Faculty Celebrates Anniversary of OpenEmory

Emory is celebrating International Open Access Week with a number of events in honor of the one-year anniversary of OpenEmory, a free database for faculty to publish their work.

Emory’s database has logged 1,800 articles with more than 9,000 article downloads, according to an Oct. 16 University press release.

Thus far, the University has hosted a faculty panel and two webcasts. The panel consisted of Emory faculty who discussed the effect of open access on scholarly communication. The two webcasts explored the positive impact of free digital availability of research results and a conversation with Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Office of Scholarly Communications, respectively.

According to Copyright and Scholarly Communications Librarian Melanie Kowalski, Suber is the “godfather of the open access movement.”

Suber has been a long-time proponent of open access with the hope of eliminating access barriers and the expectation of payment. He argues that because scholarly journals do not pay authors, there is no loss of revenue in consenting to an open access agreement.

The movement encourages unrestricted access to scholarly publications online, Kowalski said. She added that it gained momentum about five years ago with the advent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy.

The policy states that all researchers funded by the NIH must submit articles to the National Library of Medicine’s electronic database, PubMed Central, to be made available for public viewing no later than 12 months after publication.

Panelists at Emory’s Open Access Week events weighed the costs and benefits of having an open access repository.

During the faculty panel, some discussed the convenience of having the information available online.

“It made us realize the web was an ideal tool for scientific communication,” said John Nickerson, vice director of research and professor of ophthalmology at the Emory Eye Center.

Nickerson, who has a number of articles published on PubMed, added that open access has increased the number of citations on articles.

Kowalski noted that open access online makes it so that students and researchers from every country in the world can have access to these scholarly articles.

The panelists also compared open access to subscription repositories like JSTOR and EBSCOhost.

Rex Matthews, associate professor in the practice of historical theology in the Candler School of Theology, said peer review is equally important in open access.

According to Suber’s overview of open access, open access journals perform their own peer review process, but archives do not. Archives consist of preprints, which are versions of the article before peer review and publication.

However, key differences exist between open access repositories and subscription journals apart from the lack of price barriers, according to Kowalski.

She added that the demand for open access to scholarly articles has increased, especially in digital publication.

Subscription prices rose as online databases replaced print journals, coinciding with the reduction of library budgets.

“It was really an economic movement,” Kowalski said.

Open access repositories usually gain permission to publish other authors’ material through a Creative Commons copyright license, Kowalski said.

This is one of the most unrestricted forms of a copyright license, which, in most cases, grants the author the ability to re-use modified and derivative works for commercial purposes without seeking copyright permission.

While permission barriers vary from database to database, the common constraint on distribution of material among all open access journals is that the authors must be cited and always maintain the integrity of their work, according to Suber’s overview.

According to Kowalski, the looser copyright restrictions in a Creative Commons license expedites the publishing process because authors can quickly publish preprints in a database like the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) before submitting them to an academic journal.

Given these freedoms, Nickerson said he was surprised open access journals have not caught on.

Kowalski said this could be the case because eliminating consumer subscription charges could have economic implications.

Open access journals shift the economic burden of publishing scholarly articles from the consumer to the authors of the research or they eliminate the paywall, Kowalski said. Like other scholarly journals, open access journals are for-profit institutions. Because few people pay for subscriptions, the journals charge the author.

In response to these shifting norms, Emory and other university libraries have created open access publishing funds. Kowalski said this is an attempt to alleviate the burden on authors.

Kowalski said she hopes the growing open access database will benefit researchers in their scholarly pursuits.

“Our hope is that it will help faculty and students broaden the reach of their scholarship,” she said. “It also lets you share your work with unintended users.”

Kowalski cited an example of a 16-year-old boy who developed a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer exclusively through open access research.

“No one intends a 16-year-old to be able to read scholarly research, but if they have access to it, they can actually implement change,” she said.

Emory currently supports several open access journals, including Southern Spaces, Practical Matters, Methodist Review and Molecular Vision.

The remaining events for Emory’s Open Access Week will occur this afternoon. The first is a webcast of Georgia Institute of Technology faculty members discussing the ways that open access affects the digital humanities. The second is a panel of Emory graduate students discussing the practicality of publishing on open access repositories in graduate school.

Full recordings of the events will be available online for those who could not attend the events.

— By Rupsha Basu 

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