Create Change

Shouldn't the way we share research be as advanced as the Internet?

Cases in Point

Expanding access

Journal articles, once available only to subscribers and “authorized users,” increasingly are becoming freely available on the web.

Sometimes they are in open digital archives organized around disciplines or subjects:

  • arXiv.org — the groundbreaking e-print server for the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, and quantitative biology — brought the tradition of circulating article pre-prints for comment into the online environment. It now also offers access to the final manuscripts.

  • PubMed Central, the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences literature, provides published texts of journal articles contributed by publishers, plus final peer-reviewed manuscripts of articles deposited by NIH-funded investigators.

Similarly, many digital archives bring together the intellectual capital of institutions. In addition to journal articles (as pre-prints or after undergoing peer review), these “institutional repositories” often contain digital versions of theses and dissertations, working papers, and other digital items generated by any academic institution, such as administrative documents, course notes, or learning materials.

  • DSpace at MIT, the University of California’s eScholarship repository, and T-Space at the University of Toronto are three of the hundreds of institutional repositories that have been developed in recent years by universities and colleges around the world.

Search engines including Google Scholar, Windows Live Academic, and CiteSeer enable searching of content across many digital archives. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (Open DOAR) allows users to identify open archives — institutional or disciplinary — at any institution. Depositing your work in an open archive maximizes its availability, use, and citation potential.

Open-access journals are another option to extend the availability of your work. These are bringing down barriers to research access and exploring new business models that recover publishing costs through alternatives to subscription or other fees to view articles. Models differ from field to field and journal to journal, but often they rely on publication fees paid from grant funds, advertising revenue, membership fees, institutional cost subvention, or other sustainability strategies.

  • The Public Library of Science journals, PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine, are perhaps the best-known open access journals, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Thousands of open access journals spanning the sciences, social sciences, and humanities are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.