What is “Open Access?”
“Open access” is a phrase that originated with the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002. This initiative was undertaken primarily to make current scholarship widely and freely available and secondarily to pressure for-profit publishers of scholarly journals, whose prices have been rising well above inflation rates, by some count, for over thirty years (see for example the Right to Research Coalition site for a brief overview of the history of journal price increases). The means to this end was re-publication of journal articles in institutional repositories.
In its broadest terms, the “open access” movement is an effort to more widely disseminate scholarly material to a wider audience, beyond the expensive and restricted journals in which much of the highest-quality material is found. Like many universities, Washington University has an institutional repository (called Open Scholarship) designed for this purpose. It was created in response to the Open Access Resolution passed by the Faculty Senate, which directed the University Libraries to create a platform to assist faculty members in making their material available this way.
What is Open Scholarship?
Open Scholarship is a website (institutional repository) managed by the University Libraries. It provides access to the scholarly and creative output of faculty, staff, and students from Washington University in St. Louis by gathering it in one place. This includes article reprints, journals, books, student projects, conference sites, and theses and dissertations.
The site serves both as a showcase for scholarship being created in our academic community, and to provide that scholarship to audiences that might not be able to access it, and to enhance the discoverability of the content in the repository beyond what is provided by the original publisher.
How the Libraries Can Help
When an author publishes material in an academic journal, the author grants various rights to the publisher as a condition of publication through a contract. Typically that contract also allows the author to retain some rights. Many publishers will allow re-publication of an article in an institutional repository, under certain restrictions (usually after an embargo period, and sometimes restricted to a given version of the work, i.e., a version that does not reflect editorial changes requested by the publisher as part of the peer-review and editorial processes).
A librarian will check on what the different publishers of your articles allow in terms of re-publication. Where an appropriate copy can be immediately obtained, that copy will be placed directly in Open Scholarship. If the publisher requires a different version, library staff will attempt to locate the required version, and if necessary, contact the faculty member to try to obtain the version.
While faculty members need to make decisions on whether or not or to what extent to make their material open access based on their career aims and commitments, we do encourage all members of the university community to be proactive with their intellectual property, and have resources to help people do so. The Scholarly Communications page has tools for amending publisher contracts to retain more rights for greater flexibility after initial publication, including making materials available open access.
The Washington University Libraries by contrast are ready to assist any faculty member who is interested in making his or her articles freely available in the Open Scholarship site. Authors are always free to request that publishers modify that agreement to allow for more flexibility in reposting of their work outside the publication, including in repositories. The Libraries can also assist graduate students and undergraduate students with questions about open access, Open Scholarship, and copyright.
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