As the cost of scholarly publications continues to rise and new technologies increase the availability of information, the University of Minnesota Libraries are rethinking research journals.
The open access movement, which seeks to put published research online and allow anyone to access it for free, has been gaining momentum nationally.
One reason for the increased popularity is that trade journals, the traditional source for published research, have become much more expensive over the past decades, causing many libraries to drop their subscriptions, said Nancy Sims, copyright librarian for the University Libraries .
According to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition , which also held the first annual “Open Access Week” last week, the cost of academic journals has risen 260 percent in the past twenty years .
Sims also credited “technological and social change” for the move toward open access.
“There are a million other ways to spread that information now,” she said.
In 2006, Congress passed a bill requiring researchers who receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health to put their published results on an open access resource within twelve months of publishing.
There is currently a bill in Congress, called the Federal Research Public Access Act , aiming to expand this mandate to eleven other federal research grants.
However, there is also a bill currently in Congress that would repeal the NIH open access mandate and prohibit the practice from happening in the future.
Marlo Welshons , communications director for the University Libraries, said while not everyone in the University community is in favor of open access publications, many faculty members have been actively supporting the initiative.
The University is allowing and promoting master’s and Ph.D. thesis to be put online in a University repository, which is similar to an open access journal. Sims said this can be beneficial both to future researchers and the students themselves.
Gabriel Weisberg , a reviews editor at an open-access journal called “Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide,” said open access journals are becoming a necessity.
Weisberg, who is also a professor of art history at the University, said textbooks, especially art books, are becoming prohibitively expensive. It has also become more difficult for researchers to publish their material, he said.
Weisberg said his journal, which was launched in 2001, is now collecting about 500,000 hits per month.
Though it is becoming increasingly popular, open access still does not have complete support.
One major concern with open access is funding for journals, and Sims said one way journals are trying to solve this problem is by charging authors to publish their research.
While this practice is not new, she said publishing on an open access journal can sometimes cost an author more than publishing in a traditional journal.
Weisberg’s art journal is currently funded through advertisements on the Web site as well as grants and donations.
“Even still, it’s tough and complicated,” Weisberg said. “People are more willing to donate to a building, something concrete, and not everybody recognizes the importance of an online journal.”
Credibility concerns are another issue facing open access online journals, but Sims said there is little reason to worry about the quality of open access journals.
“There is a misconception that information is not as high-quality if it is open access,” Sims said, “but really, it is very much like the old systems.”
Despite the difficulties facing the open, Weisberg said it’s important to make information available to students and researchers.
“These journals are making important intellectual contributions,” Weisberg said. “They are giving people access to information they might not get otherwise and expanding knowledge to the public.”