‘The spirit of academic publishing should be universal accessibility’

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Filed under Library News:  e-Resources Research @ McMaster

By Matt Terry

Alex Sévigny created the Journal of Professional Communication for one simple reason.

The journal, which publishes peer-reviewed papers on a variety of topics in public relations and communications, fills a void in the academic landscape.

So when the associate professor of communications published the journal’s first issue some two and a half years ago, he knew he was launching something unique.

What he didn’t know was that just five issues later, his journal would have attracted more than 20,000 readers.

“It has really become the journal of record for the communications profession,” says Sévigny.

That success is in no small part due to the fact that the Journal of Professional Communication is an open-access publication – which means that, unlike a traditional, subscription-based journal, any reader can access it for free.

“Most people have very limited budgets to pay for journal subscriptions, and we wanted all academics and practitioners in Canada to benefit,” says Sévigny . “We believe the spirit of academic publishing should be universal accessibility – letting all of the interested people who want to participate in the dialogue of the field do so.”

Vivian Lewis, McMaster’s University Librarian, agrees. She was part of a recent campus panel discussion that tackled the many opportunities – and challenges – that the open-access movement presents for academia.

Lewis, a proponent of open access, says that free and immediate access to scholarly work is at the heart of the movement.

“There is something about universities paying for access to the content their own researchers created that just doesn’t make sense,” she says. “It’s no longer if we should move to open access, but how quickly and in which ways.”

Lewis doesn’t see researchers being required to publish only in open-access journals in the future, but she does encourage those who are able to deposit pre- or post-prints of articles into McMaster’s open access institutional repository.

The repository serves as a free, open database of scholarly papers, dissertations, theses and more that can be accessed by anyone in the world.

“Not only will it help them meet pending obligations from the funding councils, but their readership will also skyrocket,” she says. “The repository currently contains more than 18,000 papers, which have been downloaded more than three million times – more than one million times in the last year alone.”

The Library also supports the publication of 15 open-access journals, such as the Global Labour Journal and Sévigny’s Journal of Professional Communication, through the repository.

Journals and papers housed in the database have the added benefit of being much easier to find than traditional academic material, since search engines like Google regularly index it.

Lewis says she’ll continue to encourage researchers to be open-minded about open access. She also says Library staff are always available to answer questions and provide assistance for researchers who want to know more about it.

“It’s about social responsibility,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to the academy to broaden the reach of research. Why are we keeping all of this great work behind a fence?”

- Source: http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/the-spirit-of-academic-publishing-should-be-universal-accessibility/#sthash.7QCdolhq.dpuf