The Washington University in St. Louis Faculty Senate at its meeting this past May adopted an Open Access Resolution that encourages faculty members to make their scholarly and creative works freely available online.
The resolution also includes a recommendation for University Libraries and the Bernard Becker Medical Library to develop the capacity to capture faculty scholarship, make it publicly accessible and preserve it over time. It also calls for a three-year review to determine the best way to implement the resolution.
The text of the resolution can be found at news.wustl.edu/Documents/Record/OpenAccessResolution.pdf.
Open access to advance knowledge
WUSTL faculty members conduct research in a range of disciplines and seek to share their findings. Typically, faculty members publish their research in print or online publications that often require costly subscription fees to access.
In recent years, subscription prices for many of these publications have risen rapidly, and, as a result, fewer individuals and organizations can afford to access them. Even relatively inexpensive subscriptions can act as barriers to access for individuals, smaller institutions or developing countries.
In addition, many publishers hold the copyright to the material they publish, making it impossible for the scholars — who generated the content — to share it freely.
These barriers can significantly limit the reach of a faculty member’s research results and potentially slow the advancement of knowledge throughout the world.
“The vote to support open access is a major step toward making it possible for our faculty to freely share their research,” says Provost Edward S. Macias, PhD, executive vice chancellor and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “Our faculty members are doing remarkable work. Free and ready access to that work can benefit people around the world.”
According to Shirley Baker, vice chancellor for scholarly resources and dean of University Libraries, more than 150 institutions in the United States and internationally also have adopted open access policies or resolutions, including Harvard University, Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Universities exist to create and disseminate knowledge,” Baker says. “Continuing changes in the scholarly communication publishing world are slowing or impeding the dissemination of scholarly research and findings.
“Universities like WUSTL throughout the world are increasingly taking action to support the broadest dissemination of discoveries,” Baker says.
Ensuring research is open access
The Open Access Resolution passed by the WUSTL Faculty Senate encourages faculty to publish their research results in open access journals, such as titles in the Directory of Open Access Journals at doaj.org.
Regardless of where faculty members publish, the resolution asks them to retain the right to include a version of their publication in an institutional or other open access repository. Works, such as journal articles, in open access repositories can be viewed, free of charge, by anyone with Internet access.
The Bernard Becker Medical Library has an open access repository, Digital Commons@Becker at digitalcommons.wustl.edu, in place for School of Medicine faculty; work on a repository for Danforth Campus faculty is under way.
Passing the resolution
Discussion about open access at WUSTL began in early 2010 in the Faculty Senate executive committee, the Faculty Senate Council, under then-council Chair Andrew Sobel, PhD, associate professor of political science and fellow in the Center in Political Economy, both in Arts & Sciences.
The council voted to establish a committee of faculty and librarians from across the university to draft an open access policy, with Sobel as chair. The draft policy came back to the council for discussion several times before the final document was submitted to and approved by the full Faculty Senate under council Chair Heather Corcoran, associate professor of communication design.
“The nature and pace of scholarly communication and the dissemination of research is changing,” Sobel says. “These changes challenge the more traditional forms of publication in academia and create new opportunities for faculty to get their work out to other researchers, members of the academy and, more broadly, to the general public. This is exciting, as faster and broader dissemination of new ideas accelerates the process of research and the social gains from our research.”
For more information about issues pertaining to open access and academia, visit library.wustl.edu/offtheshelf/pdf/2008spring.pdf (pages 4-10).
For more information about open access at WUSTL, the Medical Campus community can email Cathy Sarli at the Bernard Becker Medical Library at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Danforth Campus community can email Ruth Lewis at the University Libraries at email@example.com.