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The Carletonian

Carls take action in support of Open Access

<lleges across the country and world this past week sounded the call for making online academic articles more accessible to students and professors. Though it has remained a behind-the-scenes conversation, Open Access is being discussed on campus as well.

While technological advances have opened up the Internet for easier research, many texts still remain locked behind firewalls. Currently, Carleton must pay for access to this valuable information.

“Your tuition is paying for a million dollars worth of subscriptions,” said College Librarian Sam Demas. “You’re part of an elite community. As soon as you leave Carleton— unless you join another elite community—you won’t have access to that information.”

The basic principle behind Open Access is a switch from a pay-to-read model to a pay-to-publish model that makes articles free to all those who wish to access them. In other words, with an Open Access journal, academics would have to pay to print their articles—thus fronting some of the cost of production—rather than leave the cost for readers to pay through expensive subscription costs.

Worldwide, but especially in Europe and South America, Open Access has been embraced as the new funding model for academic publications. There are already more than 4,000 peer-reviewed open access academic journals worldwide. According to Demas, the U.S. has traditionally lagged behind in this area.

While the Open Access movement has existed for many years, the issue recently re-emerged when Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Cronyn (R-TX) re-introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act.

The bill would require every federal department and agency with a research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public for free within six months of publication. Carleton currently pays for access to this research, which the bill would make available for free.

“As librarians, our mission is access to information,” said Kathy Tezla, Head of Collection Development. “Most of our struggles as librarians are through restrictions by the business models we have to use.

As lot of journals that would be paid for, would become free. We’re willing to make that step.”

Carleton’s administration is on board as well. In a letter signed by the presidents of 57 small colleges and universities in the country, President Rob Oden voiced his support for the Open Access legislation and a transition to the Open Access model.

“Adoption of the Federal Research Public Access Act will democratize access to research information funded by tax dollars,” Oden said in the letter. “It will benefit education, research and the general public.”

The CSA also jumped on board with the cause. In an Oct. 5 resolution, Carleton’s student government voiced support for Sens. Lieberman and Cornyn’s legislation, and commended Demas for his “tremendous work toward opening access to tax payer funded research and his general advancement of knowledge and learning” at Carleton.

“We think it would be a benefit to Carleton,” CSA Senator Chase Kimball said.

This past week, CSA officials tabled in Sayles, offering a petition for students to sign in support of the upcoming legislation. CSA Senator Ted Longabaugh said that students seemed very receptive to the idea.

Open Access is more complicated than simply moving around some money, though. Al Montero, a political science professor and book review editor for Latin American Politics and Society, is torn between the appealing vision of easily accessible scholarship and the lingering questions about the bottom line: Who’s going to pay for open access?

“There are people on the production side who say, ‘hold on,’” Montero said. “As a book review editor, I think there is a real danger. We may have to suffer extinctions.”

Though the cost of publishing an article in already-existing open access journals can range up to $3,000, publishing fees would still not cover the whole production cost. Additionally, publishers would no longer play such a large role in the editing and distribution processes. The economics, in other words, are complicated.

“Everyone who is in nirvana about Open Access is not considering everyone with a skin in the game,” Montero said.

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