The Oregon State University College of Forestry has adopted an Open Access policy, joining the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and the OSU Libraries in encouraging that, when possible, their researchers make their published research openly available to the public by depositing them in ScholarsArchive@OSU, an institutional repository operated by the library
OSU Libraries was the first unit on campus and the first library faculty in the nation to adopt an Open Access policy. CEOAS followed suit, and recently, Extension and Experiment Station Communications collaborated with ScholarsArchive@OSU to place all EESC publications in the archive, including current and future publications.
What makes Open Access challenging are the agreements that researchers strike with publishers who accept their work for publication. Being published in top ranked peer-reviewed journals is an important part of the tenure and promotion process, but many publishers have restrictions on allowing free access to their work.
The topic of open access continues to be a political one as well. In 2008 the NIH Public Access Policy required that investigators funded by the NIH make their final manuscripts available free, online, within 12 months of publication. This is currently being challenged in Congress by a new bill that would end that policy and prevent other federal agencies from passing similar requirements.
According to Sue Kunda, OSU Digital Scholarship Librarian, a growing number of publishers who aren’t comfortable providing free access to their publications will allow authors to deposit a peer-reviewed final draft, rather than the published piece, into a repository like ScholarsArchive@OSU.
“We’d like publishers to be the ones who make that research freely available to anyone in the world with an Internet access,” Kunda said. “Obviously, not many publishers are on board with that, but some have made concessions in this area.”
Researchers themselves are responsible for negotiating their publishing rights from the peer-reviewed journals where they publish, so they’re on the front line when it comes to getting on-line access of their work approved. Faye Chadwell, Donald and Delpha Campbell University Librarian, said that the library offers author rights sessions for faculty to help them navigate the conversations around open access with publishers.
In 2005, Chadwell said the OSU Faculty Senate was one of the first in the country to pass a resolution that encouraged faculty members to seek publishing alternatives that would allow for open access.
“It was a big deal then, and we’ve been on a path moving toward a campus-wide open access policy,” she said. And open access is an important reflection of the university’s status as a land grant institution, she said, by providing as much public access as possible to the work of its faculty and researchers.
“It means greater visibility for OSU,” she said.
OSU was one of the first American universities to sign onto the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, which is an international statement in support of open access. Chadwell said open access is not just about making research available to the public.
“It also helps to advance science,” she said. “It uses the powers of the Internet to make more research available to everyone, because that information is not going to be behind a barrier. Sometimes an inter-library loan can be terrific, but sometimes scientists can’t wait two days, they need it now.”
Barbara Lachenbruch, professor with the department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, was instrumental in moving the College of Forestry toward an open access policy. Named as part of the Inaugural Cohort of Faculty, OSU Libraries Open Access Hall of Fame, 2011, Lachenbruch is an advocate for the open sharing of academic research among both colleagues and the general public.
“The sooner you jump on the (open access) bandwagon, the sooner you’ll see your papers cited by other researchers,” she said. “We don’t want to be slow adopters.”
Lachenbruch pays attention to how her research is being used in ScholarsArchive@OSU, and has noticed some startling results. One of her papers, which appeared in a journal with a membership of only 450, has been viewed 206 times in ScholarsArchive@OSU, and has been cited 21 times in the work of other researchers. That kind of reach is not typical when depending on journal publication alone.
Having research be accessible to many is important, especially given her discipline, Lachenbruch said.
“There aren’t that many forestry schools in the country,” she said. “We don’t have a large, built-in group of academics perpetuating information to the public.”
And it’s not just new work that is being added to ScholarsArchive@OSU. Caryn Davis, assistant director for communications with the College of Forestry, has been adding archival articles to the system as well, and she says older journal articles are still being downloaded by users, despite sometimes being a decade older or more.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We tend to think these research articles have a more limited shelf life, but some of these older articles still contain relevant information and are being downloaded dozens of times.”
When Davis first began working at the College of Forestry 20 years ago, the college received requests for thousands of print copies of articles by forestry researchers. But as publishing moved onto the Internet, finding ways to disseminate that same information became more difficult.
Davis said she’s relieved that OSU librarians are working with faculty to make more and more of their work accessible through ScholarsArchive@OSU, because it fits in with the mission of research and outreach embraced both at the college and across the university.