Our next scholarly communication brown bag discussion will be about retractions. We hope to talk about how retractions get issued, how researchers find out about retracted articles, what happens to people who are involved in a retraction, and what impact this has on the research lifecycle.
In advance of that discussion, here are a few resources that may help provide some context.
At a federal level, the U.S. Department of Education announced that its inaugural $5 million Open Textbooks grant award will go to LibreTexts, a UC Davis effort “to develop an easy-to-use online platform for the construction, customization, and dissemination of open educational resources (OER) to reduce the burdens of unreasonable textbook costs to our students and society”.
At Ohio University, a partnership between Ohio University Libraries and the Office of Instructional Innovation, paired subject liaison librarians with OER-interested faculty members to redesign courses to use only OER as part of the Alt-Textbook Initiative. Through a combination of faculty release time and librarian staff time, the Initiative was able to redesign 24 courses for projected student cost savings of roughly $200,000.
By identifying new and creative partnerships and advocating for legislative funding for OER efforts, the open community is working toward sustainable and scalable OER solutions.
A key component of scholarly communication is, in fact, communication. What’s the point of making information available if engagement doesn’t follow? One way of facilitating increased engagement with scholarly literature is through the hosting of preprint articles on institutional repositories and preprint servers.
Preprints are typically defined as scholarly articles that have not yet undergone peer-review and are ready to be submitted for publication. Generally, preprints include the same overall information as final published articles but lack the added design elements and review that occur in the journal publication process. Most importantly in terms of open access, authors can, in most circumstances, freely post and make available their preprint work online.
Preprints speed up the dissemination of scholarly literature by aligning with researcher timelines – not publisher timelines. Preprint servers like arXiv, bioRxiv, and OSF Preprints typically make author-submitted preprints available for viewing in just a few business days, allowing posted articles to be both timely and relevant to current discussions. In the age of social media and instant reporting, it’s important that scholarly research increase the immediacy with which it’s available to enter public discourse.
To come to any kind of consensus on scholarly research, we need a diverse range of individuals engaging with the research and giving feedback on findings. Open knowledge initiatives like PREreview, a web platform allowing for peer-reviewing of preprint articles, encourage scholarly conversation to occur between individuals whose voices have been historically excluded from this crucial process, such as early career and unaffiliated researchers. PREreview also provides valuable preprint feedback to “be compiled into a review and sent back to the authors, who then have the chance of integrating that feedback into their work” (Welcome to PREreview).
According to responses from about 500 faculty members in a recent UT Libraries’ survey, roughly 65% of faculty respondents have shared their scholarly research in “pre-print or e-print digital archives” in the past 5 years (Ithaka survey, Q10). Nearly 40%of those same respondents believed circulating preprint versions of their work to be “an important way for me to communicate my research findings with my peers” (Ithaka survey, Q12).
Considering submission of your preprint work to a preprint server? Double-check journal submission policies on SHERPA/RoMEO before doing so.
Interested in more results from the UT Libraries’ Ithaka S+R 2018 survey of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students? View the full results online.
Open data is defined as “research data that is freely available on the internet; permits any user to download, copy, analyze, re-process, pass to software or use for any other purpose; and is without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself” (Open Data). Many funding agencies (NIH, NSF) and journals (Nature, Science) now mandate that researchers share their data upon completion of a research project.
So, what are some of our goals when we make data open?
Increasing transparency and public trust in the scientific process,
Providing research access to historically excluded user groups, and
Making space for previously unexplored areas of scholarship through the promotion of collaboration and interdisciplinarity.
By allowing for and encouraging the free use and reuse of data, we give users the opportunity to more fully understand a researcher’s methods and to draw their own (potentially different) conclusions by engaging directly with the source materials.
To accomplish these goals, however, we need a place to keep all this open data. Open data repositories are quickly growing in popularity and use. Last year, UT got its own in the form of the Texas Data Repository. While only current UT students, faculty, and staff can freely host and share their own research data here, anyone can view and download posted datasets. Uploaded datasets are also assigned their own DOI so they can be cited in future research, and data creators can receive credit for citable content, further incentivizing and normalizing data sharing in the research process.
With a name like open access, it goes without saying that accessing scholarly literature is not just an important piece of OA initiatives, but a primary goal.
One popular method of ensuring access to open materials has been through the utilization of institutional repositories. Institutional repositories are “digital collections capturing and preserving the intellectual output of a single or multi-university community” (The Case for Institutional Repositories: A SPARC Position Paper).
You may have heard about UT’s very own institutional repository, Texas ScholarWorks, which turned 10 years old this year. (They sure do grow up fast.) However, you may not have known that a majority of universities have their very own repositories, and they are also full of open scholarly resources.
In the past, there has been no way for users to search across these repositories simultaneously, making it difficult for researchers to locate materials posted outside of their own institution’s repository. A new tool, Unpaywall, is quickly breaking down this barrier to access. “Unpaywall is a free web-browser extension that hunts for papers in more than 5,300 repositories worldwide, including preprint servers and institutional databases” (Unpaywall finds free versions of paywalled papers).
Available as both a web search and a browser extension, Unpaywall makes it possible for individuals to quickly and easily locate free versions of scholarly articles legally hosted in institutional and organizational repositories. When using the Unpaywall browser extension, users viewing an article with a paywall will see a green or orange open lock graphic on the right-hand side of their screen if an open access version of the text is available. Clicking the lock graphic will take users directly to the open access content.
With planned Zotero and Scopus integrations in the works, Unpaywall is rapidly increasing the visibility of open scholarship hosted in institutional repositories and allowing researchers unaffiliated with an institution to access significantly more materials without hitting a paywall.
A comprehensive listing of repositories is searchable on OpenDOAR, a global directory of open access repositories.
Unpaywall’s repository source list is searchable and downloadable from their website.
Open knowledge initiatives are inherently disruptive, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. When we design and implement these initiatives, we need to think carefully about who is likely to benefit and where there is potential for harm. Unfortunately, labor and time are finite resources. To generate real structural change in how we create and disseminate information, we must base our efforts on sustainable platforms. Otherwise, we risk open knowledge becoming just a “movement” and not the standard in academic practice.
This week on Open Access at UT, we’ll be highlighting some emerging and established tools that are helping the open community build the equitable foundations necessary for sustained growth and the resulting benefits to researchers, instructors, and learners.