October 19, 2011

UW Libraries hosts exhibit on open access scholarly publishing

International Open Access Week is Oct. 24-30, and the Scholarly Communication Steering Committee of the UW Libraries has mounted an exhibit with content that explores various aspects of the current landscape of scholarly publishing and access, as well as possible future directions.

A graphic from the exhibit shows the life cycle of scholarly publishing.

A graphic from the exhibit shows the life cycle of scholarly publishing.

“Each year for the last three years the libraries has put together programming to coincide with Open Access Day (2008) and Open Access Week (2009 &2010), but attendance at those programs was not as strong as we hoped it would be,” said Mel DeSart, chair of the committee, “so this year we decided to go in a completely different direction by dropping formal programs in favor of mounting this exhibit.”

Many different aspects of open access are explored in the exhibit, which is in the north lobby of Allen Library:

  • Statistics make plain the huge increase in open access publishing in recent years.
  • Interactive open access peer review is presented as an alternative to traditional peer review.
  • The differences in the life cycle of scholarly communication for subscription vs. open access journals is illustrated.
  • Options are offered on how authors can retain at least a portion of their rights instead of signing all of them over to a publisher in a typical copyright transfer agreement.

Also addressed are funder and faculty-driven open access mandates.  In the former case, a funding organization (e.g. the National Institutes of Health) requires that authors who accept NIH funding place a copy of the published results of research supported by that funding in an openly accessible repository.  In the latter scenario, faculty bodies (e.g. Harvard Arts and Sciences) self-decree that they will do likewise with their published journal articles.

The text of a non-binding UW Faculty Senate resolution from April, 2009 that addresses a number of these issues is on display, as is content on institutional repositories, such as the UWs ResearchWorks, where faculty can deposit copies of their publications and where graduate student dissertations will soon be stored and made accessible.

Profit and nonprofit journals put their money in different places, as this graphic shows.

Profit and nonprofit journals put their money in different places, as this graphic shows.

While open access is the primary focus, posters in the exhibit cover many related topics as well.  Graphical representations show that journal expenditure increases by major research libraries in the U.S. and Canada were more than three times greater than the increase in the Consumer Price Index over a 20-year period. Over that same period, many of those libraries had to cut subscriptions, while purchasing fewer books each year during that span than they did in 1986.

One display illustrates how the high annual subscription prices of some journals roughly equal the price of a high-end laptop, a compact car, or, in an extreme case, a large SUV. Viewers of the display are invited to guess the price of some professional journals, with the closest guess worth a gift certificate to the Suzzallo Café.

Differences between for-profit and not-for-profit publishers are also highlighted.  One display shows that for-profit-published journals are roughly three times more expensive than those published by not-for-profits, such as learned societies and university presses, while another focuses on where the revenue from journal subscription goes in each case – more than 80 percent is reinvested into the publication process in the case of not-for-profits, while some large for-profits show 30 percent or more going into profit.

As the introduction to the exhibit states, “Scholarly publishing is in a state of flux.  While the book and journal remain the primary vehicles for communicating published scholarship, how their content is reviewed, packaged, paid for, distributed, discovered, accessed, and preserved has changed over the last few years and continues to change rapidly.”

The exhibit will be up through the end of the month.