This was an assignment for my Academic Libraries class.
The assignment was to produce an evidence-based briefing paper on one topical concern chosen from the list of topics (Bibliometrics and altmetrics, Digital humanities, Internationalization and multiculturalism, Massive open online courses (MOOCs), Online education, Open access, Open textbooks and Research data management). From the original assignment: “You should imagine that you are working in a college or university library and have been asked to research the area in question and to produce a paper sharing your findings that will help your colleagues develop a better understanding of the subject and its implications, including an awareness of how other academic libraries are responding to the situation” (Corrall 2).
I chose to discuss open access and here is my brief!
Higher Education Briefing Paper – Open Access
Often seen as the answer to replacing economically unsustainable subscription based models of publication, Open access publishing has been a rising trend in the academic community throughout the last ten years. Open access journals offer an alternative method of publishing scholarly work that costs less money for the institutions that these types of research serve. They also offer a larger number of opportunities for access, enabling work to be read by a much greater readership. David W. Lewis argues in his article on the inevitability of open access that, “we can anticipate that it will become the dominant model for the distribution of scholarly journal content within the next decade” (Lewis 2012). Thomas J. Liesgang claims in his discussion for a continued movement of open access that, “after decades of a successful publication process, the traditional subscription model of publishing research is now at a crucial and evolving stage” (Liesegang 2013). Open Access is a part of this crucial evolution in the publishing industry that is both inevitable and unstoppable. It is a trend that libraries need to understand and utilize in order to serve the needs of their communities, and deal with rapidly declining budgets which cannot maintain rising subscription costs from traditional publishers.
Open access is a method of publishing that offers an alternative to the traditional model. In this new paradigm, authors, as Lila Guterman states in her article on the promise and peril of open access, “are the revolutionaries offering an alternative to the publishing status quo…creating online journals that charge no subscription fees [in order to] rescue librarians from the tyranny of prohibitively costly journals – upwards of $20,000 per year – and to empower researchers who, because of the expense, often have difficulty keeping up with new developments in their fields” (Guterman 2004). With the continued rise in journal subscription prices, and new technological possibilities brought about by the Internet, open access publishing has become an important movement within the academic world. However, it has only been recently that researchers have started treating open access publishing as a viable and acceptable means for releasing their work. because of issues such as lack of peer review, exclusivity and reputation, as well as predatory behaviors on the part of the open access journals themselves. While the open access movement likes to ignore these issues, they cannot be ignored by the wider community of researchers and scholars.
Open access has radically changed the publishing industry in a fairly short period of time and seems to offer an answer to the rapidly increasing cost of subscription based journals. Open access may be the wave of the future, but there are complex issues that still need to be worked out before it can become more widely used and accepted by the academic community. Traditional methods of publishing have caused delays in the timely publication of research, and as Jill Cirasella points out in her history of open access, “these delays frustrated authors and readers, and slowed the pace of scholarly dialogue and discoveries” (Cirasella 2014). In a world where technology allows for rapid communication, these publishing delays are no longer acceptable. The most up-to-date research must be made immediately available to digital age scholars, and open access offers a solution to this problem.
Open access has also been regarded with suspicion by large academic institutions, so that “authors wishing to enhance their reputations often feel compelled to publish in established, highly thought of venues and, especially before tenure, are unwilling to risk exploring other alternatives” (Lewis 2012). And while open access offers a solution to the need for much more immediate publication, open access publishers have often been seen as ‘unscrupulous, obfuscatory and predatory” (Cirasella 2014). Open access journals have been accused of being less rigorous in their peer review process, an important key to traditional journal publishing, and one of the reasons traditional publishers are able to charge so much. While many open access publishers claim the same level of peer review that traditional publishers offer, many have simply published any article sent to them (Cirasella 2014). In the last several years, this has largely changed, and open access is slowly gaining a better reputation for the quality of work being offered.
Authors will find that open access offers them a wide range of advantages when it comes to publishing their work. In discussing the ongoing trends in this medium, Mercieca and Macauley state in their article on open access that, “for more than ten years it has promoted the use of networked communications to provide alternative models for the dissemination of scholarship” (Mercieca and Macauley 2008). Also, “by being freely and easily available to anyone connected to the Internet, the author’s work is available to the widest possible audience” (Lewis 2012). But libraries also have to realize that by embracing open access journals and challenging traditional publishers, expectations and budgets for content will be drastically changed: “libraries may end up disrupting academic publishers, potentially including university presses. Taking on this role, especially at scale, could be culturally and politically complex” (Lewis 2012). By continuing to pursue open access models, libraries will cancel more and more subscriptions, therefore causing prices to rise even higher, eventually ensuring that all subscription based journals will fail (Lewis 2012). The open access movement is just as social and political as it is financial; the way that libraries decide to approach their use of open access will for the first time in years be able to force publishers to change their pricing models, and will have a much greater effect on the academic community than it ever has in the past.
Karen Okamoto states in her discussion of how to make higher education more affordable, that “textbook prices have been increasing more than four times the rate of inflation. For community college students, textbooks can constitute up to 75% of the total cost of their education, and books are typically not covered by financial aid. Open and free educational resources are considered to be a possible solution to the textbook affordability crisis” (Okamoto 2013). Textbooks are only one aspect of the open access movement; costs across the board could see a large decrease through the use of open access journals. In a world where library budgets have become much more static, “libraries’ budget concerns may finally be alleviated by the open-access movement…At the same time that libraries have hit the wall, new journals have appeared that would cost subscribers nothing” (Guterman 2004).
While open access has become a very popular method of publication, there are still many issues that need to be resolved before it can become the industry standard. Okamoto states that through advocating, promoting and facilitating open access, libraries have served a historic role in changing publishing trends, but “warns libraries to be aware of the literature on student preferences for electronic versus print books: … the technology and concepts are still very new and require teaching, training, and conversations on campuses before the idea can be considered fully ready to push out across colleges and universities” (Okamoto 2013). And while open access seems like an easy solution, libraries cannot entirely abandon traditional journal subscriptions. Tony Durham argues that access to technology is a privilege of the elite to begin with, so even with open access journals, less privileged institutions will still hit budget walls, “inequalities of wealth and knowledge, on the other hand, seem assured of survival well into the next millennium” (Times and Education 1996). Open access solves some problems, but opens up issues that libraries have not yet begun to consider.
It is important to think about how traditional, subscription based journals can be balanced with open access journals. Many publishers see open access as a “fight to the death”. As Patricia Renfro points out in her examination of the possibilities of open access, “there is no reason to believe that the subscription model is the only way or the most cost-effective way to ensure the effective dissemination of quality peer-reviewed research, or even that the subscription model is incompatible with delayed public access” (Renfro 2011). While subscription based services offer many options, open access journals offer important bodies of work that cannot be ignored, and create an affordability in accessing this work. In embracing open access services, we may risk driving prices higher on traditional, subscription services, but open access journals seem destined to challenge traditional publishing methods and their costs as they grow in popularity. Okamoto also believes that, “library involvement in OER initiatives can be understood within this larger growing movement of libraries involved in publishing as a means to address the rising costs of serials, textbooks and other publications” (Okamoto 2013). Paul Rainford points out that through the use of open access, “Open access materials tend to be more cited than comparable material behind pay walls, and making an open access version of materials available can help companies, public agencies and NGOs find the right academic experts far more easily, because none of these groups typically have library access to learned journals” (Rainford 2011). Libraries and librarians must begin to think about how open access publishing will serve the needs of their communities, and how it will effect library budgets. And although, open access brings with it its own set of issue, it’s something that we cannot ignore and must consider a permanent addition to advancing library collections.
Cirasella, J. 2014. “Open Access.” Contexts 13 (2): 12–14. doi:10.1177/1536504214533489.
Guterman, Lila. 2004. “The Promise and Peril of ‘Open Access’.” Chronicle Of Higher Education 50, no. 21: A10-A14.
Lewis, Dw. 2012. “The Inevitability of Open Access.” College & Research Libraries 73 (5): 493–506. doi:hwp:master-id:crl;crl-299.
Liesegang, Thomas J. 2013. “The Continued Movement for Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Literature.” American Journal of Ophthalmology 156 (3). Elsevier Inc.: 423–32. doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2013.04.033.
Mercieca, P., & Macauley, P. (2008). A New Era of Open Access? Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 39(4), 243–252. http://doi.org/Article
Okamoto, Karen. 2013. “Making Higher Education More Affordable, One Course Reading at a Time: Academic Libraries as Key Advocates for Open Access Textbooks and Educational Resources.” Public Services Quarterly 9 (4): 267–83. doi:10.1080/15228959.2013.842397.
Rainford, Paul. 2011. “University Libraries, Repositories and Open Access Should Be Seen as Crucial Tools in Improving the Impact of Academic Research.” http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/.
Renfro, Patricia. 2011. “Open Access Within Reach: An Agenda for Action.” Journal of Library Administration 51 (5-6): 464–75. doi:10.1080/01930826.2011.589351.
Times, The, and Higher Education. 1996. “Invisible Borders around the Elite ; Multimedia Feature,” 1–3.