Library staff advocate for open access policies nationwide

Valley Library at Oregon State University.

Valley Library (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Among library faculty and staff at Oregon State University, there is a strong dedication to the idea of open access, of making as much academic research available to as broad an audience as possible.

That dedication has made OSU a leader among institutions with open access repositories, and it has pushed the faculty and staff at OSU Libraries into advocating for open access policies on a national level.

Most recently, the Scholarly Communication Working Group at OSU Libraries & Press responded to a request for information from the Office of Science and Technology Policy regarding whether federally funded research should be made freely available to the public, urging the federal government to move forward on making open access a priority.

“Making access to federally funded research so expensive that only a privileged few can afford to read the results limits scientific progress and economic development,” the letter stated. “Open access creates a business climate where the private sector can more easily leverage public research and invest in and develop new products and services. Immediate open access without restrictions to federally funded research provides the private sector with access to research results.”

As a result of the input they received from across the country, the White House last week released a memorandum that will greatly advance open access at the federal level. The Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum requires federal agencies with annual research and development budgets of $100 million or more, including the National Science Foundation, to provide the public with free and unlimited online access to the results of federally funded research – including both unclassified articles and the digital data associated with those articles. Research manuscripts arising from this publicly-funded research are to be made available within 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Research data resulting from federally funded projects must be “stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze.”

The National Institutes of Health already has a policy that federally funded research must be made public within a year of the point of publication. Michael Boock, head of the OSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Services, said the broader policy change will benefit OSU researchers funded by NSF and other federal agencies by making that research available to a larger audience in much the same way as the NIH policy does. Also, with the greater availability of research data, faculty will have access to data that could benefit future research projects. The Center for Digital Scholarship and Services is prepared to provide assistance to faculty in meeting any agency requirements.

Amanda Whitmire, a data management specialist with OSU Libraries, said the need to have easy access to data collected by other researchers is even greater now, as much research is now data-driven, that is, is focused on mining existing data for research purposes.

“With the reduction of federal and state resources, agencies have a vested interest in making data from funded projects publicly available so they can be reused in future research,” Whitmire said. “The increasingly common requirement of a data management plan is driven by the need to ensure that investigators understand how to manage their data so that datasets can be shared effectively at the conclusion of the project.”

OSU library faculty were the first university librarians in the nation to pass an open access policy for their own work, and several OSU colleges, including the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and College of Forestry, have open access policies as well. Since 2006, graduate students have been required to deposit a copy of their thesis or dissertation into the university’s open-access repository, Scholars Archive@OSU.

Webometrics recently ranked the ScholarsArchive@OSU digital repository seventh among U.S. single institution open access repositories. The Webometrics ranking is produced by the Cybermetrics Lab of the Spanish National Research Council located in Madrid and is based on indicators such as the number, visibility and impact of repository holdings.

“The library works with OSU faculty and graduate students to make the university’s scholarship available open access,” Boock said. This includes over 30,000 faculty articles and conference proceedings, student theses and dissertations, and Extension and Experiment Station Communications publications, research datasets, and other research outputs. “The Webometrics recognition exemplifies OSU’s commitment to disseminating the university’s scholarship as widely as possible via open access,” Boock said.

“As a land grant institution, we feel it’s very important to have our work available to the citizens of the state, and the world,” Boock said, “For some of our research at a land-, sea-, space-, and sun grant institution, the people who will ultimately use our research aren’t other scientists. They are practitioners and decision-makers, or in some cases, school teachers and students.”

The OSU Faculty Senate will consider adopting a campus-wide open access policy this spring to ensure the broadest possible dissemination of faculty articles to the general public and the scholarly community in support of OSU’s Land, Sun, Sea and Space Grant missions.

“An institution-wide open access policy is the next logical step in OSU’s support for meeting its land grant mission to make the fruits of research available to anyone in the world,” Boock said, “thereby increasing its impact and visibility.”

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