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Library dean advocates for open science research

Tyler Walters
Tyler Walters, dean of University Libraries, is establishing himself as a national expert on open access research.

The leader of Virginia Tech’s library is at the forefront of national conversations to make research funded by the federal government freely accessible to all.

Tyler Walters, dean of Virginia Tech Libraries, shared his perspective and experiences with open access scientific research last month at an Open Science Symposium, held by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Board on Research Data and Innovation, part of the National Academies, led the Washington, D.C., event to gather input for a study that it is conducting about broadening public access to the results of scientific research.

The board hopes to give specific policy and practice options to federal science agencies as they move toward open science as a default for releasing research. It expects to issue a final report next year, said George Strawn, who directs the board.

The National Academies provide objective reports and advice on science, health, and engineering topics, and its members include physicians, researchers, engineers, and scientists.

“For centuries, the printing press has been the technological enabler of open science articles, communicating science results,” Strawn said. “Now networked computers can become the technological enabler of an expanded suite of communicated science outputs, such as articles, data, software, work flow, etc. There are many dimensions to this transition requiring careful study.”

Walters was one of two academic library professionals invited to share at the Sept. 18 symposium, alongside publishers, journal editors, private foundations, federal agencies, and others.

Walters is a known library leader, said Strawn.

“The academic library community has always played a major role in science communication and can be expected to continue to play a major role as this technological transition occurs,” he said.

Walters’ appearance comes at the same time that University Libraries is beginning work with Ubiquity Press, a publishing services company and advocate of open access research. With Ubiquity, University Libraries will have a new web platform for publishing Virginia Tech research.

It also will have the capacity to publish scholarly research in a variety of formats, alongside VTechWorks and VTechData, which hold university researchers’ scholarship and research data.

During his presentation, Walters discussed the kinds of investments needed to make open research happen. They include cyber infrastructure, digital research consulting, and targeted education for university faculty and others. He also said that researchers and their institutions need to meet federal policies that require that results and certain materials, such as data sets, software tools, and reports, are available with the respective research.

“You truly need access to the data behind the research,” Walters said.

Virginia Tech is proud to have respected experts like Walters represent the university and help to expand opportunities and resources for the entire campus community, said Virginia Tech Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis.

“Under Tyler’s leadership, we are working to provide more open access to scholarly publications and resources which will help us to better prepare and position our students and faculty to become global leaders in their respective fields of study,” Rikakis said.

Walters, who has a doctorate in managerial leadership in information professions from Simmons College, previously directed SHARE, a higher education initiative that is developing services to gather and freely share research and scholarly activities across their life cycles.

Walters also serves on the steering committee for the International Conference on Open Repositories and on the editorial board of the International Journal of Digital Curation. He has published more than 25 articles in academic journals.

He has a bachelor’s degree in history from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree in history and archives from North Carolina State University, and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Arizona.

Ultimately, Walters said, making research open to the public benefits everyone.

“It’s about greater impact,” he said.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone