retain rights to their work.

The latter issue will be in the spotlight at the second panel, “Access to Research and your Rights as an Author,” which will be from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, in D-209 of the Health Sciences Center (Turner Auditorium). “Often, when a researcher has an article he or she wants to publish in a particular journal, the publisher has required a transfer of copyright to the publisher,” Jewell said. “One of the ways to assert one’s rights is through a so-called author addendum that corrects what a copyright assignment agreement might do.”

Such an addendum allows an author to do such things as post an article on his own Web site or use it in class. It also allows him or her to put the article in a “repository” — a digital archive that is open to others — before it is published. UW Libraries has a universitywide repository called ResearchWorks.

Speakers on the author rights panel are Dave Eaton, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and associate vice provost for research; John Delaney, professor of oceanography; and Clark Shores, assistant attorney general.

The third panel will take up the subject of monographs. Titled “Publishing Prognosis: The Future of the Monograph,” it will consider such subjects as whether a faculty member’s promotion should be dependent on publishing a book and what effect the electronic publishing of dissertations will have on their later publication in book form.

“One of the reasons we want to talk about this is that as funding becomes more of a problem for libraries and as journal prices increase, libraries have had to invest more heavily in the journal side of things at the expense of the monograph side,” Jewell said. “Consequently, there’s less and less money for monographs. Yet that’s a very important step for people in the humanities and social sciences on the road to tenure and promotion. So that’s a real dilemma, and one of the questions to be considered is, are there good alternatives to the continued reliance on the printed monograph for that purpose.”

That panel will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, in 102 Johnson. Speakers are Gerald Baldasty, vice provost and dean of the graduate school and professor of communication; Judy Howard, divisional dean of social science in the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of sociology; Leroy Searle, professor of English and comparative literature and the Joff Hanauer honors professor in western civilization; and Pat Soden, director of UW Press.

The final panel, “The Future of Access to Scholarly Publications,” will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in 220 Odegaard. That panel will take a broader look at where scholarly publishing might be going.

One of the speakers is Felix Chew, a professor of radiology and vice-chair for radiology informatics. Chew is the editor of Radiology Case Reports, an open access journal. Authors who publish in the journal pay a $350 fee to publish their articles, and all the articles are freely available with no subscription fee.

“We see great potential in open access journal publishing,” Jewell said. “There are about 4,000 such journals out there already. However, we know that that may fit with some disciplines and not others. It’s common in the sciences.”

Other speakers on the panel are Lizabeth Wilson, dean of libraries; Hanson Hosein, director of the master of communication in digital media program; Lee Dirks, director for education and scholarly communication in the external research group at Microsoft; and Katherine Thornton, doctoral student in the Information School.

Other pressures besides money and the electronic revolution are driving open access, Jewell said. He said the National Institutes of Health issued a mandate last year requiring anyone who accepts NIH funding to make their research results available on an open access basis. And currently, Sens. John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman are sponsoring a bill that would extend the NIH mandate to other government agencies that dispense $100 million or more per year in research funding.

“For me, open access week provides a great opportunity to raise these issues with the campus community,” Jewell said. “Frankly I would like to see faculty and library staff work as partners to build a long-term strategy for dealing with them.”

All the sessions during Open Access Week are free and open to the public. Registration is not required.