Research for the Masses

Reprinted from Concordia NOW

Next week is Open Access Week, a global event promoting the growing movement to make academic research readily available to everyone. It also marks the second anniversary of the founding of Spectrum, Concordia’s very own online open access research repository.

In 2010, shortly after Spectrum went online, Concordia’s Senate passed its landmark resolution on open access, which established the university as a leader in the open access movement in Canada. “There was overwhelming support at every Faculty council and at Senate for the resolution,” recalls University Librarian Gerald Beasley.

The resolution affirmed Concordia’s commitment to open access, and positioned it as a leader in the movement in Canada. But the work to make the university’s academic research readily available to everyone doesn’t stop with resolutions, Beasley says. “Some people think that open access is going to grow inevitably, but it won’t grow without effort. We actually have to put our shoulder to the wheel and demonstrate our commitment to it again and again.”

To this end, Concordia recently launched an Open Access Author Fund to cover author’s publishing fees charged by some open access journals. The fund is so new that it’s impossible to gauge what effect, if any, it is having on open access publishing at the university, but Beasley insists it’s an important aspect of Concordia’s strategy to encourage researchers to allow open access to their peer-reviewed work. As he explains, there is still some resistance to open access publishing among academics.

“The big claim against open access is you’re giving this stuff away. What about my academic freedom? What about my right to publish my work wherever I choose? But open access does not infringe on these rights and authors often retain more rights by taking the open access route,” Beasley says.

A contract with an academic publisher may stipulate that the researcher has to surrender his or her copyright. When they then want to distribute their research to students, load it on their webpage, deposit it somewhere else, or anthologize it, they can run into problems, because they no longer own the rights to their own work.

Beasley recommends that authors retain copyright when requesting a licence to publish their work in an open access environment. Even if they insist on these things, there’s a good chance they will still be accepted for publication in the journal of their choice.

“I think [open access] creates a balance,” he says. “It actually protects the creator, the author, the artist, and their rights, because it does not take any of their copyright away from them.”
In Beasley’s opinion it only makes sense that academics make publicly funded research publicly available, because it’s the public that funds their research efforts in the first place. “You pay for it through your taxes because it’s publicly funded, and again through your taxes when the library takes out a subscription to a journal. How often do you want to pay for it? It seems a bit odd to me.”

Beasley says he is personally committed to open access, because it falls in line with the values he holds as a librarian. “Open access is in line with traditional library values of openness, access to information, elimination of economic barriers to education, a social commitment that goes beyond academics reading academics, towards disseminating research that benefits developing nations and underprivileged communities in all countries. With open access all people need is an internet connection to have access to high quality research, whether it’s produced at Concordia or elsewhere.”

As a result of its Senate resolution on open access, Concordia was recently invited to join a prestigious group of institutions dedicated to promoting open access, known as the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions. The list of 22 universities and colleges in the coalition includes Harvard University, Stanford University, Duke University and MIT.

Just last month, Concordia’s Senate approved a recommendation from the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee that President Lowy sign the Berlin Declaration of Open Access. In doing so, the university joined a list of 300 leading international research, scientific and cultural institutions from around the world. The ninth edition of the Berlin Conference, The Impact of Open Access in Research and Scholarship, will be held in Washington, D.C. next month, the first time it is being held in North America.

Beasley says while the membership in the coalition and international recognition from other open access pioneers increases Concordia’s prestige, disseminating Concordia’s research is more important. “I assume Concordia’s research is making the world a better place, so I want the impact of Concordia’s research to be improved.”

This year, Open Access Week coincides with Concordia’s part-time faculty research showcase in the J.W. McConnell Library Building Atrium on Tuesday, October 25. The library will have a table for interested staff, faculty and students to learn more about Spectrum and the open access movement at Concordia.

What: Part-time faculty showcase
When: Tuesday, October 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: J.W. McConnell Library Building Atrium (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.)

Related Links:
“New Open Access Support for Researchers” – NOW, September 21, 2011
“New Coalition Promotes Open Access” – NOW, August 4, 2011
Berlin 9 Open Access Conference
Open Access Week

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