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Spring 2009 Table of Contents

BU to Create Free Archive of Faculty Research

University Council approves open access plan

| From Commonwealth | By Art Jahnke and Jessica Ullian

Wendy Mariner has pushed hard for an open access system. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Boston University took a big step toward greater access to academic scholarship and research on February 11, when the University Council voted to support an open access system that would make scholarly work of the faculty and staff available online to anyone, for free, as long as the authors are credited and the scholarship is not used for profit.

“We believe this is the first time that a university as a whole has taken a stand on behalf of the university, as opposed to a single school or college,” says Wendy Mariner, the chair of the Faculty Council and a professor at the School of Law, at the School of Public Health, and at the School of Medicine. “We are looking forward to new forms of publication in the twenty-first century that will transform the ways that knowledge and information are shared.”

“The resolution passed by our University Council is a very important statement on the importance of open access to the results of scholarship and research created within the University,” says BU President Robert A. Brown.

The council vote has approved an initiative to establish an archive of the research and scholarship produced by the faculty of the University. Mariner says that one goal is to make it easier for faculty to be able to share their own research with students and colleagues.

Barbara Millen

The increased ownership and control is good news for researchers such as Barbara Millen, a MED professor and cochair of the University Council committee that recommended the open access initiative. Working on a book about nutrition research at one point in her career, Millen found herself in the paradoxical position of having to seek permission to use her own data after it was published in a journal that retained the copyright to her work.

Traditionally, academic journal publishers have used subscriptions to cover the costs of printing, marketing, and distribution. Many also charge a per-page fee to researchers whose work they publish, which can add up to thousands of dollars. The journals control access to the published papers, because they often hold exclusive copyright. Thanks to the Internet, printing presses and expensive distribution networks are no longer needed, but there are still costs for editing, marketing, and other logistics, even for online journals, and open-access journals typically charge scholars a flat processing fee to cover these costs.

“This vote sends a very strong message of support for open and free exchange of scholarly work,” says Robert Hudson, director of Mugar Memorial Library and cochair of the University Council committee on scholarly activities and libraries. “Open access means that the results of research and scholarship can be made open and freely accessible to anyone.”

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