Open Access Tenure: Let’s Really Make it Open

If you read my other blog (Hedgehog Knitting, if you’ve not read the About Me page) or if you follow me on Twitter, then this is repeat information. Otherwise, buckle in…

Way back in February, which feels a lot longer ago than it has a right to, I noted my own frustration as a public librarian, barred from reading scholarly communication that was hidden behind paywalls.  And that’s just for the research materials that librarians produce. Regularly, I have the wonderful privilege of explaining to alumni that yes, they did pay lots of tuition while they were here but no, they don’t go to the university anymore and they cannot access our extremely expensive resources off campus. If they’d like to join us here, we have guest access on site.  And no, the alumni donation you made to your specific college didn’t come to the library.  Add to that talking to medical professionals who are not affiliated with research institutions or whose hospitals have cut their libraries so they don’t have anything but a couple of not-very-complete databases.

But it’s particularly challenging when I talk to “my” students at the College of Dentistry.  The majority of dentists will either be in practice alone or with a very small number of colleagues. Having worked for dental financial planners long ago, I have a pretty good idea of how much debt they’ll be managing. And you’d like me to suggest to them costly individual subscriptions? Or that they pay piecemeal for those articles?

And I’ve not even gotten to members of the public, or rather, everyone not affiliated with a research institution or a really good interlibrary loan department. The publishers would be happy to share journal articles with them, the cheerful buttons in PubMed imply, but when you click through you find a $30 price tag waiting for you (on average).

The NIH Public Access policy began twelve  four years ago (edited–PubMed Central started twelve years ago). Nearly half a decade of medical information online, usually after a year embargo, freely available if you received NIH funding. This is a huge resource to graduating students, unaffiliated researchers, and people of all persuasions trying to find a study about a drug for themselves or a loved one.  Certainly there is a lot more than just a decade of information in PubMed Central, which is where those articles must  be deposited, but it’s certainly helping those numbers tick up regularly.

Earlier this year we had RWA, the Cost of Knowledge (which you can still sign, btw), and FRPAA making major headlines. Now here’s another opportunity.  We’re petitioning the White House to speak out on making tax payer funded research freely available via the internet to tax payers.

You’ve already paid for a lot of research in the form of tax dollars that my faculty vie very hard to win. Those receiving grants work to produce results and distribute them to further research (and their own reputations, but that’s part and parcel) and the conversations around it. You’ll notice I don’t say furthering science because it’s much more than that. Yes, a lot of it is science but there’s a lot of humanities, arts, social science, communication, etc research that needs to come out from behind paywalls as well. Further colleagues take pains to read, review, edit, critique.  Shouldn’t you then, as the funder, get to see the end results?

We have 28 more days to reach a minimum of 25K signatures, but I know everyone is hoping to blow right through that number. In two days, we have broken the 10K mark.

I encourage you to read the petition and sign it. I encourage you to share the petition as broadly as possible. This is important to teachers, students, public library patrons, researchers, people interested in science, people not interested in science but who would like to see the results of the money they’ve put into this research, people who’d like to see the nearly-two-decades-from-lab-to-approved-medical-procedure period shortened.

And finally, please consider signing for those of us who are seeking tenure. It’s a huge stick to take with us to those publishing contract negotiations when we are able to say “my funding body requires that I make this open access.”

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