By Ryan Hedrick
The final week in October is International Open Access Week. That Friday, Oct. 28, the Scholarly Communications Department at Wells Library hosted an open Open Access Week Symposium to highlight experiences in open access publishing and challenges and limitations of open access scholarship.
Willa Tavernier is a Research Impact and Open Scholarship Librarian at Wells Library and one of the primary people involved in organizing the first ever Open Access Week Symposium at Indiana University.
About 22 people attended the event in person with another 30 attending online. While Tavernier wished attendance had been a bit better, she said she thought the event was excellent. She was also happy with the reach of the symposium, saying that Hoosiers weren’t the only ones that attended.
“We definitely had a bit of reach…” Tavernier said. “We had quite a few people from around the state from other universities, as well as some out of state people.”
The topic of open access is one that reaches into many different corners of academia, which is why Tavernier and other organizers thought it was important to hold a symposium to contextualize the issue of equitable information access.
Many of the symposium’s speakers focused on the idea of equitable open access. Melanie Chambliss, an Assistant Professor at Columbia College-Chicago, gave a talk titled, “Black Libraries and the Diffusion of Knowledge: Decolonizing Access in the Early Twentieth Century.” Eileen Fradenburg Joy, the founding director of open access publisher Punctum Books, spoke on a similar topic with her talk titled, “By Their Very Nature, Ideas Cannot Be Property: A Vision for Publishing Otherwise.”
Tavernier said the idea of equitable information access is exactly why the library wanted to host an event like the symposium. She said it is important that these ideas be discussed.
“The debate around open access has had an oversized focus on the version of record of a research article, but there are many other ways to make research accessible…” Tavernier said. “There’s a lot of other ways to really put research out in a way that is accessible to the public. Because just being available to read doesn’t necessarily mean accessible.”
Discussion also focused on making sure special attention was paid to the communities where the actual research is performed and ideas generated. Making sure those communities are repaid for their participation by making sure they have access to researchers’ conclusions and results.
Tavernier said that faculty and other attendees of the symposium felt like researchers need to think outside of the box when publishing their research to truly make it accessible to the general public. Ideas included publishing research through channels that are less prone to technical jargon than a peer-reviewed article, such as through audio-visual media.
Another major topic of discussion focused on the recently released “Nelson Memo,” a memorandum released by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on August 25, 2022. The memo, titled “Ensuring Free Immediate & Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research,” states that all federal granting agencies should ensure the research they fund is made publicly accessible in its peer-reviewed form at the time of publication with no delay or embargo. Underlying data must also be made publicly available, subject to any laws regarding the protection of human subject research and vulnerable groups.
Tavernier said that certain grant agencies already had similar requirements in place, but those typically only affected hard science research. Now she says all disciplines need to be aware of the requirements.
The public access policies of large federal grant agencies should be compliant with the memo by Feb. 21, 2023, with all other federal agencies having until Aug. 20, 2023. Tavernier is goint to reserve judgment on the new requirements until after they take effect.
“I think it has a lot of promise, but we’ll have to see how it shakes out in practice,” she said.
According to Tavernier, discussions about open access scholarship often only happen within the hard science disciplines, but that it was more important now than ever to make sure faculty in the humanities also discuss the topic. The Scholarly Communications Department intends to look at ways to get open access information out to all faculty members in a more consistent manner.
As for whether the symposium will be held again next year, Tavernier was not prepared to commit to anything just yet.
“It does take a lot of organization to pull something like this off,” she said. “It was a very valuable session and we’ll be assessing in the coming months how we want to build on that momentum. We’re not yet sure if we will do the same thing next year, but we’ll see.”