“When the world is running down…”
Lately in library-land there’s been quite a lot of belt-tightening as stagnant budgets are confronted with rising journal and database subscription costs. Although libraries are reaching more people with more content than ever before, the feeling is that this is fiscally unsustainable. Cracks have appeared in the current “big deal” agreements – much like the bundles cable consumers are offered – libraries have entered into with large aggregate database publishers. As a result, libraries have had to cut subscriptions to journals and whole databases. Even Harvard, one of the best-funded universities in the United States, in 2012 publicly decried the situation and has felt the need to weigh in on the rising costs.
The internet itself has been a boon and a bane — a disruption-slash-copy machine — that provides new models while destroying old ones and places a strain on a copyright law that is woefully behind the times.
Traditional industries that dealt primarily with the amalgam of content and containers – i.e. print book and print journal publishers, music producers and distributors (mostly as LPs, CDs, and cassettes), film producers and distributors (mostly as features, VHS, and DVDs), have all altered their business models as new digital media have decoupled the content from the container. The result is e-books, PDFs, mp3s, and various online streaming services that now dominate the web in terms of popularity as well as actual volume of data transferred.
Yet this decoupling of content and container is a double-edged sword as well. The journal publishers were the first to truly test this model of decoupling content and container through the online journal databases that were developed in the 1990s and 2000s. This experiment in removing the container has resulted in both widespread distribution (for subscribers) and widespread content restriction. Restriction has occurred in various ways, including the curtailing of readers rights (i.e. pay per view), copyrights (i.e. publishers assume control of the author’s rights), posting rights (authors can’t publish their drafts), and the like. The irony is that we are often looking upon a feast that’s stuck behind glass walls.
Additionally, to ensure the necessary scarcity, publishers have taken hardline stances on the continual ownership of scholarly output, even if it is long out of date. The result of the uneven relationship between scholars and publishers has been the large-scale transferal of intellectual property from individual scholars and the tax-paying users who ultimately fund their universities into the hands of specific private enterprises. This transfer occurs at the expense of the public good and the original intent of copyright law as written in the US Constitution, which is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Open access provides a much-needed antidote to these developments. While copyright law provides the necessary protections for creators, its overall history of expansion shows instead that distributors gain the most from longer and stricter copyright regulations and enforcement.
As Paul Heald has demonstrated in his studies, the hole in our culture has also provided us with a world that may be running down in terms of an individual’s ability to create new works and access fairly recently published ones. More works in various editions are available from 1914 than are available from 1964. We are now a society that denies itself access to its own culture. Open access may be one of the few avenues left to reclaim it especially while the public domain remains frozen for the next several years. Shamefully, no new works will enter the public domain in the United States until 2019.
“…You make the best of what’s still around”
California contributes to the OA Movement
The state of California has helped to lead the way in the open access movement for the past several years. The most recent development in open access occurred just a few weeks ago. The California legislature passed Assembly Bill 609 entitled the California Taxpayer access to publicly funded research Legislation. This bill stipulates requires that any published research funded by the California Department of Public Health be available to the public within 12 months of its publication.
Open access has become adopted widely across the California higher education system as well. The CSU Council Of Library Directors recently provided their public support for AB 609 http://libraries.calstate.edu/open-access/.
Additionally, the entire University of California system in the summer of 2013 agreed to a system-wide open access mandate that requires UC faculty to submit open access versions of their works into the UC’s institutional repository.
Closer to home, CSUN’s president Dianne Harrison in August 2013 became a signatory to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access, an international agreement among numerous European and American Universities and organizations. Later, in November 2013, CSUN’s faculty senate passed a resolution (PDF) recommending CSUN faculty to publish their scholarship in open access. Though this is purely an opt-in (i.e. voluntary) approach to open access, nearly 70 faculty members at CSUN have already agreed to have their scholarship submitted to CSUN ScholarWorks Open Access Repository (SOAR). While there are approximately 850 full-time, tenured or tenure track faculty at CSUN, we believe this represents a good first step toward increased participation.
Open Access week (10/20-10/26/2014, everywhere!) & the first CSUN Open Access Award
To help foster greater participation in open access the Oviatt library is also proud to announce its very first Open Access Award. The presentation will be held on October 23, 2014, and will be awarded to Professor Susan Auerbach for her work in helping to pass the CSUN resolution. We also have a special guest speaker from the Public Library of Science (PLOS), Donna Okubo, who will provide information on the open access movement, OA publishing, and her role in guiding the supporting coalitions for AB 609.
Where we go from here: “SOAR with us.”
The ScholarWorks Open Access Repository (SOAR) is dedicated to improving access to CSUN-related scholarship by attempting to remove the price and access barriers to academic publishing. There are multiple ways in which the movement is branching out toward increased open access. The first is recruiting content from the creators themselves: the faculty. SOAR’s Scholar Spotlight program focuses on the scholarship created by CSUN faculty. Our staff examine faculty CVs to determine if a publication can be added into ScholarWorks. Once we receive the proper clearance, copies of a work are deposited into SOAR. The faculty profile collections permanent links to the works provide a solid digital preservation as well as ensure perpetual access.
CSUN Open Access Journals
Another significant development is the creation of new scholarship. While the Scholar Spotlight program focuses on past and external work, CSUN Open Journals project focuses on developing new content. New journals and new knowledge are the future for the open access movement. Focusing on the direct open access publication of new works will likely be the best step toward a more sustainable and widespread open access movement.
While it is certainly a goal to make sure that all public-funded and supported scholarships be available to the public, the obstacles are incredibly high. The restriction of rights by the copyright owners – not usually the writer, but often multi-national corporations – remains one of the main obstacles to full open access. Additionally, the agreements that faculty enter into, especially tenure-track faculty with a lot at stake, need to be reevaluated at not only department levels but also at campus-wide and even system-wide levels. This will take much time. However, there is strength in numbers. The more faculty members who are able to assert their rights to retain copyright, the healthier the relationship will become.
All Roads (Gold / Green / Platinum) Lead To OA
Multiple paths lead to open access. The most first and most common has been the Gold road to OA, aka open access journal publishing, which is funded partly by Article Processing Charges (APCs). Most of these charges can be covered through grant funding, especially if a grant funder (such as the NIH, NSF) requires open access publication. There are notable open access journals that are leading the way within specific disciplines. Currently, the so-called “hard sciences” are the leaders in this movement. Several journals and publishers cater to these disciplines. To find more, visit the Directory of Open Access Journals.
So how open is it, really?
For more information about the openness of journals, be sure to examine PLOS’s How Open Is it? Open Access Spectrum (OAS) guide. This examines the various factors that determine a journal’s openness. Some journals which purport to be open access are really just hybrids existing somewhere in between true open access and restricted access.
- Andrew Weiss