Why Open Access is important to Duke

By Paolo Mangiafico

In the series of blog posts on open access over the past few weeks, leading up to international Open Access Week in late October, we’ve been writing about a number of different aspects of open access to scholarship, as a kind of introduction for those who may not be familiar with them. But why are we so interested in open access at Duke University? And what are we doing to promote open access here?

The key reason we’re interested in supporting more open access to scholarship is that it helps support the goals and values of universities, and Duke’s goals and values in particular. Duke’s strategic plan says that one of our key goals is to apply knowledge in the service of society. Currently, much of the knowledge produced by Duke faculty is published in venues with limited distribution and often very high subscription rates that preclude access by many who would benefit from reading it. Making the research freely available to anyone with Internet access helps to increase the potential number of readers, and opens up possibilities for more people to make use of and build on the research being done here.

We also expect to see benefits for the researchers themselves and the institution. Every author wants to be read, and hopes their work will be widely read and cited, and will be influential. Logically it makes sense, and there are a growing number of studies that indicate this, that research that is more broadly available is read more often and cited more often. So more openness helps increase the reach and impact of Duke scholarship, which not only helps contribute to the scholarly community and society overall, but also helps raise the profile of Duke scholars and Duke University.

We also recognize that the scholarly communications ecosystem is in transition, based partly on the wide availability of new technologies and partly on the changing methods and workflows of scholars, publishers, libraries, and the broader communities they serve. By supporting open access initiatives locally, we’re also contributing to more systemic changes in the scholarly communications ecosystem that may help it align better with the values of universities as noted above, and may also provide incentives for innovations that could enable new kinds of discoveries as well as help make the costs of supporting the ecosystem more sustainable. We recognize that these are things that Duke alone will not be able to change, but for broad change to happen many different actors will need to move in concert, take some risks, expend some resources, shift some incentives, realign some rewards.

We’re not just supporting open access at Duke, in other words – we’re also supporting the open access movement. At the same time we want to be cautious that any disruptions are not destructive to things that still have value, so the steps we’re taking are carefully considered, developed through discussions and collaborations with key stakeholders at Duke and our partners, and with an eye on the effects of our actions as they play out.

In an interview with opensource.com last spring (from which some of the above text is taken) I expanded on a number of these issues, and refer you to that for more discussion about why open access is important to Duke and to scholarship more broadly.

What are the things we’re doing now to help promote more open access at Duke?

A growing list with details is available at the Open Access at Duke web site but, in brief, here are the key initiatives:

– adoption of a policy that sets the default to open access for all peer-reviewed journal articles published by Duke faculty. Kevin Smith will be writing more about the policy in this space soon, and for now you can learn more from these articles from Duke Today around the time of the policy’s discussion and adoption in spring 2010.

– removing barriers to publication in open access journals by providing financial support to Duke authors through a fund aligned with the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE). More details about Duke’s COPE program are available via this news story from earlier this week about the launch of the fund and from the Duke COPE web site.

– providing open access to legal scholarship via the Duke Law School’s Scholarship Repository, and open access journals, and advocating for new access models via the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship and the work of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.  An event titled “Implementing the Durham Statement: Best Practices for Open Access Law Journals” is scheduled for Open Access Week.

– support for open access awareness and participation by the Medical School’s library guides to Open Access and  NIH Public Access policy, as well as through their organization of Open Access Week activities.

– making open access the default for theses and dissertations by Duke graduate students, via the Graduate School’s ETD program and the DukeSpace repository.

And in development are a program to support open access journals published by members of the Duke community (using the Open Journal System platform) and explorations of more open educational resources (see the discussions from the spring Center for Instructional Technology Showcase and “edupunk” Jim Groom’s blog post about Duke) as well as broader accessibility to datasets produced in Duke research.

If you’re at Duke, we hope you’ll join us at the Open Access Week events being held on campus (see the sidebar of the Open Access at Duke web site page for details) to learn more and show your support for open access, and if you’re not at Duke, look for OA week events near you, many of which are listed on the Open Access Week site.