November 12, 2008

Breaking Down the “Pay Wall” to Scholarly Works: Michael Carroll Presentation

On October 31, 2008, Michael Carroll presented "Copyright and Your Right to Use and Share Your Scholarly Materials" at BGSU’s Olscamp Hall. His presentation was recorded, so be sure to set aside 60 minutes for this thought-provoking view of the coming shift in scholarly communication:
For BGSU communityClick here to view (with description, time, scheduling options, etc)

For other non-BGSU viewersClick here to view (with no other data or scheduling options)
Dr. Carroll began by comparing the scholarly communication movement of today to recycling 20 years ago – now recycling is commonplace as will scholarly communication (open access/author’s rights, etc.) eventually, due to changing times, needs, and the availability of digital tools.
Copyright laws are the crux of the issue behind the scholarly communication movement and the pressing need for change. The first laws, enacted in the early 18th century, were intended to protect those who wanted to make money from their written works rather than those who wrote for impact, as researchers and scholars do. Currently, when an author signs over their copyright to the publisher, they become limited in their own access to the work as well as limit many others due to what Dr. Carroll calls “the pay wall.”

From the price of individual journals offered through library subscriptions or access costs for individual articles online, the prices have skyrocketed, leaving many institutions to make difficult decisions about what they can or can no longer afford for their faculty and students. (Access to some individual journals can cost over $10,000 per year.) Carroll asks that researchers and authors make responsible decisions regarding the publication of their works – to consider the effects of simply signing the first or “opening offer” a publisher extends.
The issue of open access (OA), where the consumer of the works (reader, researcher) does not have to pay for access to the published works, often leads to misinformation about OA… “Open access does not mean lower quality or less rigor.” In fact, Carroll listed several ways that OA is good for authors/researchers:
  • increases impact (# of citations) due to easier access by researchers
  • serendipitous researchers come across works more often, making previously unforeseen connections
  • researchers need broader access to a myriad of sources/literature
  • helps international and poorly financed researchers – access/cost
  • medical researchers – providing out of date treatments due to lack of access to most recent findings
  • current pay-for journals are not searchable because they are not linked (lots of information could be added to the general pool of accessible resources)
One example Dr. Carroll highlighted was the OA journal, PLOS (Public Library of Science), and its successful growth over the past few years, including a 90% rejection rate, high impact, and the ability to publish peer-reviewed works immediately on the web. Other journals are using a similar model, but many other options are being investigated as viable options. (See Philosophers’ Imprint from the University of Michigan, which has been in service since 2001)

When considering to transfer your copyright to a publisher, Carroll asks authors to take an “Aretha Franklin moment” -- “You better think…” In other words, you may be limiting or hurting yourself and other future researchers by giving away all copyright control to a publisher.

So, what can faculty authors do?
  • Check current authors’ rights with publishers (these can sometimes be altered after the fact)
  • Negotiate with the publisher – they are getting used to this process and providing options for authors (it’s your call – they want to keep a good relationship with you too)
  • Many publishers already allow some form of open access, but most authors still are not asking/requesting; it’s a usually a workflow issue, habit, or simply non-awareness (most faculty are simply not aware of their options nor the benefits of OA)
As Dr. Carroll opined, “we’re reaching the tipping point… (and we) need help to push this forward.” Spread the word and become a part of the soon-to-be-in-crowd of Open Access authors!

For more information:

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