Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Category Archives: University Libraries at Virginia Tech

Library Faculty Pass an Open Access Mandate

On August 1 the Library Faculty Association at Virginia Tech adopted an article archiving mandate. Ballot choices also included a voluntary policy and no policy. The mandatory policy received 14 votes, the voluntary policy 10 votes, and no policy 3 votes.

The policy language originally followed the Harvard model, but the opt-out conditions were changed as a result of discussion. Some objected to sending opt-out waiver requests to the Dean’s office (or Dean’s designate), so someone suggested that faculty control access during the deposit process. Access choices are immediate open access (the default), delayed open access, or restricted (with metadata and a request button displayed). This aspect of the policy is similar to the immediate deposit/optional access policy advocated by Stevan Harnad (though deposit is not required immediately but by the time of publication). So the policy is a hybrid.

On a personal note, this was a long and frustrating process. The discussion lasted a year and a half (though that time spans most of two summers, when we did not meet). It’s hard to feel too celebratory when the debate is divisive and 13 faculty members are not on board. I never thought it would be so difficult to convince librarians that access to information is important, or that support for open access needs to be embodied, not just talked about. I’ve posted my 5-minute pitch preceding the vote.

The policy will be posted soon. Thanks to all of my colleagues who voted in favor of the policy. And though the policy is not strictly the one he recommends, thanks to Peter Suber for feedback that improved the policy and its associated FAQ.

Notes on “Slow Ideas”

Atul Gawande’s recent essay in the New Yorker, “Slow Ideas,” begins with this sentence:

Why do some innovations spread so swiftly and others so slowly?

It’s a fascinating exploration of the profoundly different takeup speed of anesthesia (fast) versus antiseptic practices (slow), and moves into recent experiences with the latter in improving birth outcomes in the developing world.

Open access, it seems to me, is also a slow idea. These excerpts from the article sound familiar:

This has been the pattern of many important but stalled ideas. They attack problems that are big but, to most people, invisible; and making them work can be tedious, if not outright painful. …remedies to them, all requiring individual sacrifice of one kind or another, struggle to get anywhere.

…people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

Simple “awareness” isn’t going to solve anything. We need our sales force and our seven easy-to-remember messages. And in many places around the world the concerted, person-by-person effort of changing norms is under way.

Open access is invisible to many faculty, because the library subscribes to enough journals that encountering paywalls is relatively rare. It’s also invisible in the sense that faculty aren’t responsible for journal costs or ILL costs, and don’t see the connection to signing away copyright. It’s hard to see the benefits of OA if everything you’re doing now seems to be working fine.

Though open access now has significant momentum, it’s taken more than 20 years just to start having an impact. That qualifies as a slow idea. Open access requires individual sacrifice, at least for now, either in the form of examining one’s publishing contract for archiving permissions and then archiving, or in the form of paying article processing fees or perhaps publishing in a less prestigious journal.

This article also brings into question the open access outreach activities of libraries. If it’s lots of one on one conversations that are needed, then this library isn’t being as effective as it could be. I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone. No one introduced me to open access; I just did a lot of reading and became convinced it was the way to go. And some of the advocacy can happen in departmental meetings, for example (this report is really helpful and I wish there were more accounts of how open access successes were achieved on campuses).

I haven’t been very effective in convincing my fellow librarians, which is a prerequisite to implementing Gawande’s conclusions. I assumed that people learned the way I do, by reading, but those are probably in the minority. I’ve had very few one-on-one conversations, but I should have spoken to each of our 40 or so faculty. For campus-wide advocacy, we don’t need reports, keynotes, panels, and classes so much as we need a year-round sales force. And for that we need librarians who are fully on board.

(On an intellectual property note, regarding anesthesia: “Morton would not divulge the composition of the gas, which he called Letheon, because he had applied for a patent.” Fortunate for many that patent didn’t work out.)

Open Access Journals for Scholarly Societies

A few months ago Stuart Sheiber, the primary architect of Harvard’s open access policies, wrote about why open access is better for scholarly societies.

As he notes, many societies (as well as universities like Virginia Tech) use the word “disseminate” in their mission statement, yet it’s only recently that some are taking a closer look at how dissemination is carried out. It’s been an afterthought, though it should be an integral part of the research process. Obviously, it is far more effective to disseminate knowledge openly than behind a paywall. But removing the paywall leaves the question of a society’s sustainability.

More recently Heather Piwowar has posted a very helpful guide to some of the open access options for journals that her society has been looking into, and Eric Kansa has a great post that takes a wide-ranging look at sustainability for archaeological societies.

Sheiber argues strongly for author-side charges (sometimes called author processing charges or APCs) rather than reader-side charges (subscriptions). I agree that this should provide a more competitive market, largely due to increased transparency. And though author-side charges are working well for a number of journals, I have mixed feelings about them. Some fields don’t get much grant support, so charges can’t be written into them. Though Virginia Tech has an open access publishing fund to support these charges, most universities don’t. Those who do have grants may want to use the money for things other than publishing. Some funders may not allow charges to be covered, instead requiring article archiving.

Support for the costs of publishing is not limited to subscriptions or author-side fees, though. There are many possible funding models. One option is subsidized publishing from the university. Virginia Tech’s University Libraries is now promoting its journal publishing services. The library hosts the journal, and the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software allows editors to manage submissions and peer review (OJS also allows societies to charge author-side fees if desired).

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.

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