Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Helen Muir's "UKSG 2010, Librarians and Open Access"

I promised you more snapshots of UKSG conference summaries, and here's one from Helen Muir, Research Support Librarian at Queen Margaret University (excerpted from Helen's post here). Helen's piece adds further useful examples from experience to some of the issues discussed at the conference.
I attended UKSG on Tuesday 13th April, and the first 3 speakers (Dorothea Salo, Eelco Ferwerda and Jill Russell) were all keen advocates of open access, and from what I could gather, open access had been discussed during the previous day also. Jill's presentation included details of the pilot project that she has been involved with at the University of Birmingham where three colleges have been allocated funding to publish their research findings following a gold open access publishing model. At my own institution, following the gold route has already been disregarded - we simply do not have the funds to both pay for journals subscriptions and pay for researchers to publish with journals as well, and despite funder mandates to make research publicly available, I know that researchers here are not as yet keeping money aside to pay an open access publication fee. I imagine that this is the case for most other institutions, indeed Jill was quick to point out that her institution could not afford to pay these fees for the majority of researchers there, leaving some of those not taking part in the pilot somewhat disgruntled.

All of this has lead to me looking at open access from a different angle. In my own role, I am actively encouraging researchers at my institution to both publish their research following an open access model, and to deposit their work in our repository. I've been doing this for about a year and a half now, we have our open access mandate in place, and I thought that encouraging researchers to make their paper open access would eventually lead to the tipping point where open access journal publishing would overtake subscription based. It's a lot more complicated than that though, isn't it? As well as the researchers being convinced, there is also the much less talked about hurdle (and from what I've seen it's a big one) of librarians who are still happy to follow the subscription based journal publishing model. I don't mean this to be a criticism of library budget holders and serials librarians who are working very hard to negotiate with publishers to retain access to as many journal titles as they can with their ever-decreasing budgets. Academic libraries have students who are paying for their education, and expect to have access to journal articles, and academics who expect access to current research to do their jobs - the idea of just stopping paying subscriptions as an individual institution, or even as part of a consortium is unthinkable at present, when the backlash from students and academics at losing access to journals would be so great.

Discussion of open access does have to be opened up further to the whole academic and research library community, and not just remain mostly within the world of repository practitioners and developers. I also wonder about the effects of CILIP's reporting on open access to the wider library community, with another less-than-positive review in this month's Update entitled Open access could cost some universities dear, says Jisc report. (I'm not putting the link to this in here as CILIP members will know where to look, and for the rest of you CILIP Update is not open access - sorry.) Hopefully the more positive coverage that open access has received at UKSG10 will help to redress the balance of this.
Helen's post was commented on by Stevan Harnad, who concluded that "Universities need to commit to mandating Green OA self-archiving before committing to spend their scarce available funds to pay for Gold OA publishing. ... Journal subscriptions cannot be cancelled unless the journals' contents are otherwise accessible [via green, not gold, OA] to a university's users." Helen's response adds further useful experience to this discssion (emphasis is mine):
I understand and support your argument fully, but also witness some drawbacks as well. Queen Margaret was a very early mandate adopter, but unfortunately this has not meant a dramatic increase in deposits in our repository. Indeed, most of the material that finds its way in gets there because I've actively searched for it, then chased researchers up for the papers. Only if I'm very lucky do I find a researcher who has kept a draft that the publishers copyright policies will allow me to put up following the green model. I do believe that the message is slowly getting through to some of our researchers however, and think that this is encouraging (I was sent a green OA paper today that I can deposit, but I have to honour a 6 month embargo first. The embargo is quite off-putting for some researchers and was a key reason for Birmingham piloting a gold model, according to Jill Russell at UKSG10).

One of my main concerns is my perception that librarians in academic libraries are not directing students and academics towards OA resources e.g. when the institution does not subscribe to a particular journal - it is not within our culture yet to explore databases of institutional repositories such as OAIster yet (I've not had a chance to have more than a quick glance at http://mimas.ac.uk/irs/demonstrator/ yet , but was very pleased to hear of its existence earlier today). It seem to me that I am contradicting myself when I recommend to students that they use the bibliographic databases for the best journal results, but then tell researchers that search engines such as Google will index their articles in the repository, thus making the accessible to a much wider audience. Searching for open access resources has to become an integral part of information search strategies.
Helen's posting and the resulting discussion add some additional nuances to the paper given at UKSG by Jill Russell, and the wider open access debate. Can readers of this blog add comments from their own experience? (And in this context I propose that we stick to experience / evidence-based comment since discussions elsewhere are giving sufficient focus to the theoretical aspects.)

(Syndicated with permission from http://libraryresearchsupport.blogspot.com/2010/04/uksg-2010-librarians-and-open-access.html.)

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Blogger Dorothea said...

I seriously doubt that "OA is not mainstream in academic librarianship" will come as any surprise to any institutional-repository manager anywhere.

I've been struggling with my colleagues' apathy, lack of understanding, mistrust, and even contempt as long as I've been in the profession.

UKSG 2010, in all honesty, felt like an early hint that that might be changing a little bit. I surely hope so. The current situation is more than slightly demoralizing.

1:25 pm  
Blogger Stevan Harnad said...

Here are a few suggestions on how to make the Queen Margaret mandate work:

(1) It is not quite enough merely to adopt a formal deposit mandate!

"We have accordingly adopted the policy that all research output is to be archived in the departmental institutional repository before or after peer-reviewed publication. This archive forms the official record of the institution's research publications"

All faculty need to be clearly and fully informed that the mandate (a requirement) exists, and how to comply with it.

(2) It is good if the library helps authors deposit initially, but it is important to stress that authors should be depositing for themselves in the long run.

(3) The "Liege" solution, advocated by both EOS and OASIS can greatly help accelerate understanding and compliance: Inform all faculty that henceforth depositing refereed research in the institutional repository is henceforth the sole method to submit them for consideration for annual performance review.

(5) Embargoes on access to the full-text of the deposits become much less of a handicap if you implement your eprints software's automated "Fair Dealing" Button for all Closed Access deposits. (That supersedes the "corrigenda" strategy mentioned in your instructions.)

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2010) Open Access Mandates and the "Fair Dealing" Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.) http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/18511/

(5) Once articles are deposited in an OA IR, there is no need at all to teach students to search databases if their university lacks a subscription to a journal: They all know how to use google and google scholar (not to mention scirus, scopus, WoS, citeseerx, pubmed, etc.). The real problem is not the absence of knowledge about where and how to search for OA content: The problem is the absence of OA content! The QMU mandate will fix that for QMU content; equivalent mandates at all other universities will solve it for all other OA content, and QMU students (and especially QMU researchers) will be the beneficiaries.

2:19 pm  

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