NSights Blog

Open Access Week is every week: How it can benefit you

Find out more about the world of Open Access by contacting University Libraries

In a previous life, I didn't work in academia. I actually worked as a journalist for a newspaper in the suburbs of Chicago. Along with the other areas journalists usually report on - schools, city government, etc. - I would occasionally write a story based off of a scholarly article.

Or, I would try to. I can still remember the first time I realized I was going to have to pay $48 just to rent an article for two days. I ended up doing what many other people resort to: I put out a call on social media, seeing if anyone I knew could get me a copy of the article.   I was fortunate enough to know some people who worked at universities, so I was able to get a copy of the article I needed.

Not everyone is so fortunate, though, and to be honest, it's a pretty onerous process to cross your fingers and hope someone will help you out.   That's why I'm celebrating Open Access Week this week, along with people across the world. The Open Access movement helps solve this problem by encouraging researchers to make their research freely available to the public online, whether by publishing in open access journals like PLOS One, BioMed Central, and those at the Open Library of the Humanities, or through uploading copies of their articles to open repositories such as Nevada's ScholarWorks or Open Science Framework.  

The great news is that not only does Open Access benefit the public, but studies have also shown it benefits researchers, whether by increasing their own visibility and impact or helping them find collaborators. I believe it can also help dispel the stigma of academics living in ivory tower by better connecting our work with the public, including practitioners who can put our knowledge into use.  

Stepping into the Open Access world can feel uncertain for some. Maybe you're not sure which journals you can trust to publish your research in. Don't worry - most OA journals are reputable, and the Directory of Open Access Journals is a great place to find those that are transparent in how they work (those with a green checkmark or an orange seal have undergone even more thorough checks), as well as to find OA journals that don't charge you a fee to publish. You can also use the website Think. Check. Submit. To help you evaluate journals.   Or maybe you'd still rather not publish in an OA journal. Luckily, most traditional journals will let you post your work online so it's open, but there are usually rules you have to follow, such as embargoes.

Please feel free to contact me or your liaison librarian to help you figure out what you are and are not allowed to post online. Also, be aware that publishers are starting to crack down on for-profit academic social sites like ResearchGate, which has responded by taking down articles.  

Open Access won't solve all the problems in the scholarly communication world. For instance, I can't guarantee that journalists will no longer make any more errors when they write a story about your research. But if they can't even access and read your article, then that's probably not going to help.  

Teresa Schultz headshot