It’s one thing to say you support open-access publishing. It’s another to provide authors with a pot of money to actually pay for it. That’s what’s happening at the University of California Berkeley. In January, the university launched the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative, a pilot program co-sponsored by the University Librarian and the Vice Chancellor for Research to cover publication charges for open-access journals.
(From SPARC enews, May 2008)
This article is the first in a series SPARC will offer to highlight change on our member campuses. If you're a SPARC member and have a program to be highlighted here, or would like to recommend a program on another campus, please contact Jennifer McLennan through jennifer [at] arl [dot] org.
It’s one thing to say you support open-access publishing. It’s another to provide authors with a pot of money to actually pay for it.
That’s what’s happening at the University of California Berkeley. In January, the university launched the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative, a pilot program co-sponsored by the University Librarian and the Vice Chancellor for Research to cover publication charges for open-access journals.
Faculty, post-doc and graduate students can apply for up to $3,000 to cover the cost of publishing an article in an open-access publication. The fund also gives up to $1,500 for the cost of so-called hybrid publications’ paid access fees, where information is freely available but the journal limits the right to redistribute. The pilot program will last 18 months or until the initial $125,000 fund runs out. The hope – and challenge – is to find a permanent funding source.
The idea behind the fund
“As a library community, if we really wanted to change behavior of faculty about where they published, we needed to put our money where our mouth was – not only talking about open access, but help them do it,” says Beth Weil, a champion of the initiative and head of the bioscience and natural resources library at Berkeley. In talking with faculty, she became aware of a wide disparity in funding and saw a need to provide financial assistance to pay for open-access fees.
The academic publishing world is rapidly changing and it was important for the campus to experiment with different models, says Tom Leonard, university librarian at Berkeley and professor in the graduate school of journalism. On the Berkeley campus, there is a rebellion in the ranks from scientists who don’t think the community needs to bear these high publishing costs.
“When we move ahead in scholarly communication, we’ve got to approach it with an open mind,” says Leonard. “You can’t assume just because there has been one way of doing this that dominates – it doesn’t mean it will last.”
Two other U.S. universities have also established funds to pay for open-access research
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has an annual commitment of $10,000 and funds maximum awards of $1,000 per article. (To read more about its Open Access Authors’ Fund established in 2005, click here) At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, $50,000 in seed money from the library’s gift fund is available to help authors pay for open-access journal fees. (For information about its program through the Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing, click here). Overseas, the University of Nottingham and the University of Amsterdam provide funds for open-access publication.
Berkeley’s initiative attempts to cover closer to full reimbursement for open-access publishing and partial coverage for options in hybrid journals.
“What Berkeley is doing is a huge boon and boost for the momentum in the open-access movement,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC. “Whether you are a supporter or skeptic, how to make Open Access sustainable has always been talked about in multiple ways. It’s really exciting to have a concrete example. The university is lending credence to the idea that dissemination is part and parcel of research.
Setting it up
About a year ago, Berkeley formed a working group that met monthly to explore setting up a fund for open-access fees. The group didn’t want to push its own agenda, so it spent a lot of time “shopping the idea around” to the faculty, including scientists who would be enthusiastic and others who were skeptics, says Leonard.
“Feedback and really listening to faculty” made the initiative stronger in the end, says Chuck Eckman, associate university librarian for collections at Berkeley. For instance, there was a concern that it not appear as if the university was only endorsing one mode of publishing. As a result, the working group was careful in its language to say that the initiative was developed in response to emerging trends in publishing. The emphasis was on providing a source of options, rather than saying faculty should choose open access, says Eckman.
Getting the support from the research office early in the process was pivotal, says Eckman. It was a natural partnership, as the library and the research office have a shared interest in promoting the wide dissemination of research. The pilot initiative was launched with one-time funds of $100,000 from the library collections budget and $25,000 from the Office of Research.
As a public institution, Berkeley is committed to maximizing the impact of the research of its faculty for the benefit of society, says Beth Burnside, vice chancellor for research at Berkeley. Open dissemination of research results is consistent with this commitment. “With this program we hope to mitigate the financial costs to faculty for making their publications available to the public immediately upon publication while still permitting them to publish in the most competitive journals,” says Burnside.
Burnside says she hopes the initiative sends a message to campus that the administration supports faculty efforts to make their research findings maximally and freely available to the public. As for funding? “We hope that the program can continue. As you know, we are facing significant budget cuts so it is difficult to predict whether we can continue the funding indefinitely,” she says.
How it works
At Berkeley, the library will administer reimbursement fees. Authors can request funding for an article before it has been accepted or immediately upon acceptance. The money will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The greatest opportunities for open-access publishing will likely be in the biological and physical sciences, but researchers in the social sciences and humanities are free to apply as well, says Weil.
So far, the architects of the initiative are pleased with the early response. Four researchers applied for funding within the first month and several others have inquired. “People hear about it and say, ‘Wow, that’s great. I can’t believe we’re doing this.’ We hope it lasts,” says Eckman.
Patrick O’Grady, assistant professor in environmental sciences, policy and management, heard about the initiative through an email from the library. He had an article ready for submission and filled out a simple application online for $1,500 to cover the cost of public access in Zootaxa, an international journal for animal taxonomists. Within a day, he had word it was funded.
O’Grady says he chose the journal with the public access option because he was anxious to have his research available to other scientists. “I am a big supporter of Open Access. I think it’s good to have publications more available and, if they are more accessible, hopefully cited more,” he says.
While faculty members are responding, it’s still a challenge to spread the word. Having a dialogue with the campus community before the project was launched helped create some “buzz” about the initiative, says Eckman. Still, academics are so busy and entrenched in their work that it’s difficult to get their attention – even with free money. The first push was to get information out to deans and department chairs to forward to faculty. Next, to spark a second round of interest, librarian liaisons with each department will send notices letting faculty and graduate students know about the fund.
Keeping it going
This initiative truly is an experiment. “Nobody has an explanation of how this will work permanently,” says Leonard. “That is the challenge.”
The project will be a success if it generates interest that is broad and sustained, says Eckman. “Ideally, we’d like to see the program support junior, mid-career and senior level endorsement,” he says. By getting stakeholders invested in the initiative, Eckman says he hopes Berkeley is building a case for why this should be permanently funded.
Weil adds that the goal of the initiative is two-fold: To make Berkeley research free and have a greater impact. Secondly, to change the behavior of faculty to embrace Open Access and start to write it the fees into their grant processes.
Leonard underscores that the traditional way of sharing research is no longer sufficient. And, if you are a scholar, it is a natural feature of human nature to want to let everyone know about your discoveries. “Nobody is trying to hide their light under a bushel,” he says. The push for Open Access is to encourage new avenues of disseminating information quickly and broadly to advance knowledge.
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UNC-Chapel Hill established groundbreaking fund
In March of 2005, UNC-Chapel Hill launched a program to help faculty pay for publishing in open access journals. University Librarian Sarah Michalak and Health Sciences Library Director Carol Jenkins introduced the concept and secured the funding through Vice Chancellor Tony Waldrop.
The Open Access Fund began with $7,500 and individual requests were capped at $750 each. The idea was to fund about 10 articles and $750 was about half the author charge for a PLoS journal, since the university had an institutional membership. The next year, the limit was raised to $1,500. To date, 14 awards have been given out to faculty totaling $10,670.
“When we started in 2005, we wanted to make a statement to our faculty that the campus was interested in removing barriers to Open Access,” says Jenkins. In the beginning, not knowing if they’d be opening the floodgates, the library required that the first author be a faculty member. When there wasn’t an overwhelming response, it relaxed the criteria and only required faculty be one of the authors. The fund will cover Open Access and hybrid journals that allow public access options.
Jenkins has promoted the fund informally among colleagues. She anticipates more faculty will be turning to the fund, especially in light of the new NIH mandate regarding Open Access. “Slowly, but surely, word is getting out to faculty,” says Jenkins. “I think the argument for choosing open-access journals will become a compelling one for more and more, so it will be natural to get more requests.”
Jenkins says Open Access is in the best interest of furthering research. “There is a growing, critical mass of articles in open access journals. Maybe now is the time that is is really seen as a viable alternative on the part of authors,” she says.
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University of Wisconsin-Madison offers authors half of OA fees
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, if you want to publish something in an open-access journal you can ask for up to half of the fee to be reimbursed through the university library.
The Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing on campus set aside $50,000 in gift money through the library to support authors choosing open-access journals. Since the fund was established in 2006, about 15 authors have submitted requests and received awards of $250 to $1,500 each.
Response to the program has been slower than expected, but submissions are growing, says Edward Van Gemert, deputy director of the library at Madison. “The responses we’ve had have been overwhelmingly supportive,” he says. “Faculty really appreciate that the library is paying for a portion of the fees.”
Those who have taken advantage of the funds are primarily from the medical sciences. Awards have been given to faculty in biochemistry, physics, biotechnology and engineering, among others, says Van Gemert. While the library has not received requests from graduate or post-doc student, it would consider funding regardless of academic status, he says. The fund would also cover the so-called hybrid journals with public access options.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long history of actively supporting Open Access. In 2005, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution to persuade faculty to consider and support alternative forms of scholarly and scientific communication.
Van Gemert says the new NIH mandate is an opportunity to engage with the faculty and talk about Open Access. “I think the future for Open Access is bright,” he says. “I can really see changes in scholarly communication and dissemination. We are talking more and more about different models…I think the discussion is really growing.”
Written for SPARC by Caralee Adams.