Traditionally, faculty and researchers publish their findings in academic journals without expecting any financial reward. They share their work hoping to advance humankind’s knowledge. Before their work gets published, however, authors are also asked to sign a copyright agreement with the publisher. By signing the agreement, the researcher is giving away most of his or her rights to use or disseminate their work. If the author wants to share the article with others in class, on social media or on digital repositories, he needs to get permission from the same publisher who originally published his article. Permission is sometimes granted and sometimes denied depending on the publisher’s policy.
Scratching your head? Think this doesn’t make sense. Wait! There is more. Most publishers limit access to scholarly publications by a paywall. A paywall means that individuals interested in reading an article either have to buy the article themselves or they must be affiliated with an academic institution for access. It’s usually the college’s library that pays high licensing fees to publishers so their faculty, researchers, and students can have access to scholarly materials. But those who aren’t affiliated with any college or university or can’t pay for articles for any reason seem to be deprived of important scholarship.
So what is Open Access Anyway?
In a nutshell, people behind Open Access believe that most research funded by the government or paid by tax money should be accessible to the public. They say that accessing digitally created research shouldn’t be denied to anyone, and that subscription and licensing fees should be removed. Research results shouldn’t be locked behind financial, legal or economic gates, which is what publishers are currently doing while also charging incredibly high access fees.
Why is Open Access important?
Its importance comes from the fact that if recent findings and breakthroughs become immediately available via the internet, it accelerates research. When new science is communicated with more readers and researchers, its impact grows as it can be used by others, be that a student here in the US or a researcher in a much less privileged country who might be able to learn from the findings or even use them right away for solving a problem or treating a patient. Publishing a paper, the traditional way, on the other hand, usually takes several months to a year and even then it might not be available to the public.
What can we do?
There are several things that we can do to move this movement forward.
- Publish in open access publications. There are almost 10,000 open access journals. Or, publish in subscription-based journals, but still get the rights to deposit the research article in a digital repository, such as PubMed Central or SSRN, etc. In this way, we can share our intellectual, artistic and scientific output without many restrictions.
Note: ResearchGate is not a digital repository. Read here for more information on the difference between ResearchGate and digital repositories.
- Manage our copyright contract before we give up all our rights; negotiate with the publishers and make sure that we get the ability to share our research output with as big of an audience as possible. Here is a link to important information on Author Rights.
- Deposit articles (Self–archive) in digital repositories, such as Touro Scholar, our very own online archive designed to showcase and share Touro’s scholarship. Already over 700 articles have been added to this repository and every day more of our articles are becoming available full-text to the world. Currently, we have people from as diverse countries as China, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, Malaysia, and Nigeria who have looked up our articles.
- Promote Open Access all year round and especially this week, from Oct 24- 30, which is dedicated to Open Access in scholarship and research.
For more information on publishing and open access, you can check out this guide created by the library.