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Unlocking Open Access: Conference Re-cap from Student Shadow Jessica Bellini

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UB graduate student Jessica Bellini shares her experiences as a student shadow at UNYSLA’s fall conference: Unlocking Open Access

On October 17th I had the pleasure of attending the UNYSLA Fall Event, Unlocking Open Access: Making it work for publishers, authors, and institutions. I signed up for this conference because open access is a hot topic in my courses at UB and a special interest of mine. It was enlightening and fun to spend the day with professional librarians who share this interest in open access. While most presenters at Unlocking Open Access discussed open access from an academic librarian’s perspective, all of the presentations offered insights on the implications of open access publishing for a wide variety of information agencies.

Jim Del Rosso started our day with a brief introduction to open access models and the history of open access. He stressed that open access is not a business model, but rather a set of principles to avoid charging the reader. Del Rosso presented many resources of interest to those who want to educate themselves on key aspects of the open access debate, including Peter Suber’s Very Brief Introduction to Open Access and Beall’s List of Predatory OA Journal Publishers. Del Rosso asserted that Beall’s List may cast too wide a net and include some legitimate OA publishers. Just as open access journals and repositories have a strong commitment to peer review, perhaps Beall’s List needs a peer review process.

Ben Wagner’s enthusiasm for Federal open access directives was tangible throughout his presentation. Recent laws mandate open access scholarly publishing for virtually all publicly funded research. This affects not only the librarians who work for federal institutions such as the Department of Education or NIH, but also anyone who works with researchers or students that access articles produced by such institutions. I was especially interested in Wagner’s musings on the role of librarians in creating and implementing standards for open metadata that will accompany this open access push.

Next, Jaron Porciello spoke about institutional support for open access. Porciello discussed the differences in support for open access among students and faculty. Graduate students and new faculty members are more likely to publish in open access journals, while older professors are often skeptical of OA journals and prefer to publish in traditional, well-known journals with high impact factors. I was enthused to learn that many graduate students eschew traditional journal metrics and instead ask that their peers read their research to determine its credibility and contribution to the scholarly literature. There are many reputable, high-quality open access journals. Perhaps it would be easier for librarians to convince professors of the benefits of open access publishing if we could point to a list of credible, important open access journals based on traditional and alternative metrics.

Rachel Burley shared with us a publisher’s perspective on open access. Burley serves as VP and Director for Open Access at Wiley, a publishing company that has experienced tremendous growth in the number of authors who publish in their OA journals. In 2012 only 32% of Wiley authors published in an OA journal, but in 2013 that number rose to 59%! Wiley hopes to continue this trend by increasing author services, and adding an online author’s resource center, article promotion tools, and comprehensive metrics.

Our final presenter was Kate Pitcher, one of the principal investigators of the Open SUNY Textbooks project. Open SUNY Textbooks is a collaborative project in which librarians, faculty, and students from several SUNY campuses work together to publish textbooks and promote open educational resources. The high cost of textbooks impacts student learning. This project shows that SUNY can effectively publish open educational resources, and thus ameliorate the effect of financial concerns on student success. I have some firsthand experience with Open SUNY Textbooks – I used one of the freely available textbooks (The Information Literacy User’s Guide) during a library instruction internship I completed over the summer. It’s not just me; the seven textbooks published by Open SUNY have received more than 19,000 unique views and a great deal of positive feedback so far. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Open SUNY textbooks!

One final note: As a Library Science student I think it is especially important to attend local events to stay informed about current issues and innovations in Upstate New York libraries, and meet librarians and information professionals who may one day be my co workers. I am admittedly a rather reserved person, but all the attendees at Unlocking Open Access made me feel welcome. I enjoyed talking with several librarians about their career paths and received a great deal of advice that should prove very valuable in my own job search. I encourage all MLS students from Upstate New York to attend a UNYSLA event-you will be glad you did!

Written by: Jessica Bellini

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