October 28, 2011

Digital repository offers unrestricted access to scholarly articles

In celebration of global Open Access Week Oct. 24-30, Emory Libraries organized several workshops on campus.

Emory's planned Open Access Digital Repository promises to offer unfettered access to scholarly research, which will raise the profile of University faculty, level the playing field by sharing knowledge around the globe, and encourage new avenues of inquiry.

"The enduring goal of a university is to create and generate knowledge, and to do that you have to share what you know," says Lisa Macklin, director of Emory Libraries' Intellectual Property Rights Office.

Scheduled to launch next summer, the repository will build intellectual community on campus while making faculty articles freely available to the world, including to smaller institutions with fewer resources. Emory faculty will retain the copyright on their scholarly articles, but will have the option to post them permanently in an institutional repository.

In celebration of global Open Access Week Oct. 24-30, Emory Libraries organized several workshops on campus, including a discussion on the ownership of scholarly work and the ethical questions surrounding the real meaning of "open" access.

On Oct. 21 and Oct. 27, graduate students and faculty participated in the "Digital Scholarship Workshop: Know Your (Copy)Rights" in Woodruff Library's new Digital Scholarship Commons. Located on the third floor of Woodruff Library, the space fosters interdisciplinary collaboration using information technology. At the session, students talked about how to protect their scholarly work while still making it accessible, and how to best negotiate with journal publishers who request a transfer of copyright.

Emory is among a small group of more than 30 universities that have adopted formal open access policies. There are an estimated 250 institutional repositories across the U.S., according to the Directory of Open Access Repositories.

Faculty concerns addressed

The Faculty Council unanimously approved an open access policy for Emory in March, following lengthy consultations with all of the schools, facilitated by the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. Joining Macklin in spearheading the effort were Emory Eye Center professor and chair of the Emory Library Policy Committee John Nickerson, and Laurie Patton, professor and former CFDE director now with Duke University.

Faculty initially expressed concerns about added administrative burdens and the repository's potential to hurt smaller academic journals, which offer paid subscriptions, Macklin says. To address these issues, faculty will be able to embargo articles from open access distribution for a specific period of time to comply with publisher policies. The libraries also will be harvesting previously published articles that are available for open access.

"This offers faculty a faster and easier way to access their colleagues' latest and greatest research very quickly," says Nickerson, who co-founded one of the first peer-reviewed, online-only open access journal dedicated to the life sciences, "Molecular Vision."

That immediacy is particularly important in dealing with ever-changing medical research, he adds. The National Institutes of Health already administers PubMed, an open access repository for biomedical literature. Emory's repository will provide another outlet and a broader scope, encompassing the humanities and social sciences.

A growing trend

In 2008, Emory launched the Electronic Theses and Dissertations repository, which includes more than 1,500 master's theses, dissertations and undergraduate honors theses from Emory students that are accessible through Google and other search engines. The new repository will rely on the same software.

The University is a member of the HathiTrust, a repository of over 9 million volumes, of which 2.6 million are in the public domain. This will soon be made available to the Emory community through discoverE, a useful tool in searching the libraries' catalog and select databases. Emory also belongs to the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions, a small group of academic libraries that provide support on how to successfully implement open access policies.

Offering unrestricted access to content is part of the growing trend among universities. Even the   published papers of the founding fathers are readily accessible under a partnership between the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the University of Virginia.

 "By making Emory scholarship freely accessible everywhere, we raise the visibility of faculty work, and further the intellectual community at Emory," says Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, digital repository coordinator in the Intellectual Property Rights Office.

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