Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Category Archives: Open Access

A MOOC at Virginia Tech

The participation of a Virginia Tech faculty member in a recently completed MOOC has been well documented in the Virginia Tech news, a Roanoke Times article, and in a blog about the course.

Tom Sanchez co-taught the TechniCity course with Jennifer Evans-Cowley of Ohio State, which has an agreement with Coursera. Thinking of Kevin Smith’s recent post in which article archiving saved the day for a Duke professor’s MOOC, I e-mailed Tom about the availability of course materials and he was kind enough to respond.

Naturally, materials (like journal articles) that might have cost the students money were avoided. Negotiating for copyright permissions or digging up previous versions were both deemed too time-consuming. The course did use some archived articles (the suggested readings on the course page links to two articles by Evans-Cowley from SSRN). Tom also noted that “we have a Mendeley group set up for the course topic(s), which is also a source of the content.”

While MOOCs are currently dependent on open content (and therefore provide an incentive to archive articles), that may be changing soon. Around the time the course was taking place, Coursera entered an agreement with publishers to provide licensed content to students (with many caveats, as the article notes).

I also asked Tom about the issue of course ownership. University ownership of MOOC content is viewed as a threat by the American Association of University Professors, as recently reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Tom replied, “from what I’m told by the Ohio State people, we are free to use all of the course materials however we’d like. We used several ‘guest’ presentations and Coursera didn’t ask for copyright releases for these. I can imagine this will change over time.”

Thanks again to Tom Sanchez for sharing some of the behind-the-scenes details of the course.

[Update: see my interview with Tom Sanchez in August 2014 that goes into more depth about the course.]

Voluntary vs. Mandatory Policies

As the open access movement advances, more faculty become interested in providing access to their work. But there aren’t enough open access journals yet, especially in some fields. Self-archiving is very spotty- a few do it, but most don’t. So faculty associations in universities, colleges, and departments are adopting open access archiving policies.

One policy debate that sometimes arises is whether archiving should be voluntary or mandatory. Though some open access issues are unsettled, this one isn’t. Voluntary policies don’t work and never have.

Stevan Harnad made his “subversive proposal” to archive articles on a Virginia Tech e-mail list nearly 20 years ago. Recently he said:

If one thing has been learnt from the slow, sad saga of OA (now at least two decades old) it is that mandating OA works, but encouraging it doesn’t.

The faculty votes (many of them unanimous) that have taken place in the last few years have been for mandatory policies (there is no list of voluntary policies). The purpose of a policy is to increase the amount of openly available research online, and mandatory policies do a far better job of that:

Gargouri et al. 2010

Open Access (OA) Self-Archiving Percentages for Institutions With Self-Archiving Mandates Compared to Non-Mandated, Self-Selected Controls (Gargouri et al. 2010, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013636)

About 60% of journals now allow archiving of the author’s final version (the post-print), but only 10-20% of articles are archived. That’s why a mandatory policy is necessary. We need that nudge. We need that collective expectation that research will be open, not paywalled.

The word “mandate” evokes negative reactions even before policy details are heard, but it’s an inaccurate term in two ways. First, there is always an opt-out, so it is not a mandate in the strict sense of the word. Second, a policy is approved democratically by those directly affected by it. It’s not a directive from the provost or a dean. It’s a statement that says we think making research openly available is important enough to require it of ourselves.

As authors, we know that open access serves our own interests. More people can read our work if it’s not behind a paywall. Numerous studies confirm that openly available articles are cited more often. When everyone has access, promotion via social media is far more effective and raises the researcher’s profile. Even for those who don’t actively promote their work, the simple act of providing worldwide access generates views and downloads month after month.

We know that providing access to our research helps a lot of people, including those in the developing world and independent researchers. So we can produce a great public good (and advance our own careers) just by setting aside 10 minutes to archive one of our articles.

Let’s make policy decisions based on evidence. No faculty group can singlehandedly repair our dysfunctional system of scholarly communication, but we can begin taking steps to better fulfill the university mission, and that of land grant institutions. If the journals in our field put our research behind a paywall, let’s ensure worldwide access for our articles by taking 10 minutes to archive them.

New Video from Harvard

Here’s a great short video (8:30) with two Harvard professors talking about open access issues, including dissertations and altering publication agreements:

Support for Open Access at the University Libraries

Welcome to the Open@VT blog, where the focus will be library support for open access (see the links on the upper left) as well as other aspects of openness. Part of the impetus for the blog was the realization that our outreach efforts needed to be year-round and not just focused on Open Access Week, which we held for the first time in October 2012. Library support for OA activities has ramped up significantly in the last couple of years, and now we have a pilot OA publishing (subvention) fund, discounts on article publishing charges as a result of institutional memberships, a new institutional repository for archiving scholarship, VTechWorks, and we host a growing number of OA journals. Virginia Tech was the first university to require ETDs back in 1997, the vast majority of which are openly available. In addition, we provide training through the Faculty Development Institute (FDI) (also open to graduate students) for VTechWorks, data management plans, and open access/copyright. We’ll be examining these efforts in more detail in future blog posts, but in the meantime, please feel free to comment, send me ideas, spread the news, and thanks for your patience as I learn to blog.

Open@VT on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed...