Thursday, 13 October 2011

Open Access Week

I expect many academic authors are not aware that open access week exists. But here we are on the brink of the 5th annual OA week which takes place 24 - 30 October 2011. International OA week is organised and promoted by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and is described as "A global event...promoting open access as a new norm in scholarship and research."

In a nutshell, open access (OA) means free and unrestricted online access to research publications. The idea being that publications can be accessed by anyone, online without the need for payment or any other form of barrier to access. This model for access is promoted by many major research funders who require funded authors to provide free and open access to publications produced as a result of their funding. You can check major funders' policies in this matter on the Sherpa/Juliet website.

There are two ways to achieve open access to publications:

  • The GOLD route: publishing in an open access journal, or selecting the open access option in a journal that offers it
  • The GREEN route: depositing a copy of the work in an online open access repository such as ORA (Oxford University Research Archive)

The Bodleian Libraries offer guidance and information for Oxford authors in matters concerning open access. The Libraries provide the ORA service, Oxford's OA archive, as a green route to OA for University authors*. To mark Open Access week, the Bodleian Libraries are running a lunchtime event:

There will be two short presentations:

  • The OA movement in Law: Ruth Bird, Bodleian Law Library
  • Access to digital theses: Sally Rumsey, ORA, The Bodleian Libraries
Date:      Wednesday 26th October 2011
Time:     13.15 - 14.00
Venue:   RSL Lounge, Radcliffe Science Library

Members of the University are welcome to attend. Light refreshments will be available

* NEWS FLASH: Watch this space for news about easy deposit in ORA using Symplectic.


  1. What are your opinions on The Research Works act, which has drawn the ire of the online open access community over the past few months?


    1. From my understanding of the text of the bill (, if it were to be enacted, it would result in dissemination of open access copies of the work via subject and institutional repositories and similar fora being prohibited. In effect it would prevent funding agencies such as the NIH mandating free and open dissemination of formally published results of NIH funded research ( I see this as a backward step.

      The whole scenario begs the question of who owns the research. To cite an old adage, 'he who pays the piper, calls the tune.' In the case of research, the research is paid for by the funding agency (or going back to first principles in many cases, the taxpayer). The agency (on behalf of the taxpayer) can therefore decide what happens to the outcomes of that research by imposing conditions of award. If that agency states that the research should be made open access via whatever means, then it can choose to do so. In many cases research funding agencies choose to adopt this requirement because of commonly accepted benefits to other researchers, the public and other interested parties. It should be noted that in the case of the NIH, publishers are currently permitted up to a 12 month exclusivity period when access to the article can be restricted.

      The final decision about the adoption of this bill will rest on the matter of who trumps who. Do the concerns of publishers trump the requirements of the funding agencies towards open access to research? If the bill were to be adopted, I suspect that the open access genie is too far out of the bottle for there not to be a workaround or alternative solution found pretty soon. I'm not proposing that commercial publishing is a bad thing. But rather that the owners of the research be permitted to choose how to disseminate that research in the ways that they think best.

      Interestingly, I have been alerted this morning that Elsevier has withdrawn support from the RWA (

      I should state that these are my personal views, not necessarily the views of the University of Oxford.