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October 27, 2016

Library Insider


Open access and you

Have you ever struggled with choosing a textbook because you’re worried about the cost to your students?

Have you had trouble getting access to an article you need for your research because it’s in a journal to which Pitt does not subscribe?

Did you know that you as a taxpayer often pay for the results of research, usually journal articles, twice? First for the taxpayer-funded research itself and then again to access the results of that research via a for-profit journal.

The cost of journal subscriptions to university libraries has skyrocketed. For a number of years the journal rate of inflation has been nearly three times the standard rate of inflation (in 2013, the inflation rate for journals was 6 percent; the Consumer Price Index rose 2 percent during that period).

Similarly, the affordability of textbooks and other educational resources is a concern for faculty, who have to decide which textbooks to assign, knowing that the cost may be outsized and a significant burden for the students or their parents who have to pay for the textbooks.

These are problems that universities everywhere are confronting: the rising cost of scholarly materials; the ability to access them; the sheer quantity of scholarly materials available; and the speed with which they’re available. These problems stem from the fact that the majority of scholarly materials are controlled by for-profit publishers who have little incentive to address issues of affordability and access.


Libraries, including those at Pitt, have responded to these problems in a number of ways. First, we have attempted to negotiate better deals with publishers, either singly or in partnerships with other libraries, but this approach has had limited success. Another, and perhaps more effective, response: Pitt libraries have joined the worldwide open-access movement, which supports the creation and use of scholarly materials that are:

…digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.

Open access is compatible with copyright, peer review, revenue (even profit), print, preservation, prestige, quality, career advancement, indexing and other features and supportive services associated with conventional scholarly literature.

—Peter Suber,  
“Open Access Overview,”  2004 (revised 2010)


How can open access benefit you? There are a number of ways. Making your research freely available via a subject-based preprint server, like the ArXiV physics preprint server or Pitt’s philosophy of science preprint server PhiSciArchive, or an institutional repository like D-Scholarship@Pitt, makes your research available more quickly to your community and generally doesn’t preclude formal publication in important journals in your field.

Also, there’s evidence that articles published in open-access journals are cited more often than those available only through subscription.


Interested? Here are some things you can do:

• Deposit your work in D-Scholarship@Pitt, the institutional repository of the University. This is an open-to-the-world database of the research output at Pitt, and includes published and unpublished research papers, multimedia, presentations, conference papers, research data and more.

• Publish in open-access journals.

• Utilize the ULS Open-Access Author Fees Fund, established to pay processing fees for articles authored or co-authored by the faculty, staff, postdoctoral associates, and students served by the University Library System and the Barco Law Library who publish in eligible open-access journals.

• Choose Creative Commons licenses for your work and teaching materials. These licenses are alternatives to the “all rights reserved” approach of copyright law. With Creative Commons licenses, an author or creator indicates that their work can be reused by others, and how it can be used.

• Encourage others to share their work openly.

• Volunteer as a reviewer or editor for an open-access journal.

• Celebrate Open Access Week with us, Oct. 24-28, with events running into November (


What can Pitt libraries do for you? We can:

• Find the best journal in which to publish your research, including in an open-access journal.

• Consult on copyright, fair use and other intellectual property questions.

• Explain other benefits of open access, including broader and faster worldwide exposure for your work and, as some studies suggest, an increase in citations.

• Discuss converting your for-profit journal to open access. ULS libraries host an open-access journal publishing program and support the conversion of peer-reviewed journals from for-profit publishers.


Pitt strives to improve the world through knowledge. Open access aims to make research more widely available and more easily reusable. It’s a natural partnership.

Jeff Wisniewski is web services and communications librarian for the University Library System.

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