All posts by Esmeralda Fisher

Thoughts on Open Access

When people feel passionately about something, there are often roots about the topic that are personal. This is true for me when it comes to the topic of open scholarship.

My brother had cystic fibrosis, a disease of the lungs and pancreas. In the early 2000s, his lungs had deteriorated enough so that he needed a double lung transplant. He and his wife lived in Wisconsin at the time and neither of them were enrolled or employed by a university. Dana was, and is, a teacher and Doug worked at Barnes & Noble. Both of them had master’s degrees and were skilled researchers…Doug was ABD in Philosophy. They performed many literature searches because they needed information on the procedure, prognoses, and any background information on the hospital and on the surgeon. Time and time again they found articles they wanted to read, only to find that those articles were inaccessible to them.

Because I was a professor at the University of Illinois at the time, I was able to access copies of the scientific articles they wanted. I had access to these very expensive, commercially published journals because my library had purchased them. For the majority of Americans who are not affiliated with universities that are paying for these journals, they are forced to pay high prices to access the scholarship that they need – scholarship that citizens can use to make what might be life and death decisions. This is a broken model. Universities are paying the salaries of the researchers who produce the scholarship, and then they are turning around and buying articles produced by those researchers in the form of library subscriptions. Universities are paying twice and citizens not affiliated with those universities do not have access. There is something wrong with this picture.

Many of us who work in the scholarly communication field are trying to change this situation. Funding agencies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are mandating that publications resulting from their funding must be openly accessible online. Many governmental agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are requiring scientists to submit their final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts to PubMed Central upon their acceptance, and to make them accessible to the public within 12 months. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has been doing yeoman’s work, especially on the policy, advocacy, and communication fronts, to move the open agenda forward. The faculty of many universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty, have adopted Open Access (OA) policies. At the University of Houston, the Faculty Senate is moving forward with a task force for developing and implementing OA policy, and establishing a fund to help investigators pay for high-visibility Open Access papers.

Here in the Libraries, we’re pleased to announce a pilot of our new repository for UH scholarship, Cougar Research Open Access Repositories (ROAR). ROAR provides safe, long-term storage for data and scholarship produced by the UH community and makes these materials widely available to researchers around the world.

We encourage all to learn more about Open Access. Our goal is to highlight the power of Open Access to broaden the impact of research and scholarship in  practical and accessible ways for a more informed society.

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.

Committee on Diversity and Inclusion

One of our core values here at the University of Houston Libraries focuses on diversity and inclusion. We respect all aspects of diversity and create an inclusive virtual and physical environment, for all learners, researchers, and library staff. We are responsive in providing spaces, services, programs, and resources that promote and value diversity.

As such, it is essential for us to embody these important values with next-level action. I am pleased to announce that a newly formed Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) for the UH Libraries will soon convene. The Libraries recently conducted a ClimateQUAL®: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment survey to ascertain staff perceptions of the Libraries’ commitment to the principles of diversity, organizational policies and procedures, and staff attitudes, aiming to better understand the impact that perceptions have on library service quality. The formation of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion was an initiative spurred by the very positive experience I had with the Diversity Committee at my former place of work, a request by one of our new librarians, and as an outgrowth of our recent ClimateQUAL® assessment.

And it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. CODI will create programs and services which lead toward a richer and more inclusive experience for our students, faculty, and employees in support of the UH Diversity and Inclusion Statement.

Specifically, CODI will:

  • address issues and strengthen engagement while embracing a broad interpretation of diversity
  • increase awareness and sensitivity among employees, connect with University diversity offices and student groups, and help recruit and retain a diverse workforce in an inclusive environment
  • collaborate with the Assessment and Statistics Librarian to perform climate assessments and make recommendations
  • submit an annual report to the Office of the Dean

In the spirit of inclusivity, an open call was made for volunteers interested in serving on the committee. I was very pleasantly overwhelmed by the widespread enthusiasm shown by our outstanding group of professionals. We had twice as many people interested in serving on the committee than we could accommodate at this time, and everyone will have plenty of opportunities to engage in this important work in the near future. It is a heartening expression of the values that we champion.

The members of the inaugural Committee on Diversity and Inclusion Committee are:

Andrea Malone (chair), Modern and Classical Languages and Ethnic Studies Librarian
Frederick Young, Systems Analyst 3
Margaret Dunn, Senior Library Specialist
Matthew Moore, Senior Music Library Specialist
Julie Grob, Special Collections Coordinator for Instruction
Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections Archivist
Annie Wu, Head of Metadata and Digitization Services
Orolando Duffus, Business Librarian
Shawn Vaillancourt, Education Librarian

I would like to thank the committee members for their willingness to serve; I know they will do great work.