International Open Access Week

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Open Access logo: a simple image of an open padlock, also representing a lower-case "o" and "a"

Join us as BC Libraries celebrates the 13th year of International Open Access Week this week! Keep an eye out for displays and data visualizations, and we will have an Open Access discussion on Thursday afternoon. Given the disruptive nature of the last couple of years, Open Access is more important than ever in helping scholars and researchers address the world’s problems.

But what is Open Access?

At its core, Open Access is the idea that scholarship should be free for all to read and use. Academic journal subscriptions can cost thousands of dollars each, and getting access to just a single article can cost more than $30. This is a challenge for libraries such as BC Libraries, extremely limiting for a number of universities, and puts articles out of reach for independent researchers. 

Why is Open Access Important?

Cost is a large impediment to people reading scholarship. Scholarship is built upon other scholarship, and when some of those building blocks are not available because of a high price, the entire edifice of knowledge is weaker. 

A good example showing the importance of Open Access is in helping address the COVID-19 pandemic. While final versions of articles, along with their supporting data, can be locked behind publisher paywalls, scientists around the world have made their work open, particularly using preprint servers. Preprints are the versions of articles that are going to be published, but have not been published yet. There are some drawbacks – the publishing process can add value – but preprint servers allow a greater number of people to read and assess articles faster than the traditional peer review process. When every day matters, like when dealing with a disease, Open Access preprint servers can save lives. The National Library of Medicine created the iSearch COVID-19 Portfolio, which helps scientists find articles from both regular publishers and influential topical preprint servers, including arXiv, bioRxiv, ChemRxiv, medRxiv and SSRN. 

There is proof that Open Access makes a difference. In a 2018 study, Open Access Journals were found to be cited on average seven percent more than subscription journals.

What does Open Access mean at BC?

Boston College, through its Institutional Repository eScholarship@BC, provides a platform for people all over the world to read theses and dissertations from its graduate students, Senior Honors Theses, selected articles from faculty, and other reports from research centers around campus. This scholarship has been downloaded thousands of times.

Boston College also supports Open Access via its Open Access Publishing Fund. Since the fund’s inception seven years ago, Boston College has provided funding covering well over $100,000 of article processing fees, allowing scholarship to be immediately open and readable.

Would you like to learn more about Open Access at BC, and talk to like-minded people about different plans and projects to support it further? Join us for a conversation on Thursday, October 28th, at 2:00pm in room 413 in O’Neill Library. If you can’t make it in person, you can join us on Zoom at https://bccte.zoom.us/j/98498139472.

There is more to making Open Access truly beneficial. Free scholarship is most useful when you can find it, when you can put it in context, and when you can reuse it. Reducing the cost barrier is an important first step in creating a more equitable, more vibrant system of creating and disseminating scholarship.

Elliott Hibbler

Scholarly Communication Librarian