The movement towards OA has always been a point of interest for me since I studied the Green and Gold roads during my MA year in Sheffield.
For those who may not know OA (open access) is exactly that – a move toward access for everyone to academic papers and publications via either the gold road (funded by authors, institutions or funded for the author) or green road (published in institutional repositories, OA journals or hybrid journals where some articles are author paid and others are traditionally published). An acknowledged definition is
“free availability on the public internet permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable for giving access to the internet itself”.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002).
The implications for the access and dissemination of research through OA are staggering but like anything there are pros and cons. The work contributed by academics and researchers and the models put forward for OA by publishers and librarians are making institutional repositories more and more valuable. Therefore I was very interested to see the news in Update regarding the SAGE commissioned report that came out of a round table on OA attended by academic publishers and librarians earlier this year. This report Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries focuses on the next steps of OA, still in its relative infancy, and how Academic Libraries factor into it. (www.sagepub.co.uk/oareport )
Reading through the report I was struck by a few things – mainly the global reach and potential of OA and whilst those in attendance at the round table believe that there could be a growth in OA papers of between 20-50% in the next ten years it is a far cry from the Horizon analysis of OA that predicted that by 2015:
“Digital anything, anywhere, anytime, and anyhow will be the expectation.”
ARL Digital Repository Issue Taskforce (2009: 32).
And there is still a discrepancy between what is published by OA routes in different subjects. There is no doubt that OA is seen as more transparent than subscriptions and there are benefits for students to collaborate on a global scale, not to mention partnerships with affiliated institutions over the world.
Reading this report there is no doubt that the growth and success of OA can be influenced by Academic Librarians. They play a key role in information access and as OA grows it will be Academic Librarians who will be looking at collection development, promotion of materials and the budgets allotted. It will also be Librarians that help in the teaching of the information found in these OA articles and Information Literacy will play a big role. One point made, a con of OA, I’m going to put in simple terms, is what’s to stop students bypassing the library if articles they require are OA, freely available via Google or links on Wikipedia. One answer to this taken from the report is
‘We’ve collected materials so people can read them. The challenge is to make unique materials widely available in the digital world’.
Librarians work in a dynamic and evolving society and part of our job is to evolve with technology and culture. This can be seen with the introduction of RFID technology, the changing role of information and access and the need to advocate our unique selling points.
For OA to thrive there will need to be closer working between publishers and librarians and there may be issues of budget to overcome but OA is definitely a player in the future of research and therefore has implications for academic librarians the world over. I am glad that this is an area which is thriving and getting the advocacy and focus it deserves.