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UCA Library Blog

Intro to Open Access

by Chrissy Karafit on 2018-11-27T13:31:44-06:00 in Research Tips, Math, Computer Science, Biology | Comments


Welcome to our Open Access series on the UCA Library Blog. Over the next few months we will post information about open access initiatives, resources, and pitfalls. But first, let’s begin with an overview of open access and why it is important.

What is open access?

“Open access” is one of those nebulous terms that describes a system of values and practices. It’s a movement, it’s a publishing practice, it’s a business model, it’s a policy. For the purposes of this series, let’s focus on the most accessible definition of open access.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) defines open access as “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.”

Why is open access important?

Open access is a movement that really begins with the Internet. During the 1990s and early 2000s, libraries saw a dramatic increase to the cost of serial publications (academic journals) while budgets remained flat or even decreased. This is known as the Serials Crisis.

In response to the crisis and because the Internet was becoming increasingly accessible, a movement began to publish materials online, outside of traditional publishing channels. This movement included self-archiving of papers submitted to traditional publishers as well as full publications that were freely available to the researcher.

During this same time, a new copyright licensing organization called Creative Commons arose allowing creators to apply flexible licenses to their work. The most commonly used license in open-access academic work is Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY). Under this license, authors make resources legally available for reuse, sharing, and adaptation without permission or fees, as long as the author and source are properly cited.

The development and push for open access research has also added momentum to the Open Education movement, seeking to make education more effective and accessible to all. SPARC offers the following arguments in support of Open Education:

  • Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education.
  • Students learn more when they have access to quality materials.
  • Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning.
  • Better education means a better future.

If all this information is free online, why do I need the Library?

While these efforts for greater information accessibility are exciting, we still have a long way to go. At this time, most scholarly research is not freely accessible online. Many of the most highly respected scholarly journals still require a subscription to access current research. Subscriptions can cost thousands of dollars per year, and libraries cover these costs to provide access for faculty and student research. A lot of scholarly research is not available online at all; it has never been digitized. However, libraries can purchase or borrow the information that you need. If you need to stay abreast of current trends in your field, you need the library.

This seems...complicated.

Open access is complicated, and we will be explaining many facets of the concept in our upcoming posts. However, you are likely participating in open access without even realizing it. Below are just a few trusted sources of peer-reviewed research freely available thanks to the open access movement:

PLOS Journals: The Public Library of Science is a nonprofit organization that provides free full-text access to 215,000+ peer-reviewed journals on the subjects of biology, genetics, and health and medicine.

PubMed Central: a free archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature maintained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM), including articles deposited by participating publishers, as well as author manuscripts submitted in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy and similar policies of other research funding agencies. Some publishers embargo (or delay release of) journal content in PMC, but most provide free access to full text articles within a year of publication.

arXiv: an automated archive and distribution server for research articles in the areas of physics, mathematics, computer science, nonlinear sciences, quantitative biology, statistics, electrical engineering, and economics. This resource enables scientists worldwide to share and access research before it is formally published. arXiv is maintained by the Cornell University Library with guidance from the arXiv Scientific Advisory Board, the arXiv Member Advisory Board, and numerous subject moderators.

If you have questions about identifying reliable scholarly sources online or options for article access, please call (501-450-5224) or come visit the Reference Desk for assistance.

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