This week is Open Access Week, where those of us who support efforts to “democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education,” highlight initiatives that we’re employing to openly share our research outputs. The University of Houston Libraries is hosting several programs and services in support of “Open.”
Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning materials assigned by faculty members and used by students that can replace for-profit textbooks. At the University of Houston, faculty members throughout the university are embracing the use of OER and the University Libraries provides support for this transition through our Alternative Textbooks Incentive Program. Last year, this program saved students more than $750,000. Thanks to a $100,000 anonymous gift towards OER, we will be able to expand our OER program. Helping make college more affordable for our students is a goal that we wholeheartedly embrace. For instance, we have licensed a publishing platform for faculty members who want to create their own OER textbook, which enables them to create learning materials tailored to their specific curricular needs.
The Libraries has created a repository, Cougar ROAR, where researchers can deposit their scholarship and make it available to all who wish to read it, thus expanding the reach of their research. We also just announced the Assisted Institutional Repository Submissions Service whereby faculty can send us a copy of their CV and we will check the copyright status of their articles, and if it’s possible, add a copy of their article to Cougar ROAR.
Open Access to research continues to gain traction on the national and international stage. More and more funders are requiring the submission of an openly available version of the research they fund. For example, the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust require funded researchers to publish their articles in open access journals. Many US federal science-funding agencies like NIH require researchers to deposit a copy of their final manuscript or article into a designated open access repository. Many universities, such as Harvard and the University of California, ask faculty to deposit a version of their research in their institutional repository (like Cougar ROAR).
You may have seen me write about this before, but I will never forget that my brother could not access journal articles relating to lung transplants without either paying for it or, in his case, getting some assistance from his big sister. How many others had to make health care decisions without having access to information, who didn’t have a librarian sister that worked at a major research library? The impact of access to research can transform and save lives. Please join me in supporting and celebrating Open Access Week.