Many of us are familiar with the following experience: we’re at home, doing a literature search for our latest article or trying to incorporate a specific source recommended by a reviewer. Maybe we started at the library’s databases, but even librarians have been known to start with Google. So we use Google or maybe even Google Scholar to pull up the citation or find an article that seems perfect. We click on the link for the PDF, but the website asks us to enter our credit card information to access the article. At this point, many of us might head to Interlibrary Loan or contact our subject librarian—we need this article! Some of us, and certainly a number of our students, may convince ourselves that the article wasn’t so perfect after all and move on to find another article that’s more readily available to us. This is frustrating for us as researchers, but what about for us as authors? Do we want potential readers to be turned away from our work? Or do we want to disseminate our work broadly?
Open Access (OA) can help address this problem by removing barriers to accessing and using research. In addition to removing paywalls, OA also involves removing many copyright and license restrictions that allow other researchers to use this work more easily, for instance, by translating the research into another language or incorporating others’ research into big data projects without having to seek individual permissions. OA does not promote plagiarism; researchers are still expected to acknowledge their sources. It simply removes the guess work out of the permissions process.
There are two main ways to engage in open access as a researcher and author. One option is to publish in OA journals. This can be tricky, though, because not every OA journal is legitimate, an issue that also exists in traditional publishing, but which has been exacerbated by the proliferation of online publishing. Also, many faculty are expected to publish in a handful of prestigious, top-tier journals in order to demonstrate a national reputation and achieve promotion and tenure. For these researchers, another option is available: green open access. In this model, faculty submit their manuscripts to traditional journal publishers, but rather than sign the default copyright transfer agreement, they negotiate to keep certain rights to their work. This allows authors to submit a version of their peer-reviewed article to an open access repository, such as PubMed or Auburn University’s own repository, AUrora.
AUrora, which stands for Auburn University Repository of Research Assets, was created in 2013 and is available to all Auburn University faculty and researchers. AUrora accepts submissions of material such as peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, conference papers, poster presentations, and supplemental materials. Authors who submit items to AUrora should be sure that they want the work to be freely and permanently available to others—so a research paper that shares information on top-secret technology might not be a good candidate for inclusion. Also, before submitting to AUrora, authors must ensure they have the right to redistribute their work by reviewing their publication agreement. Many publishers have begun including provisions in their copyright transfer agreements that allow authors to re-use their work in various ways. The Libraries’ scholarly communication librarian, Jaena Alabi, as well as your subject specialist librarian, are available to assist you in determining which rights you may have retained to your work.
The benefit of submitting research to AUrora is that it becomes more readily searched, found, and accessed via Google and Google Scholar. This increase in the visibility of one’s research can lead to an increase in citations. If this appeal to self-interest isn’t compelling enough, AUrora can also help researchers fulfill the land-grant mission of the university by making their work available to the people of Alabama and beyond. By participating in the Open Access movement, Auburn researchers and scholars can help re-shape the current system of scholarly communication.
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By Jaena Alabi