Join BioMed Central at MLA 2007 in Philadelphia to find out more about how librarians and research administrators can work together to promote open access

In recent
years, librarians have played a leading role in the Open
Access movement, seeking to push back the barriers that
interfere with the free communication between scholars. The enthusiasm of
librarians for Open Access is understandable, given the rampant price inflation
that has afflicted scholarly journals in recent years, leading to widespread
cancellations and loss of access.

Peer-reviewed
open access publications, such as those listed in the Directory of Open Access
journals, have the potential to deliver universal access at no greater cost to
the scholarly community than the traditional publishing system. Desirable as
this outcome may be, many librarians face a Catch-22 situation. Open access
publication has costs – typically covered by publication fees – but library
budgets are already so tight that they cannot easily stretch to cover
publication fees, in addition to subscriptions.

Fortunately,
a solution to this problem is at hand. Research funders around the world, most
prominently the Wellcome Trust and the US National Institutes of Health, have
recognized the shortcomings of the traditional journal publishing system, and
are taking steps to enhance access by setting up open access repositories,
calling on grantees to deposit publications in those repositories, and making
funds available to cover the cost of publishing in open access journals.
Reports commissioned by the Wellcome Trust , the European Commission and
most recently the Australian
Productivity Commission
have all concluded that open access publishing has
the potential to cost less than the traditional model, while delivering vastly
more access, and so promises to be an extremely cost-effective use of research
funds. Wellcome estimates the total cost of disseminating the results of
research through open access journals as only 1-2% of the cost of carrying out
the research.

A major
benefit of open access journals is that they address the concern that open
access repositories might undermine the peer-review system. Open access
journals, such as those published by BioMed Central, provide a business model
for the publication of high-quality peer-reviewed journals that is fully
compatible with open access via repositories. Open access journals make the
most of repositories by ensuring that articles are deposited systematically, in
final form, with immediate open access, and without requiring additional effort
on the part of the author.

A valuable
opportunity is now at hand for librarians to evolve and extend their role
within the academic institution. Under the traditional model, the role of the
librarian centred on purchasing access to proprietary information for users. In
an open access environment, librarians have the opportunity to take a more
active role in facilitating scholarly communication. By partnering with research
funders and research administrators to support open access repositories and
open access journals, they can ensure that research from their institution is
effectively disseminated. The cost of sharing the results of research with the
wider research community can be viewed as one of the costs of the research. By
working with research administrators to set up central Open Access publishing
funds, paid for as an indirect cost by research funders, librarians can make it
much easier for authors to publish in open access journals, and so can
accelerate the transition to a fully open access future.

BioMed Central will be holding a consultation workshop at
the Medical Libraries Association
annual conference
in Philadelphia, to discuss a number of issues relating
to open access publishing including funding and payment mechanisms. The
consultation will be held onsite at the MLA conference on Monday, May 21st,
2007 from 7.00 – 9.00am and breakfast will be provided. Spaces are limited, so
please send an email to MLAconsultation@biomedcentral.com
if you would like to attend.

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