Access matters: A changing landscape in sharing research for public good
April 24, 2019
Tyler Walters, dean of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, advocates for access to scholarly work. He has a history of leadership in the area of making knowledge publicly available.
He served as founding director of SHARE, a higher education initiative developing services to gather and freely share research and scholarly activities. He is a member of the Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities public access working group. He also serves as President of the Board of Directors, DuraSpace, a not-for-profit organization providing leadership and innovation for open technologies that promote durable, persistent access to digital data.
He joins deans and directors of research libraries across Virginia in reevaluating the current scholarly publishing model and advocating for greater access to research.
“In order to serve society, universities should strive to make research available to any global citizen with access to the Internet. Universities create and disseminate knowledge to fuel even more discovery,” said Walters. “There is no better way to do this than to make our research available to all who need it - freely and openly.”
According to Walters, much of the research conducted at public universities and published in expensive subscription-based scholarly journals is funded by tax dollars — faculty salaries and federally funded grants. Research is produced for the public good, but it is not always available to the general public who paid for it. This is where open access or public access to research is changing the traditional landscape of publishing research.
“Throughout the country, universities are saying ‘no’ to big publisher contracts because of the exorbitant cost of these multi-million dollar contracts,” said Walters. “If public universities continue to say ‘no, we don’t agree with unilateral terms,’ we are laying the groundwork for a more effective and inclusive way to broadly share our important research.”
According to the Directory of Open Access Journals, more than 13,000 open journals are published today.
“With more people able to access research, the greater impact research has on advancing knowledge and improving lives,” said Walters.
Scholars looking for collaborators may not have access to subscription-based journals. This challenges the international reach of research. “Researchers look for collaborators for future research. Openly published research is cited up to 20 percent more than research behind publisher paywalls. If research is disseminated more publicly, researchers have more opportunity to collaborate to advance discovery.”
The number of public access policies is increasing and this model is well established. Private funders such as the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust and 17 U.S. federal agencies require research they fund to be made public.
More than 50 U.S. universities have adopted open access policies by faculty vote, and the university’s research is made available through its institutional repository.
“The shift to making scholarly research and data available to the public is happening,” said Walters. “We need to make sure that our efforts help propel this movement forward and ensure that Virginia Tech research is broadly available to benefit society in a meaningful way.”