[This post is based on a Graduate Trainee Session on E-Developments and ORA at Oxford University. See introductory post here. ]
As an introduction to our trainee session on e-developments, we were provided with a BodCast link to a lecture by Mark Walport, in which he discusses the significance of Open Access Resources. The lecture provides a really interesting introduction to the topic and the challenges faced by those involved. Walport, in particular, emphasises the changing nature of education and that in order to maximise scholarship, we need to maximise dissemination of knowledge. This is essentially at the very heart of Open Access.
However, Open Access is up against a number of difficult challenges.
Publication by academics in journals impacts on the University’s Research Assessment (REF) which means that the university receives greater funding for further research if they publish in a journal with a high impact level. The demand for buying resources is therefore huge, in order to ensure that good research is carried out and good funding is given.
Unfortunately, the cost of buying journals is also huge and continues to increase, causing problems for libraries whose budget does not necessarily increase at the same time!
This is where Open Access fits in. Its aim is to make research freely available in order to combat the rising costs of academic journals. A number of universities now have an institutional repository – a central source for research outcomes produced by the university, which not only preserves the research but makes it easily searchable too. For example, at Oxford this repository is ORA, at Sunderland University it is SURE.
A number of funding bodies also support this move and now require research they have funded to be made open access. While this is welcomed by supporters of Open Access, the problem comes when academics want and need to publish in high ranking, high impact journals but these journals won’t allow open access depository!
It seems like a catch 22! However, that’s not the end of the story. A number of journals do allow academics to deposit work in open access repositories (for more information see SHERPA) but there are still a number of complex copyright issues involved and concerns over regulation of what research is permitted and if it needs to be peer reviewed before submission to ensure quality. There is also an issue of time – both in academics having to submit their own work and in others constantly reviewing and checking work submitted for copyright and quality based reasons.
An interesting one to watch!