Public access to information is at the heart of a new policy at Arizona State University, the ASU Open Access Policy, which was passed by the University Senate and approved May 3 by University Provost Mark Searle.
The new policy, developed by the University Senate Open Access Task Force, aims to make it easier for ASU faculty and researchers to make their scholarly work more widely available and with fewer restrictions, and is in line with the university’s charter.
Open access refers to peer-reviewed research that is made accessible to the public at no cost to the user — eliminating traditional copyright restrictions that many argue impede knowledge dissemination.
“ASU is committed to a fundamental principle of accessibility,” the motion statement reads. “This principle of accessibility includes open access to the knowledge generated and created by faculty members here at the university. Open Access to the scholarly works produced by ASU faculty members will allow individuals in Arizona, in the United States, and internationally to read journal articles freely and without the need for subscriptions or payment, thus disseminating this knowledge well beyond the typical audience.”
The need for open access
More than 70 universities in the United States, including Harvard, Duke and the University of California system, have adopted open access policies, part of a growing movement that is rapidly transforming the traditional model of scholarly publishing.
Many argue that making scientific data open and accessible carries major benefits for researchers and the public worldwide.
Just last year, ASU scientists were able to demonstrate how to quickly, cheaply and accurately diagnose the Zika virus in remote locations around the world through their research that was made available free online.
Open access articles are also read and cited at a higher rate than those published in traditional journals charging an access or subscription fee.
“One of the reasons we have open access policies is that it’s now a required condition of funding,” said Anali Perry, the scholarly communication librarian at ASU Library. “Many funding organizations — the NIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — now mandate open access for research they are supporting. In other words, they want the results of the research they’re funding to be openly available to anyone in the world.”
Perry says open access makes sense for everyone, but particularly for ASU.
“With our focus on access, impact and social justice, this policy really reflects our ASU values and is one way of advancing our philanthropic goals and demonstrating return on investment,” Perry said. “The latest health research coming out of ASU could very well help a doctor in Cambodia, who might not be able to pay $50 per article to make a better medical decision for a patient.”
How the policy works
The open access policy at ASU is like no other — what Perry describes as a “hybrid policy.”
This means that while all ASU faculty and researchers are supported by the policy and encouraged to make their work openly accessible, they have the right to choose to comply with the policy if open access is not a condition of funding.
“If you are funded by an agency that has an open access requirement, like the NIH, you are automatically covered by this policy, meaning you immediately grant ASU permission to make the research publicly available in the appropriate repository, such as PubMed Central, as well as the ASU Digital Repository,” Perry said. “If you’re not required by a funding organization to make your work available, then you have the option to grant this open access license to ASU on a case-by-case basis.”
Perry said the new ASU policy gives faculty the right to archive, at the very least, the final accepted manuscript of their journal articles in the ASU Digital Repository, the online platform managed by ASU Library to archive and share the university’s scholarship.
“The University Senate is proud to support open access as part of ASU’s fundamental commitment to the discovery and application of new knowledge to local, regional, national and global concerns,” said Arnold Maltz, an associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, who is the incoming University Senate president. “Our members look forward to taking advantage of this policy to continue to make a positive difference in communities throughout the world.”
Where to get help
ASU Library will be working with Knowledge Enterprise Development and the Office of the Provost to help streamline processes in an effort to make open access an easy and attractive option for ASU researchers.
“At the library, we can work with faculty to help them identify what publishers make complying with open access policies easy and painless, and help them understand their publication agreements and self-archiving rights and options,” Perry said. “We can help faculty archive their work and ensure compliance with both the ASU policy and their funding agency requirements.”