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How can researchers enable inclusion?

Inclusion is at the heart of Arizona State University’s mission as a public research university deeply committed to an open, adaptive and accessible education, and research that is use-inspired and applicable to the world’s challenges.

Championing these values, Open Access Week is an annual global event that aims to make scholarship open and accessible to all.

Anali Perry, the Scholarly Communications Librarian at ASU Library, specializes in open access as a practice guiding the university’s scholarly output. Here, she discusses its significance.

What are some of the barriers open access faces in reaching the community?

One major barrier is that most research results, like journal articles or monographs, are not available in an open access format. This isn’t only true of ASU - most research institutions struggle to manage the copyright, collection, and description complications that arise from trying to provide open access in a comprehensive way to the research produced at their institution. It’s a struggle because authors do not always retain the copyright to their work when they sign a publishing agreement and they are most likely restricted from posting the final published version in an open access repository, which makes it more difficult for a systematic collection of published research by the library, for example. This places a greater burden on authors to voluntarily provide the appropriate version of their publications, or to ensure they retain the rights they need when they sign publishing agreements. I want to clarify, though, that currently existing publishing models contribute to these complications. The publishing industry is highly profitable, so they are very invested in maintaining the status quo.

For Open Access Week, we’re hosting a screening and discussion of a new documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, as a way to engage in conversation about the publishing industry and how it helps, or harms, access to scholarship. The ASU community can also join us for coffee and conversation exploring different scholar expectations, perceptions and practices for sharing scholarship around the world. 

What responsibilities does ASU have to the community to ensure that open access not only exists, but is also readily available?

Providing open access to scholarship is perfectly aligned with ASU’s charter, defining what we do by who we include and how they succeed. Open access enables that inclusive mission by allowing anyone, whether in Mesa, Arizona or in Macedonia, to read and learn from the amazing work done by the ASU community. Most people in the world don’t have easy access to journals unless they are affiliated with a university. This means that policy-makers, doctors, teachers and many others, make decisions based on knowledge that is available, not necessarily the best, most recent, or most innovative information. It also means that we are missing out on hearing from voices around the world who may be blocked from participating in the scholarly conversation through lack of funds, institutional support or governmental intervention. We don’t have to look far to find examples of people who lack access to current scholarship – ask Arizona’s elementary school teachers, ask your doctor, or think of our native nations who may not even have reliable internet connections.

Our responsibility is to consider who we are excluding when we make decisions on where to publish our work, who we are trying to reach, and how that knowledge can be used.

How can ASU ensure that open access to research is able to serve the most people in the community?

ASU made a great first step last year by passing an Open Access Policy, encouraging faculty to make their work openly available. We can continue on this path by finding mechanisms to easily collect and share our scholarship, and provide easy access to the community. We already have a statewide portal at ResearchAZ.org, but we need to be able to work with staff and faculty at ASU in order to get the scholarship in there!

ASU student Dava Newell contributed to this story.