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April 15, 2010

Faculty Assembly endorses open-access task force

Faculty Assembly last week unanimously endorsed the creation of a University-wide task force to develop policies governing open-access publishing of Pitt-generated research.

As the University Times went to press yesterday, Senate Council was expected to discuss the Assembly-approved motion at its April 14 meeting.

Louis Berry, chair of the University Senate library committee, introduced the motion. His committee has studied open-access issues for more than a year.

“This motion is drawn from discussion at the 2009 Senate plenary session on ‘Scholarly Publishing Today and Tomorrow’ and the creation of an institutional repository at the University,” Berry said. Pitt opened its repository, known as D-Scholarship@Pitt, last May.

(See March 19, 2009, University Times and the Senate Matters column, Feb. 4 University Times.)

“Both of these have led to four important issues for University-wide consideration,” Berry said.

He said those issues are:

• What is the role of the University as producer and disseminator of knowledge/scholarship?

• What is the role of the individual members of the academic community in the dissemination of their own scholarship?

• How will the University evaluate and reward the dissemination of scholarship in new or nontraditional forms in the tenure and promotion process?

• What are the long-term implications of new financial and technological arrangements for the consumption of scholarship and the production of new knowledge in research universities?

The library committee’s motion recommended that a task force of major stakeholders be appointed by the provost and the president of the University Senate to address the issues. The motion suggested that key constituencies could include the Provost’s office; the University Library System (ULS); the University of Pittsburgh Press; the Office of the General Counsel; the University Senate; the Dean’s Council, and faculty with expertise in open access-related areas.

Berry said, “We would like to see the University develop policies in regard to open access and to research productivity. That’s the bottom line. Frequently, research is not available only because it’s not accessible. We know this is complex and sometimes controversial. But it is of great importance to many research universities today. We think it is an appropriate thing for the University to consider, and probably the best way to do that would be a task force.”

Prior to Assembly’s vote, ULS director Rush Miller lobbied for the formation of the task force to develop open-access policies. “The rate of deposit, that is, of participation by faculty at those hundreds of universities internationally that have a repository, is well under 10 percent,” Miller said.

He acknowledged that some work is involved in getting published research into Pitt’s institutional repository. In many cases, Miller said, a faculty member can’t deposit the version published in a journal, but must submit a separate version with a separate description.

“So there is a little work involved. But the world of journal publishing overall is shrinking, for lots of reasons. Many universities, especially in this recession, have been cutting back [on purchasing] journals, so the articles you publish as a faculty member in your major journals are being read less and less every year,” he explained.

“Open access opens all of this, not only to the subscriber base of a journal, but to scholars in every country in the world who can get on the Internet.”

Miller said nearly 100 universities worldwide with repositories like Pitt’s, including Harvard and MIT, have open-access policies in place that mandate that their faculty submit research output into the institution’s repository.

“But they all have opt-out clauses and they have to have opt-out clauses because not every journal allows this,” Miller noted. “There are techniques faculty can use to get these contracts [with publishers] to allow them to do this. But if the journal refuses and you have to publish in that journal, then you’re stuck.

“The idea here is to encourage, proactively encourage, faculty to put this stuff in the Pitt repository, because first of all we’re collecting the publication output of faculty at this University. And you can always put the metadata of articles you can’t put in, so we’re capturing the output in terms of bibliographic information as well. So it’s not just a repository for journal articles; it’s the data sets backing up research. It’s for PowerPoint. The format is open; almost any format can be placed in the repository. It’s a place where we are sharing research and knowledge,” Miller said.

He added that ULS successfully negotiated with the National Institutes of Health to be designated as a publisher.

“That’s very important, because that means we can actually extract articles and load them into our repository directly from PubMed Central, and most people can’t do that,” Miller said. “One of the things we’re working on now — we don’t have the form ready yet — is a mechanism that would allow a faculty member with an NIH grant who is putting the research on PubMed Central to give us their name and the PubMed Central ID number, which they have to have anyway to report to NIH, and we can do all the work to move a copy of that physically into the repository, the metadata with it. So none of that work has to be repeated.”

That mechanism should allay the concerns about too much work for those faculty publishing NIH-funded research, Miller said.

NIH now requires that all NIH-funded research results go into PubMed Central, its free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature.

Berry added, “We don’t have answers to many of these issues, which is why we need this task force to address these and to develop policies and procedures.”

In other Assembly business:

• University Senate President Michael Pinsky summarized a report from Facilities Management that was given at a closed meeting of the Senate plant utilization and planning committee on April 5. The report detailed capital projects on the Pittsburgh campus in the last decade.

Among the highlights Pinsky cited were:

—Pitt has increased its “footprint” in the city by 2.2 million square feet.

—The University oversaw 1,751 capital projects (including renovation projects) from 2000 to 2009.

—Pitt has added housing for more than 1,800 students in the past 10 years.

• Elections for Senate officers and Assembly members end April 17.

—Peter Hart

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