Support Free Access to Information – Open Access Day

October 14th will be the world’s first Open Access Day, with students and scholars coming together to support free access to scholarly information. It is sponsored by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), Students for Free Culture, and the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

What is Open Access?

Most of the scholarly (and popular) journal articles (online and in print) that you use for your papers and projects had to be purchased from money in the Milne Library budget, supported by your tuition and state aid.

Some scholarly material is available for free to anyone. When this happens it is called “Open Access”.

Open Access can take many forms. Sometimes all the content of a journal is available for free, sometimes just the older material is available for free. Sometimes authors can post a copy of their article online for free, even if the published journal article isn’t available for free. A more detailed discussion of the different types of open access is available in this Wikipedia article.

For graduates of SUNY Geneseo and the general public – those who are not associated with an organization (like a university) that can purchase scholarly material – the only access they have to the scholarly literature is when publishers follow some kind of open access model.

Why does Open Access Matter?

Open access to scholarly material – especially in science, medicine, and technology – is vital to scholarly enterprise.

Without open access, many primary care doctors can’t easily keep up with new developments in their fields.

Without open access, patients can’t fully participate in the diagnoses and treatment of their illnesses.

Without open access, researchers have limited access to the work of their peers, limiting discovery and scientific progress.

Without open access, members of the public can’t see the results of tax-payer funded research (which accounts for a large portion of scientific research).

What can you do?

  1. Be aware of where your information is coming from. Is the journal article you need available via Open Access, or are you using resources that Milne Library has paid for. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference when you are on campus, since you are often automatically allowed access.
  2. Thinking of publishing the research you did over the summer? Consider finding an Open Access journal (like those listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals), or retaining the copyright to your article so you can post it online (called “self-archiving”).
  3. Support the NIH public access mandate, directing NIH funded researchers to make their articles available online for free within 12 months of their original publication. The original directive, approved by congress in early 2008, may be under attack from for-profit publishers.

For more information about student involvement in the Open Access movement, see Open Students.

About Bonnie J. M. Swoger
Science Librarian at SUNY Geneseo, a small, public liberal arts college. I am interested in scientific communication in general and how we teach students about how scientists share information.

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