Open access is the concept of making scholarly, peer-reviewed literature available online without barriers such as access charges.

The term was only coined 20 years ago, but the idea has been around at least since the 1940s. A worldwide movement, open access came into prominence with the advent of the internet in the early 1990s.

Adelphi’s University Libraries celebrated the 15th annual Open Access Week 2022 this October with speakers and a panel discussion and hackathon. This year’s theme was “Open for Climate Justice.”

The University Libraries have also announced several new initiatives designed to “make knowledge equitably available to all,” as stated in the 2020–2024 strategic plan goals, said Violeta Ilik, dean of University Libraries.

Those initiatives include a new open access journal—the first time that Adelphi University Libraries have served as a publisher—and Adelphi University Scholarly Works, an institutional repository that will be available to the University community and beyond.

“Open access is a social justice issue, because it seeks to make scholarship widely available to anyone,” Ilik said. “Traditional publishing models are cost prohibitive for those not in academia and for researchers in developing countries with limited resources and access to databases and journal subscriptions.”

Why open access is so important

Adelphi made a formal show of support for the idea of open access initiatives in May 2021, when the Faculty Senate passed the Open Access Resolution. “By affirming a commitment to open access, the Adelphi University Faculty Senate is making a commitment to equitable access to information,” the statement read.

“The pandemic has made it crystal clear how important it is to eliminate paywalls that prevent science from being diffused throughout the world,” said Christopher Barnes, PhD, assistant professor and digital publishing librarian, who began at Adelphi a few months after the Faculty Senate resolution passed. “Paywalls slow down science. Closed access is incredibly inequitable because the science is only readable by the people who can afford it—and the prices are extremely high.”

In the traditional publishing model, scholars write up their research and give their reports to the publishers for free, Dr. Barnes said. Those companies then publish the research, historically in print journals, which are expensive to produce. The publishers then charge the researchers and their institutions enormous amounts of money to access the articles. Today, however, most articles are published online, most of them by one of a handful of publishers who dominate the scientific literature market.

“Libraries have been among the leaders of open access, because librarians have gotten a front-row seat to the soaring cost of scholarly literature costs, which soar while production costs drop,” Dr. Barnes said. “Publishers do a great job in many ways of providing value to articles by adding digital object identifiers—DOIs—and formatting. But the content, the heart of the argument, is the findings from the lab report that’s the crux of the entire piece of writing. Open access strives to at least make the content of those articles, if not the articles themselves, freely available online.”

Open Access Week and a new journal

As part of its commitment to open access, Adelphi celebrated Open Access Week in several ways. Ellie Young, founder of Common Action, and Didier Torny of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, directly addressed the intersection of open access to scientific information and climate change.

Also on the docket was a presentation by a panel of scientists who are running an asynchronous hackathon. The goal is to move IPCC reports, which come from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control, out of pdf format and into HTML, which is more accessible and easier to disseminate.

In addition, the University Libraries are starting their own journal. The Journal of Critical Study of Communication and Disability is an interdisciplinary publication that uses critical science related to people and groups who are marginalized and/or pathologized for their use of language and ways of communicating. It advocates for linguistic justice, equity and access for diverse communicators.

“The idea is the brainchild of a collective of scholars, one of whom is based at Adelphi,” Dr. Barnes said. “They saw a real gap in the field. Not only are they interested in interrogating the language used, but these are all people of color writing about often communities of color. This journal is filling a critical gap in the scholarly field by offering a publication venue to these scholars. These works are not commonly published, because most of the journals in the field don’t prioritize these research topics.”

The advent of digital publishing tools—many of which are open source and as such are free to use, adopt and adapt—has allowed libraries to become publishers themselves, Dr. Barnes said. He noted that his position was created in response to a need on campus by faculty and students to initiate these sorts of open access digital publishing projects.

“My job is to help faculty and students get their work out to the world as accessibly as possible,” he said.

Scholarly Works is a game changer

Another initiative that supports Adelphi’s open access strategies is Scholarly Works, a new institutional repository for the Adelphi community, including work by students and staff as well as faculty. That means presentations, performances, writing—anything scholarly. For instance, when a faculty member presents their research at a conference, they will be able to upload the text of their remarks and their presentation, along with their slides and other supporting materials, to Scholarly Works.

“Once it’s uploaded, it is assigned a DOI, which makes it easily discoverable online,” Dr. Barnes said. “And because our repository is crawled by Google, it gets added to search results. It’s also great for student work, such as undergraduate theses, which represent the best student work on campus.”

He’s looking forward to working with the schools and departments across campus to upload the best student and faculty work to the site, especially unpublished work, he said.

“That is the game changer. Being able to have your research online is huge.”

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