Librarians advocate open access to research

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Most people will say running into a paywall while reading an online article is, at the very least, annoying. The open access movement is a growing international push to make paywall for scholarly research vanish.

Marquette held its second annual Open Access Awareness Day in the Raynor Library this past Monday and Tuesday to educate Marquette students on the movement.

Beginning in the 1990s, scholarly journals started to publish online — a movement that has grown significantly in the twenty-first century. Although publishing online results in decreased costs for printing and distributing a work, subscription prices to academic journals continue to rise.

Ann Hanlon, digital projects librarian at Marquette, said the subscription fees for a lot of academic journals, particularly in the sciences, have escalated faster than inflation in recent years.

Sciences journals have proven to be the most expensive annual subscription. According to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an alliance of academic institutions promoting new ways the internet can share scholarly information, subscription costs for a single journal can be more than $20,000 annually.

“Academic authors are not paid by the journals for their articles and the academics who do the peer-reviews are not reimbursed for their efforts,” Hanlon said. “Now that we are in the digital age it makes sense to find a better way to disseminate academic research rather than keeping it behind a pay wall.”

For scholars who are not paid for their work, the ultimate goals are for their work to be read, and to influence and inspire further research.

Open access achieves these goals. A 2008 study by Gunther Eysenbach of the University of Toronto found that works published as openly accessible in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences — were three times as likely to be cited in other scholarly works than those published as non-open access.

In 2008, legislation passed that required all works published by the National Institute of Health to be available on the internet for free no more than twelve months after publication. This is known as “delayed open access.”

Marquette practices self-archiving open access through its own repository, where all articles written by Marquette authors are archived online. The repository, called e-Scholarship@MU, can be accessed by anyone via Marquette’s e-publications website.

The Open Access Awareness Days at Marquette were initiated by SPARC. The coalition’s Open Access Awareness Week usually coincides with Marquette’s fall break, so the university holds its event a few weeks later, instead.

Hanlon said Marquette students should know how research is distributed and get involved in the open access movement to have more scholarly work available to them.

“That’s our job, and that’s what we want to do,” she said. “Accessing as much information as the students need is central to the library’s mission … I think if they understand how we go about doing that and how much broader the access could be, that would be important to them.”

Lee Systma, a professor of theology in the College of Arts & Sciences, said open access would give students more options.

“I could see it being a larger plus for graduate students who would use more of those types of various resources,” she said.

Openly accessible research would be available to anyone seeking reliable, accurate information — college student or not.

Margaret Fredericks, a sophomore in the College of Education, approved of open access because she said it could be difficult to find accurate research after graduating from college.

“Open access would be a good way for anyone to look up any type of thing and they would know it would be accurate,” she said.

Story by Ben McCormick

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