Mason Celebrates International Open Access Week with Panel Discussion

Posted: October 18, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: October 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

By Claudia Holland, head of the Copyright Resources Office and chair of the Scholarly Communications Team

Take a break on Wednesday, Oct. 20, to learn about “open access to research,” a movement gaining momentum throughout the world.

A panel will discuss open access (OA) issues at 1:30 p.m. in the Edwin Meese III Conference Room in Mason Hall on the Fairfax Campus. Hosted by University Libraries Scholarly Communications Team, this event highlights International Open Access Week at Mason.

What is “open access,” you might ask? The phrase has become a 21st century mantra for many teachers, researchers, librarians and students who use and produce research.

Essentially, if a researcher deposits her publications in a digital repository, such as the Mason Archival Repository Service, or publishes in an online, open-access journal, that scholarship is available to users to download, remix, repurpose and redistribute, at no cost to the user. This is open access.

The only requirements — and these may be obstacles, for some — are access to electricity, a computer and an Internet connection.

This unrestricted sharing of research and data makes it possible for rapid application of new medical findings, collaborations crossing institutional and geographic boundaries and broader educational opportunities.

Mason’s panel will feature Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information and a noted scholar and activist in the OA arena.

He states, “To me, open access is a fundamental approach to advancing scholarship and accelerating discovery, and ensuring knowledge is shared, transmitted and reused as a foundation for new knowledge. It shapes the ways in which we should approach the ongoing creation and stewardship of cultural memory and the intellectual record.”

Lynch will lead the discussion with comments on higher education OA policies, faculty publishing choices, open courseware and access to digitized library collections, among other topics.

Four distinguished Mason faculty members round out the panel. They will share their experiences with OA publishing, discussing some advantages and challenges of open access versus traditional publishing.

The panelists and a taste of their opinions on OA follow.

  • Edward Maibach, Communication, says, “Publishing in open access journals is a great way to enhance the impact of your scholarship.”
  • Tom Scheinfeldt, Center for History and New Media and History and Art History, says, “Our salaries are paid by the state. Our research is funded by tax payers. Our work is reviewed by volunteers. The costs of online distribution are essentially zero. What in this equation suggests we should be charging our students, colleagues and fellow citizens for access?”
  • Donald Seto, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, says, “Open access is an interesting concept with ramifications perhaps unanticipated. While readers and researchers can access the information freely, the burden of $1,600 or more, even with discounts, for publishing a single manuscript — one that impacts “promotion and tenure” among other things — frequently falls to the researcher. Not all, especially university faculty, are well funded and therefore are not able to publish in these journals — setting up a gap.”
  • Monique van Hoek, Molecular and Microbiology, says, “Open access is about increasing the spread of ideas around the globe, distributing our scientific and academic findings for the good and the use of all people.”

Join us on Wednesday for what promises to be a spirited and probably controversial discussion!

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