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KU Libraries at center of new scholarly publishing paradigm

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The role that the dean of libraries plays in providing open access to research conducted at the University of Kansas has recently been expanded by KU’s faculty senate. The recent senate open access policy will make many of the peer-reviewed journal articles written by KU faculty freely available to a worldwide audience.

In the policy implementation document endorsed by the senate and approved by the provost, the dean of libraries was named the “provost’s designate,” responsible for implementing the open access policy at KU. In an earlier version, the policy stated only that faculty should make their research available via KU ScholarWorks, KU’s web-based open access digital repository.

The expanded role means that KU Libraries will offer full service assistance to faculty from the  moment the article is accepted until it is uploaded into KU ScholarWorks, the final step in the process for faculty. “We will support KU researchers throughout the research and publication process,” said KU Libraries Dean Lorraine Haricombe. “And when faculty members participate in this fully, citizens of Kansas will have access to those scholarly materials created here,” Haricombe said.

“It’s a natural fit,” said Haricombe of the decision. “We have the staff, the space, and a commitment to public access to scholarship created at KU for a long time now.” Former KU provost David Shulenberger was an early proponent of open access, and KU ScholarWorks has been in operation since 2005. When KU faculty passed the open access policy in April 2009, it was the first public university in the United States to have a university-wide policy in place.

That assistance starts as soon as a faculty member’s paper is accepted for publication. “Once the paper is accepted, we can work with faculty to help them retain their rights,” Haricombe said.

Publishing contracts for research journals vary, and not all publishers allow authors to retain the right to disseminate their work openly through open web sites like KU ScholarWorks. When authors are unable to retain their rights, they lose the right to republish that work in an open access repository, or even as a chapter in a book. Staff at KU Libraries can help researchers review their publication agreements and negotiate to keep the appropriate rights.

For some publically funded researchers, keeping those rights and making research openly available has moved from a priority to a necessity, as more grants require that the resulting research be made freely accessible to the public. The National Institutes of Health have established a public access policy, and the National Science Foundation may soon follow suit. On a nation level, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is currently under consideration in both the U.S. House and Senate. Passage of FRPAA would require even more researchers to make their research freely available.

Market forces also increasingly come into play. Annual subscription rate increases far above inflation are the norm, and triple-digit increases are not unheard of. The University of California system, for example, is waging a very public battle with one scholarly publisher against rising subscription costs. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, UC’s California Digital Library told faculty that the Nature Group Journals had asked for a 400 percent increase in the cost of their journals next year, and proposed a boycott of the journals and other measures, if necessary, to rein in subscription rates.

KU Libraries currently spends about $4 million on subscriptions annually and journal costs continue to rise an estimated 5-8% annually, or more, depending on the academic discipline.

Soaring subscription rates mean that academic libraries are increasingly priced out of the journals that publish work done at their own research institutions. Open access policies like the one at KU provide complementary access to the scholarship authored at KU, and make that scholarship available to everyone, not just on-campus users.

For more information, contact Rebecca Smith at (785) 864-1761 or via email at

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