Open Access is Essential for a Well-Informed Society

Open Access Week 2016 is underway, and we at the University of Houston Libraries are joining in on the advancement of open access research.

Open Access Week 2016
Open Access Week 2016

The topic of open access holds personal significance for me. My brother had cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant in 2010. When he was trying to do research about the surgery, it was difficult for him and his wife to gain access to information, as they were not affiliated with a university. They either had to go through interlibrary loan or through me, a librarian who could help them navigate the information-gathering process.

One of the things this experience taught me was just how difficult it is for people to get access to information that originates from federally funded research. I was thrilled that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has mandated that researchers who are receiving federal funding must deposit material, the output of the funding, into PubMed. Information should not just be accessible to those of us who are fortunate to work at universities; it should be open to all taxpayers. Scholars absolutely should be compensated for their works, and should be free to share their research widely. It is very important for us all to be informed citizens, and if the research is accessible, we can achieve this.

I’m honored to be a member of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Steering Committee. Recently, SPARC has been working closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on defining needs of repositories for government agencies. SPARC is also investigating cost-effective scholarly communications models that benefit both authors and readers.

UH Libraries is actively advancing open access scholarship. One of the initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan is to expand and promote repository services enabling researchers to acquire and use collections for research endeavors as well as to store, preserve, and publish research output. We’re creating a repository for our scholars so that they can deposit their works and have control over the access to that work, with the benefit of curating and preserving the important research being conducted at the University. We are also looking forward to discussions on how, as a University, we might tackle big data management and other forthcoming developments in the world of research.

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