Open@VT

Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Category Archives: Repositories

An Update on the Proposed Open Access Policy at Virginia Tech

The proposed open access policy at Virginia Tech has recently changed in two important ways. First, as a result of meetings with University Counsel, the working group will propose adding language to the university’s existing Policy on Intellectual Property, No. 13000, rather than proposing a separate policy. Second, the proposed language now includes all Virginia Tech authors of scholarly articles, not just faculty. This change came at the suggestion of the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies, and the working group is now reaching out to undergraduate and staff representatives for input. See the working group’s policy page for details, including the resolution and marked-up Policy 13000, FAQ, and more.  The resolution will be presented at the Commission on Research this fall.  If it successfully passes through university governance, it would go into effect on July 1, 2021.

Policy homepage

Questions? Check the policy homepage

While no longer a free-standing proposal, the new language retains the core elements of a Harvard-style open access policy, namely the grant of a non-exclusive license to the university to allow hosting accepted manuscripts, an embargo option, and a per-article waiver. These elements allow authors to share their accepted manuscript from the day of its acceptance, without concern about violating the terms of their publishing contract. Similar policies have been in place at more than 50 U.S. universities for more than ten years.  The policy will help level the playing field with some of our SCHEV peers who already have policies, and who therefore have a greater ability to share research than Virginia Tech authors.

The importance of open access has been underlined by the coronavirus epidemic, not just for directly related research, but for all types of research. Copyright has never been a good fit for scholarly articles, which we freely give to journals, only to have access restricted.  It has never made sense that our research is out of reach for colleagues at some universities, scholars in low- and middle-income countries, taxpayers, policymakers, and our own alumni.

Open Access symbol "unlock"

The proposed policy is an important opportunity for Virginia Tech authors, but it will only matter if authors take advantage of it.  In the working group’s outreach over the past three years, the proposal consistently received a positive response.  We hope you will convey your support to your representatives in university governance.

If your question isn’t answered in our FAQ, feel free to email the working group at openaccess@vt.edu, or comment on this blog post (comments are open for 30 days).

Research Networking Sites and Open Access

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Vitae site has a post today titled Should You Share Your Research on Academia.edu? Research networking sites may provide services that researchers value– I don’t know because I haven’t signed up for any of them– but they do not provide open access. In a recent post, Beyond Elsevier, I mentioned that Academia.edu has the only copy of this paper I was looking for. While it is readable on the screen, if you click the “Download” button, you are prompted to sign in. This is not an open access paper. Open access does not require signing in or downloading software, and it enables uses beyond reading. The Budapest Open Access Initiative states:

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

This paper is essentially being used as bait to sign up new users (if you want do anything other than read a long scroll through small text). Personally, I would not want my work used as an enticement to attract new members to a for-profit site without a business model. We can predict that these sites will find a way to monetize personal information, which raises the question of whether this is a good example for researchers to set for graduate students and future scholars.

The marketing pitches of these sites should be taken with more than a few grains of salt. Given the many, many existing institutional and disciplinary repositories that are already providing full open access, their talk of “sharing” and “dissemination” are marketing Kool-Aid. They may not have paywalls, but they do have log-in walls, and those are a barrier for anyone who does not want to trade their privacy for access. Additionally, some of the services treated in a “gee whiz” manner in the Chronicle article, such as statistics on views and downloads, have been available in most repositories for years.

Academia.edu is hardly the only research networking site (since none of its competitors are mentioned, was there a quid pro quo between the Chronicle and Academia.edu?). If colleagues in your field are members of different “silos” such as Mendeley or ResearchGate, do you need to join all of them, with their various terms of use and privacy policies? The existence of these silos undermines their claims of “sharing” and “dissemination”– activities that they are clearly not providing on a network level.

I hope that those wanting to take advantage of the networking capabilities on these sites will also post their work on the open web, preferably in an institutional or disciplinary repository. The private sector is again in the lead in providing services, though it should be remembered that the privatization of knowledge typically hasn’t turned out well (and remember, Mendeley is now owned by Elsevier). Eventually, non-market research networking options will appear and (I hope) disintermediate these private silos.