May 6, 2014

Two Cents: Open Access at Cornell

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This week in Science we talked with two professors about the benefits and challenges of implementing an open access publishing policy at Cornell. Prof. Chris Schaffer, biomedical engineering, serves on the University Faculty Committee and teaches Science Policy Bootcamp, where Jimmy O’Dea, Michelle Delco and Mischa Olson started their project on open access. Prof. Paul Ginsparg, physics and information science, founded the open access digital preprint repository arXiv, now maintained by the Cornell Library. He also served on the initial advisory board for the NIH’s PubMedCentral.

Do you support instituting an open access policy at Cornell? Why or why not?

“Absolutely. By having the work of Cornell scholars freely and widely available, we increase the influence and positive impact the research and scholarship that goes on at Cornell can have.”

–– Prof. Schaffer

“Cornell should certainly have a policy. As a member of the library board, I participated in three earlier resolutions along these lines in 2003, 2005 and 2006. The latter in 2006 recommended that all Cornell authors attach a copyright retention to any contracts signed with publishers, to permit parallel deposition in an open access repository.”

–– Prof. Ginsparg

How do you envision an open access policy impacting Cornell, other universities and the community outside of academia?

“There is an increasing national trend to provide open access to publicly financed research. This has been true for work funded by the National Institutes of Health for some years and will soon be true for most federal science funding agencies. Cornell should be ahead of this curve and provide the world access to the ideas and results our faculty, students, and staff generate.”

–– Prof. Schaffer

“We have found that there is significant public interest in materials on arXiv, as directed by newspaper and blog links. The availability of open access materials have greatly facilitated public engagement in science.”

–– Prof. Ginsparg

What do you think is the biggest challenge?

“Implementing an open access policy at Cornell will require financial support. Our best ideas on how to do this will not be successful without the necessary resources.”

–– Prof. Schaffer

“It has always been easy to get people to sign on to a policy in principle. The challenge has always been for them to go on to comply with the policy in practice.”

–– Prof. Ginsparg

What’s the best way to encourage scientists to submit their work to the school’s open access repository?

“Just as no one was ever required to submit videos to YouTube, no one was ever required to submit articles to arXiv. The best way to encourage compliance is to provide an infrastructure in which the benefits of compliance are so self-evident that 100% compliance can be realized on a voluntary basis.”

––Prof. Ginsparg