KNOXVILLE – A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor is weighing in on the national debate about increasing access to scholarly publishing.
Professor Carol Tenopir is serving on the U.S. Congressional roundtable to study how the results of federally funded research can be more widely disseminated.
Tenopir is a professor of information sciences and the director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is a Chancellor’s Professor, the highest lifetime honor accorded to UT faculty members who have extraordinary, nationally or internationally recognized scholarly achievements as well as records of excellence in teaching and service.
The House Committee on Science and Technology (HCST) Scholarly Publishing Roundtable, established by the U.S. House of Representatives, has been charged with developing a compromise to the long-running debate about whether there should be free and open access to published scientific journal articles resulting from federally funded research.
The publishers of scholarly journals — a growing number of which are online — typically recover their costs by charging fees to users, such as libraries.
Traditionally, subscribing institutions have paid for access to e-journals while authors publish at little or no cost.
“In the last decade this traditional payment scheme has been challenged for several reasons,” Tenopir said. Those reasons include increasing subscription prices combined with an increasing number of journals; budget pressures in universities; and e-access capabilities that make it easy and quick to find articles via the Internet.
Other models of paying for publishing costs have emerged, Tenopir said. The most notable, perhaps, is “author-pays open access,” where an author or an author’s institution or grant pays for publishing an article and then readers and their institutions get access without further payment. Open access is either immediate or after an embargo period, usually six to 12 months. In other cases, publishing costs are subsidized by organizations or agencies.
“There is a growing call in the U.S. and other countries for the results of publicly funded research to be made available in open access either with or without an embargo,” Tenopir said.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that many publishers allow the author’s final version of a manuscript — not the final published version — to be made available in open access on the author’s Web site or in an institutional or subject e-article repository, she said. “And this has led to a multitude of versions of the same article found during a Web search.”
In its charge to the roundtable, House officials noted that there is a “prevailing public belief that all Web-based content should be available for free.
“Given the importance of peer review, scholarly publication and long-term data preservation and archiving to the scientific enterprise, it is in the interest of all parties to reach consensus on a path forward for scientific communication,” they said.
Roundtable members include university administrators, librarians, commercial publishers, scholarly society publishers and researchers. The group is to outline the roles that should be played by the federal government, libraries, institutional repositories and the scholarly publishers.
The goal, Tenopir said, is “to find a solution that will further access to
government-funded scholarly articles without dictating one particular economic model or one single legislated embargo period.
“We started our discussions this summer and have continued to work together discussing many difficult issues, all keeping open minds to hear all points of view,” Tenopir said. “A white paper, including a recommendation, will be issued soon.”
Serving on the roundtable with Tenopir are: David Campbell, provost, Boston University; Y.S. Chi, vice chairman and managing director of global academic and customer relations, Elsevier; Paul Courant, university librarian and dean of libraries, University of Michigan; Philip Davis, doctoral student in scientific publishing and former librarian, Cornell University; Fred Dylla, executive director and CEO, American Institute of Physics; Donald W. King, distinguished research professor, University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science; Richard McCarty, provost, Vanderbilt University; James O’Donnell, provost, Georgetown University; Ann Okerson, associate university librarian, Yale University; Mark Patterson, director of publishing, Public Library of Science (PLoS); Scott Plutchak, director of the Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences, University of Alabama, Birmingham; Crispin Taylor, executive director, American Society of Plant Biologists; and John Vaughn, executive vice president, Association of American Universities.
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