News from the Dean: Celebrating Open Access Week, October 21- 26 2013

This week universities and scholarly communities around the world celebrate Open Access Week. Open Access Week is an opportunity for the academic and research community to learn about the benefits of Open Access (OA), which is the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to re-use those results as needed.

 According to the official website, OA has the potential “to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship. Research funding agencies, academic institutions, researchers and scientists, teachers, students, and members of the general public are supporting a move towards Open Access in increasing numbers every year.”

Among the entities taking note of the advantages of OA are federal granting agencies, who see in this model a way to fully leverage their research dollars.  
Since 2008, the NIH has required the deposit of articles resulting from research it funds into the PubMed Central repository.  This repository has millions of downloads daily, and has been widely used not just by biomedical researchers, but by the general public from around the world.  The public demand for access to publicly funded research has been such that a May 2012 White House petition entitled, “Require free access over the Internet to scientific articles arising from taxpayer-funded research” reached more than the required 25,000 signatures in just over a week.  After a period of public comment and study, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a policy memorandum directing all agencies with a research budget of $100 million or more annually to develop plans to disseminate publicly funded research on an OA model.  Information on how this policy will be implemented should be coming out soon.  In addition to the OSTP memorandum, there is legislation pending in Congress which would make similar provisions federal law.  The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), sponsored by senators and representatives in both parties, was introduced in February 2013, and potentially covers more agencies than the OSTP memorandum.  While both initiatives are directed primarily at the agencies supporting scientific and technical research, faculty in the humanities and social sciences should expect to hear of similar mandates from agencies supporting their research in the coming months.   

The focus on openness now includes more than just the finished article.  Beginning in January 2011, the NSF started to require that all grant applicants submit a two-page research data management plan, which must specify whether the raw research data collected from funded research projects will be made available to other researchers, and how it will be managed and preserved.  The OSTP Policy Memorandum referenced above focuses not just on peer-reviewed publications, but on making research data openly available as well.  A research guide with more information on these policies is available from the Libraries’ web site.

The traditional practice of transferring the copyright of an article to the publisher complicates the ability to make faculty research available openly.  The faculty of many universities have attempted to address this problem by passing institutional open access mandates, or policies requiring that their faculty publish either in open access journals, or deposit their journal articles in an open institutional or disciplinary repository.  These university and funder mandates are prompting a reexamination of many traditional publishing practices. UMKC faculty are currently publishing in many journals which now permit the retention of their copyrights, if you ask.  Regardless of whether or not you decide to publish in an open access or traditional journal, there are many advantages to retaining your copyrights. 

The Libraries’ Director of Scholarly Communications, Brenda Dingley, can help you consider these advantages, and help you negotiate more favorable publishing contracts with your publishers. She will be conducting a workshop on these issues in FaCET at 2:30 on November 13. She is also available to help you with any of the federal mandates for federally funded research or for data management plans.