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University Council Approves Open Access Plan

BU to create free archive of faculty research

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Barbara Millen, a MED professor of medicine who cochaired the University Council committee that recommended the open access initiative, says that it will "really highlight the tremendous productivity of our faculty." Photo courtesy of Barbara Millen

Boston University took a giant step towards 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. Click here to download the full pdf.

“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 21st 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 digital archive called for in the resolution will become a great repository for the creativity of our faculty and students.”

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.

The increased ownership and control is good news for researchers such as Barbara Millen, a professor and chair of the graduate nutrition program at the School of Medicine. 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. The challenge, says Millen, who cochaired the University Council committee that recommended the open access initiative, will be providing faculty with the tools to make their research available online.

“Open access will really highlight the tremendous productivity of our faculty,” says Millen. “Among the more important things needed to make it work is a collaboration between the libraries and our faculty to get their research onto the Web. It’s not an inconsequential task.”

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. For example, BioMed Central, the for-profit publisher of Environmental Health, charges authors $1,700.

Some universities, such as the University of California, are footing the bill for their faculty’s open-access publishing fees, and in other cases, researchers have included these fees as a line item in their grant applications. At least one major source of grants, the National Institutes of Health, recently mandated that any research it funds must be open-access within a year after publication.

Last year, according to an editorial in Environmental Health, only about 10 percent of published scientific articles were accessible without restrictions. But a 2006 survey by the Washington, D.C.–based Association of Research Libraries found that 43 percent of its member universities and research institutions already had open-access archives and 35 percent were planning one. “Open access is an irresistible tide,” says David Ozonoff, a professor of environmental health at SPH and an editor-in-chief of Environmental Health. “The publishers see this. They’ve been trying to prevent it, but it’s impossible.”

News of the University Council vote was welcomed by Robert Hudson, the director of Mugar Memorial Library, and as cochair of the University Council committee on scholarly activities and libraries, a key force behind the move toward open access. Hudson says the effort to maintain an up-to-date collection of scholarly journals costs the University approximately $8 million a year. Annual subscription rates can reach $20,000 and tend to increase 6 to 10 percent each year; as a result, expanding the library’s scholarly archive has been a financial challenge.

“This vote sends a very strong message of support for open and free exchange of scholarly work,” says Hudson. “Open access means that the results of research and scholarship can be made open and freely accessible to anyone. It really has increased the potential to showcase the research and scholarship of the University in ways that have
not been evident to people.”

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu. Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.

24 Comments

24 Comments on University Council Approves Open Access Plan

  • Anonymous on 02.17.2009 at 9:31 am

    True irony: by using Facebook’s “share it” link, the University has granted commercial rights to this article to Facebook. For details, see http://amandafrench.net/2009/02/16/facebook-terms-of-service-compared/

  • petersuber on 02.17.2009 at 10:10 am

    BU's new OA policy

    Congratulations to all who voted for this policy and all who paved the way.

    Is the policy itself online yet? Could someone post the link?

  • Rich on 02.17.2009 at 11:37 am

    Hell yes!

    Can we get a bit more information on the actual resolution and those who voted on it?

  • Frances Whistler on 02.17.2009 at 11:43 am

    Open Access

    Nothing is said in this article about research published in book form; nor about whether BU’s move will be mandatory or not.

    I wonder how those whose publications are more normally in book form – which by and large means non-scientific authors – will fare under the new arrangement. Will projects already under contract with publishers be exempt? If not, I can see no reason why the publishers should continue with the contract, since BU will be creating a “rival” publication against which they will not be able to afford to publish (and which will give them a get-out for axing the contract).

    Presumably works already published will not be included in the open access, or only by arrangement with the publishers, but it would be good to know.

    What selection process will there be to determine whether a book counts as research? For example, a synthesis of information on a subject, or a textbook. Or a biography?

    Turning to journal articles, is it expected that academic journals will continue to accept articles that are also posted free on the University website? Is there enough knowledge of how the journal publishing industry will be impacted by the open-access movement, I wonder? One can envisage well- established authors faring all right, since the journals may be desperate to hang onto their existence by still representing the “best” authors, but will this be true for lesser known authors? At some point it’s to be assumed that academic journals will find they need a totally different model to sustain themselves (and many will presumably not survive).

    I also wonder what impact this open-access move will have on the tenure process, and on the prospects of young BU faculty getting positions elsewhere. If, instead of publishing in academic journals, their work appears on the BU site, validated simply by BU “journal-editors” (who, by the way, will need to be identified, and remunerated, by the University for the immense task of approving, editing, and fact-checking the material that comes to them, tasks currently accomplished by the academic journals), will they have as much credibility as if they had published “outside” their home university? At least until open access becomes established everywhere – and the article is perhaps right that it is unstoppable – they may be at a disadvantage.

    In the longer term, when/if the move to open access has become the norm everywhere, it’s to be presumed that pay-to-view journals will cease business or be absorbed into universities that are willing to foot the cost of supporting them (on the analogy of the Harvard Human Rights Journal, for example). This will necessarily impact parts of the academic book-publishing world, even if most or all books are to be exempted from the open-access requirement. Academic presses that are currently able to support their book-publishing (where capital expenditure happens before revenue) with journal-publishing (where subscription revenue arrives before capital expenditure) will certainly find it harder to sustain themselves. The same will apply to those journals that are owned by learned societies. While it’s probably true that, even taken together, university-press-published and privately-owned journals do not represent the majority of currently available journals, they none the less include many titles that are important in their fields, for example the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, History Workshop Journal, the Journal of Biochemistry, etc. etc. Perhaps rich universities will acquire these and publish them free – and be willing to duplicate the postings of articles that are already available on the websites of the writers’ universities.

    Free access is a wonderful thing, from which we all benefit, but it has a very considerable cost. I am sure that the above implications of the decision have been considered by those responsible for making it, but I hope that more information will be made available to us shortly.

    Frances Whistler

    Director of publications, Editorial Institute, BU

  • Anonymous on 02.17.2009 at 11:54 am

    What exactly does this vote mean … is all faculty research now required to be open-access, or is this just providing a venue for open-access publication?

  • Kirk on 02.17.2009 at 1:31 pm

    Important Questions

    As a journalist, I’m all for anything that allows for easier access to content like this. It can be difficult, to say the least, to look up research papers that are related to an article I may be working on.

    However, as someone who’s also a big fan of science, I’m wondering about the criteria that will determine whether papers are published online in this system. As part of the traditional publishing process, papers are peer reviewed. This is an essential step in helping prevent junk or bad science from getting a larger platform than it deserves.

    So, BU must spell out clearly — Will the papers published online by BU be peer reviewed? Should people expect the same level of scholarship from these papers as they would from papers published traditionally?

    BU must not sacrifice scientific integrity in the interest of ease of access. It can do both and must reassure its alumni and the broader scientific community that it will.

  • Anonymous on 02.17.2009 at 3:14 pm

    Open Access

    It would be the 28th university-wide Open Access mandate worldwide, not the first. But it would be the first for the US, which is a significant breakthrough. The earlier mandates at Harvard and Stanford only apply to certain schools within the university, not (yet) university wide. All those who voted for the BU policy and prepared the way deserve our thanks and congratulations.

  • betsson on 04.15.2009 at 5:41 am

    thanks for informaiton.

  • essay writing on 04.18.2009 at 5:53 am

    I also wonder what impact this open-access move will have on the tenure process, and on the prospects of young BU faculty getting positions elsewhere. If, instead of publishing in academic journals, their work appears on the BU site, validated simply by BU “journal-editors”

  • توبيكات on 05.09.2009 at 9:02 am

    Thaaaaaaaaanks !

  • Finance Blog on 05.10.2009 at 5:02 am

    I also wonder what impact this open-access move will have on the tenure process, and on the prospects of young BU faculty getting positions elsewhere. If, instead of publishing in academic journals, their work appears on the BU site, validated simply by BU "journal-editors"

  • university online on 06.02.2009 at 6:06 am

    Interesting post thanks for sharing this article.

  • Anonymous on 06.13.2009 at 12:24 pm

    Will the papers published online by BU be peer reviewed? Should people expect the same level of scholarship from these papers as they would from papers published traditionally? BU must not sacrifice scientific integrity in the interest of ease of access. 

  • Roberto on 06.17.2009 at 10:57 am

    Way to go, congrats

    I congratulate you guys on this one, is very important for divulgation for third parties to have access to the material.

    R.


    Recetas Postres Dulces

  • mads on 07.10.2009 at 3:18 am

    Interestin article

    Nice article. Excellent…..

  • Yemek Tarifleri on 07.15.2009 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks.

    Nice article. Excellent posts

  • Araba on 07.28.2009 at 3:27 am

    Thanks for your post. Congratulations to all who voted for this policy and all who paved the way. Is the policy itself online yet? Could someone post the link?

  • cristina on 10.10.2009 at 10:22 am

    This is very welcome

    i think is very welcome on the part of the authorities to have allowed access to the scholarly work of the faculty. Th emore information is out more is going to be the use of the information. Abundance feeds abundance. Well done.

  • Jesse on 10.27.2009 at 2:21 am

    Thanks for the information

  • Anonymous on 10.30.2009 at 12:16 pm

    thanks

  • Medyum on 04.08.2010 at 10:51 am

    What exactly does this vote mean … is all faculty research now required to be open-access, or is this just providing a venue for open-access publication?

  • Joann on 07.03.2010 at 10:45 am

    I’m wondering about the criteria that will determine whether papers are published online in this system. As part of the traditional publishing process, papers are peer reviewed.

  • Love you for bu edu on 09.21.2010 at 11:47 pm

    This plan is very good.
    To share this plan is a very big contribution! Thank you buedu.

  • Remont on 04.30.2014 at 4:16 am

    Will the papers published online by BU be peer reviewed? Should people expect the same level of scholarship from these papers as they would from papers published traditionally? BU must not sacrifice scientific integrity in the interest of ease of access.

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