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October 13, 2011

Open-access week events

planned on campus


For the first time, the University is joining in Open Access Week (, which promotes the online sharing of scholarly research free of charge. The worldwide event, Oct. 24-31, is now in its fifth year, with activities scheduled at 1,000 sites in almost 100 countries.

On campus, the University Library System (ULS) Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing is sponsoring two events, one aimed at faculty and another at graduate students.

“Open Access: What Every Graduate Student Needs to Know,” is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and the faculty-oriented “Open Access: Greater Impact for Your Research,” will take place at 2 p.m. Oct. 25.  Both events will be held in University Club Ballroom B.

Also, the Health Sciences Library System is hosting a talk by Carnegie Mellon University librarian Denise Troll Covey, “Author Rights and Publishing Today: What You Should Know, Why You Should Care,” at noon Oct. 26 in Scaife Hall lecture room 5.

John Barnett, a ULS scholarly communication librarian, said the Oct. 20 event aims to familiarize graduate students with the electronic thesis and dissertation system (ETDS) and the University’s D-Scholarship@Pitt open-access repository, to which ETDS materials will be migrated this fall.

Timothy Deliyannides, who directs the Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing, said the Oct. 25 event will focus on one of the most important issues for faculty: “How do I get my scholarship known, accepted, out there so other people can use it, react to it and learn from it?”

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ULS director and Hillman Librarian Rush Miller said, “Open access is a growing movement. It’s gaining tremendous support at research universities, libraries and even among some publishers. I think we’ll see this continue. It’s here to stay.”

The time is right for Pitt to join in the worldwide Open Access Week focus, Miller said, “because we’ve reached a critical mass in open-access publishing where we are a major player in the country.”

ULS recently announced a partnership with the Public Knowledge Project, which provides software to facilitate open-access publishing. (See Sept. 29 University Times.) In addition, ULS’s 2-year-old e-journal publishing program now produces 25 online journals with more in the pipeline; the Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing, established in March, has grown to a staff of four, and the University’s open-access task force, which sprang from a 2009 University Senate plenary session, which has proposed an open-access policy.

The policy would grant the University the right to make Pitt-generated scholarly journal articles available through its D-Scholarship@Pitt repository (

“It’s just reached the point where we feel that with the task force report and the discussions that will go on around campus at each school on open-access policy, this is the time to highlight the whole area of open access,” Miller said.

For decades, authors were required to sign copyright release forms when an article was approved for journal publication, Miller said. “What is new is a movement to counter this by opening this literature and these research results to a broader audience than published journals.”

Some fields, such as physics and philosophy of science, have a long history of posting pre-prints of scholarly work in an open-access archive, but others, such as chemistry aren’t there yet, Miller said.

Open access got a boost when, in 2008, the National Institutes of Health began requiring NIH-funded researchers to deposit their published work in its PubMed Central open access archive. (See Jan. 24, 2008, University Times.)

And other universities, including Harvard and MIT, have established policies under which faculty authors grant the schools the right to make scholarly articles available in institutional open-access repositories — policies similar to the one being proposed at Pitt.

“A growing number of journal publishers are accepting some form of open access for their articles,” such as allowing a final version to be placed in a repository or allowing authors to submit final drafts to a repository, Miller said. Elsevier Science, the world’s largest journal publisher, now allows placement of an author’s final draft as a matter of policy, he said. But not all are so willing just yet. “There are now publishers that will allow this if the university has a policy like this … but not if they don’t,” he said, adding that the establishment of an open-access policy at Pitt would give the University some leverage in working with publishers.

“It’s not that it’s an absolute requirement that would prevent someone from publishing in a journal that does not agree to open-access deposit, but it allows the University to negotiate with that publisher to make an exception to their policy because the University also owns the license,” Miller explained.

He predicted that eventually publishers will come around. “I think in the next five years or so, we’ll see this as a standard policy for most journals. I think they’ll realize this is not going to affect their market.”

In addition to negotiating power, an open-access policy would enable a faculty member’s published work to be seen by a much broader audience. “If it’s in open access, it’s certainly being read by more people than if it’s just in the journal. Anything that’s online is read more than anything in print,” Miller said, adding that articles in subscription-based publications are less widely read than those in open access, which anyone around the world can read and cite.

“In most cases readership equates to impact,” Miller said, adding that in some fields the number of readers can be hundreds of times greater for open-access articles.

For authors who can’t get permission from a publisher to deposit a scholarly article in open access, Miller said the repository could include metadata that would lead searchers to the work.

“You can put your title and descriptive information in there and then link to the published version if it’s online,” he said.

“There’s nothing in the policy that’s meant in any way to limit or dictate what journals faculty can publish in,” he said. “We’re careful that we don’t mean that you must publish in journals that allow open-access equivalents. We want faculty to publish in the best, highest-impact journals they can possibly publish in.”

Raising Pitt’s profile

The aim is not simply to capture the output of the faculty in terms of open-access documents. “We’re trying to capture and promote the output of the research university faculty to the world to highlight what we’re doing,” Miller said. “We really see it as a way to have the standing of Pitt enhanced — individual faculty members, departments, schools, programs, as well as the whole University.”

Pitt’s repository

Pitt’s institutional repository, D-Scholarship@Pitt, has been available since 2009 as a place where anyone in the University community — graduate students, staff or faculty — may deposit appropriate material.

“This is not the place for daily classroom materials,” Deliyannides said, adding that it is not meant to replicate Blackboard. However, articles, book chapters, monographs, multimedia presentations and other creative scholarly works are welcome.

Deliyannides noted that the repository especially is useful for housing “gray literature” such as technical reports, position papers, conference proceedings and similar documents, which typically are not well organized and therefore difficult to find. “If we provide a home, we improve discoverability for those bits of scholarship,” he said.

The Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing will assist faculty in contributing to the repository, but individuals can deposit their work on their own, Miller said. “It’s as easy or easier than putting it on your own web site.” Miller, who has led by example in contributing to the repository, said, “It’s really simple. I wouldn’t recommend people do it if I hadn’t tried it.”

He noted that the proposed open-access policy would cover only scholarly journal articles, and only works produced in the future. However, “There’s nothing to stop anyone from going back and depositing their entire publishing record — metadata or metadata plus documents — right now,” he said.

The institutional repository contains more than 5,800 items. Although contribution rates have been low, Deliyannides said D-Scholarship@Pitt does contain many significant documents, including more than 2,200 works by transplantation researcher and physician Thomas Starzl.

Miller said that even if each school within the University adopted the proposed open-access policy, “I don’t expect that within the first year or two or even three that we would capture 100 percent of what people are doing. I would consider 50 percent outstanding,” initially, with the percentage growing over time.


The University’s involvement in open-access publishing goes beyond encouraging faculty to make their scholarly output available in Pitt’s repository.

Pitt’s free e-journal publishing program ( encourages open access, he said. Some partners are interested in moving existing journals to an electronic format; others are seeking to launch new academic journals, Deliyannides said.

The majority of peer-reviewed scholarly journals remain subscription-based, but “there’s really a lot of growth in quality peer-reviewed open-access journals,” to about 7,000 to date, he said. “The current economic model for journal publishing is unsustainable, in that publishers are charging more and more for subscriptions and as they do that, institutional subscribers are dropping out. Libraries can’t afford it.”

The downward spiral of declining subscribership can put a journal out of existence. “That will have no effect on us as an open-access publisher,” he said. “One of our strategies is to start changing the paradigm before we’re bitten by it.”

The Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing facilitates publication of e-journals but does not take over the editorial work behind the publications, Deliyannides said.

Vanessa Gabler, an electronic publications associate in that office, said ULS provides tools and guidance, but each journal’s editorial staff is responsible for the editing and layout.

ULS provides initial graphic design and provides training, advice and support for creating an electronic-format journal, Deliyannides said.

“We teach, we train, we support, we get people to be self-sufficient — and then we stand back and let the academics do the job,” he said, adding that a journal could be launched in a month or two, with the typical timeframe being four months for partners who are prepared.

Deliyannides said misconceptions remain about open-access journals, that they are not peer-reviewed or otherwise lack quality. “That is not the case. As publisher, we have very stringent guidelines on the quality of the content that we’ll accept from new partners,” he said, adding that ULS has established an advisory board to review proposals from potential journal partners.

Partners must meet academic integrity standards, have a rigorous peer-review process and an international editorial board with solid scholarly credentials. “We’re trying to promote quality research of international significance,” he said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 4

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