Summary of BioMed Central’s Workshop at MLA ’07 conference

The feasibility of collaboration between institutions and funding bodies in respect to financing open access publications

(May 21st, 2007 Philadelphia, USA)

The workshop began with an introduction from Natasha Robshaw, BioMed Central, who gave an overview on:

  • BioMed Central article-processing charges
  • cost comparison of open access publishing options
  • payment mechanisms for open access publications
  • central funds for open access publishing

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.

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Ellen Finne Duranceau, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing Consultant, MIT Libraries gave a presentation on the role of a librarian in an open access world. Ellen highlighted the redefined role of a librarian in an open access world and discussed MIT’s role in the open access world. The current mission of MIT Libraries is ‘to create and sustain an intuitive, trusted information environment that enables learning and the advancement of knowledge at MIT. They are committed to developing strategies and systems that promote discovery and facilitate worldwide scholarly communication.’ Essentially MIT’s mission is focussed on the widest dissemination of information in an efficient and reliable environment, which is consistent with the open access world.

Recently MIT has engaged in a number of new activities in order to facilitate worldwide scholarly communication including implementing institutional repositories such as Dspace; providing support for authors in relations to publishing rights; developing and investing in discovery and delivery tools, qualified archive solutions and software tools that meet social networking trust needs.

Ellen also discussed the changing positions of librarians since the conception of open access in 2002. Over the last five years MIT Libraries have identified new librarian roles to include information services librarian for engineering and science, Dspace product manager and scholarly publishing consultant. For institutions such as MIT libraries such changes have lead to stronger partnerships on campus, for example sponsored research, intellectual property and university press. A faculty member from MIT libraries sums up the role of the librarian in the open access world: “I thought the faculty committee on the library system would be three years of dry drudgery. But it turns out librarians in their new role are now located at the centre of the most contentious and important issues of the day.”

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The workshop continued with three discussions a) Collaborating with research administration and funders to set up central university funds for open access publication charges, b) administrating central funds for open access publication charges: memberships; individual payments; reporting and accountability, and c) How can BioMed Central adapt open access payment models to meet the needs of the community?

Dominic Tate, Senior Sales Executive for BioMed Central led the discussion on collaborating with research administration and funders to set up central university funds for open access publication charges. Delegates at the workshop shared their experiences and opinions.

The delegates discussed researchers’ awareness of open access as an option for publishing research and highlighted their concerns with the current situation in the US. Two major concerns included the funders’ need to cover article processing charges and the lack of education about open access.

NIH contributes funds towards most of the research and this goes directly to the researchers rather than the institutions. The standard ‘page charges’ are paid by the grants made to these researchers. However the NIH is stretched and could not possibly provide appropriate funding for all processing charges. The delegates recommended the funders should be responsible for such charges. For example, in Ohio, the OhioLINK consortium has a BioMed Central prepay membership for all members. The board of regents of the state of Ohio funds OhioLINK.  They also have an agreement with PloS for half of the article processing charges to be paid for by them. In the USA, NIH funds most of the research and they provide funding for this directly to researchers rather than to institutions.  Traditional ‘page charges’ are paid by these grants to researchers, like APCs.  Because NIH ‘strongly recommends’ rather than mandates that research be made available in an open access form, the choice remains with the author.  At the same time, universities have no additional funds available to cover the costs of open access, which would make it a more attractive option to researchers.

The group highlighted that ideally payment for open access needs to happen at funder level.  NIH is constantly under political pressure from all parties with different wants and needs and that makes it difficult for them to mandate open access completely.  The suggestion was that NIH needs to change on a national level through congress.

Delegates recommended more education be provided about open access in order to encourage researchers to embrace the option. It was mentioned that one librarian has been teaching undergraduates about the benefits of this movement in the hopes that these undergraduates will recognise the value of open access when they reach the stage of publishing. Penn State was provided as an example of an institution actively supporting open access where The Dean of Libraries has focussed the university’s efforts into their open access activities such as the Dspace project.

Maria Romano, Senior Sales Executive at BioMed Central facilitated a discussion on ‘administrating central funds for open access publication charges: memberships; individual payments; reporting and accountability’. Maria noted that this discussion topic was particularly advanced and as such not something many of the delegates had had the opportunity to consider in great depth. So the focus was shifted to the aspect of establishing the funds. The two concerns outlined in the discussion were establishing central funds for research and then ensuring the sustainability of these funds.

Delegates from the University of Kansas Medical Centre noted that from their experience the key to making open access a success is education and information. A representative from the University of California Davis suggested that BioMed Central increase its visibility further so that researchers and funders are continually exposed to open access. The delegates agreed that more librarians do need to get behind open access-related activity in order to increase awareness and ongoing support from researchers and funders alike.

Texas A&M University is a rare example of an institution that currently receives some central funding from the university for their research. As a result, researchers at this institution have the benefit of knowing that open access publishing will always be an available option to them. 

Natalia Timiraos, Sales Executive with BioMed Central led the discussion topic asking ‘how can BioMed Central adapt open access payment models to meet the needs of the community?’ There was a general consensus among members of the BioMed Central community that more up-to-date information be available to them regarding the different membership types, relevant payment models and usage statistics. Shared information, such as case studies could be helpful in assisting institutions with deciding on membership types and strategies. These studies could show how an institution dealt with budget issues and the various funding patterns that have proved successful on both local and wider scales. Learning how successful relationships between administration, faculties and libraries were applied to the running of membership.  The community could then apply strategies from these studies to their own institutions and organisations.

Delegates were asked how BioMed Central could assist libraries in disseminating information about open access and their membership types. It was suggested that BioMed Central representatives attend library administration conferences. Attending these conferences could enable BioMed Central representatives to further promote open access. Also it would enable BioMed Central to get a better grasp in understanding how institutions deal with open access memberships from an administration and funding perspective. 



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