From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Open Access and the new institutional repository

This spring, CUNY announced the opening of an open-access institutional repository to serve the self-archiving needs of University faculty. This new project provides a web platform where faculty can post, and the public can read, free of charge, works and dissertations authored by CUNY faculty and graduate students. The CUNY Office of Library Services has hired Scholarly Communications Librarian Megan Wacha to steer the repository development. John Jay College faculty interested in making use of the repository are encouraged to contact Megan directly or Ellen Sexton. Appropriate content would include conference proceedings, published journal articles (copyright permitting; see below), reports, etc. As the project develops, we will be drawing up formal guidelines; for now, we encourage interested faculty to visit the site, send us an email, and/or submit material directly through the author corner of CUNY Academic Works.

The Graduate Center opened its own institutional repository a year ago. It hosts a series of technical reports from their computer science program, faculty authored articles and conference proceedings, and CUNY doctoral dissertations from 1965 to the present. The older doctoral dissertations were digitized by Proquest, with the resulting files loaded into Academic Works and enriched with metadata. Access to the older dissertations is currently restricted to users at the Graduate Center. When/if the authors grant permission, access to the full text will be made available to the broader public. The Graduate Center repository is moving its content over, to be the first CUNY college to populate the new Academic Works. It will continue as one instance of the new CUNY wide project, to be joined by John Jay and other CUNY colleges.

The software for our institutional repository is called Digital Commons, from the Bepress company. This platform is currently used by over 150 institutions, including many law schools, to house institutional repositories and open access journals. Search engine optimization is actively pursued by Bepress, ensuring content is discoverable. Another nice feature is that users can search across all 150 repositories. Most file types may be posted on Academic Works, including conventional data file formats. (See an example of a submission.)

Many grants now come with a requirement that resulting peer-reviewed published articles be made freely available to the public; CUNY Academic Works will help CUNY authors do so easily. If the author-publisher contractual agreement permits, we may be able to post the publisher’s final PDF immediately, or the publisher may stipulate an embargo period of some months or years. Some publishers permit the final post-refereeing draft to be posted; others permit only a pre-refereeing print. Details of each journal’s self-archiving policies may be found on the SHERPA-RoMEO site maintained by the University of Nottingham.

The majority of peer-reviewed published articles are currently locked behind pay walls. Open Access advocates seek to remove financial and technical restrictions on research dissemination. The library alliance SPARC defines open access as “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.” Public and private grant funding organizations are increasingly embracing open access policies. Before the World Wide Web, research reports from Federal agencies were made available to the public in free government depository libraries, such as the one at City College. The challenge since has been to extend that openness to the online environment. The National Institutes of Health requires its funded researchers to deposit final, peer-reviewed manuscripts in the PubMed Central repository. The National Science Foundation and Department of Energy mandate depositing in the online DOE PAGES repository. In February 2013 a White House memo directed the heads of each federal agency to come up with a plan to provide online public access to federally funded research; this may lead to the development of other agency-specific repositories (this March the HHS released a report detailing its plans). The NIJ have been posting sponsored research reports on its website for years. Private organizations are also influencing open-access: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation requires authors to deposit funded works in any appropriate open access repository.

Open-access policies at journals vary tremendously. Some journals have gone fully open-access for readers; author fees are common. For example, Elsevier has many open access titles, mostly biomedical, funded by author fees. Journal publishing is evolving, with some very interesting innovations being explored. In January Elsevier announced a new open-access publishing project: a non-discipline restricted open access peer reviewed journal funded by author fees, to be called Heliyon, closely integrated with its SCOPUS discovery tool and the Mendeley bibliographic management and networking platform. Another wide-scope online journal, Nature Communications announced it would become completely open access by 2016, with its access-by-subscription model replaced by funding from author fees.

Clearly authors have options for fulfilling open access mandates from funders, and satisfying their own personal goals of maximizing the reach and impact of their research. We suggest the CUNY Academic Repository is an excellent choice in this regard. We hope the CUNY Academic Works becomes a stable, long-lasting show-case for CUNY faculty and graduate student achievements, and a reliable tool for disseminating current research directly to the public.

Ellen Sexton

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