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Have you heard of open access? Do you know what it is? If you’re a clinician, do you think it has something to do with free clinic hours? Do you already know that it is a movement to change the often restrictive nature of scholarly publishing? Even if you do know about open access, there’s likely more you could know – and do!

In honor of the first Open Access Day, sponsored by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Research Coalition, Students for Free Culture and the Public Library of Science (an open access publisher), the WFU Libraries want to bring your attention to the open access movement, how open access is affecting the Wake Forest community, and what resources you have available to support personal open access pursuits.

Open access is a movement to remove the price and permission barriers for accessing and reusing scholarly research publications. The open access movement does not work against the fundamentals of copyright or peer review. Rather it aims to work with the necessary features of established scholarly publishing, albeit with major changes to subscriptions and accessibility.

There are two main routes to open access – gold and green. Gold open access is open access publishing: rather than have the subscribers pay to access the content, limiting distribution to only those institutions and individuals who are able to afford access, open access publishing shifts the cost of distribution to the content providers, the authors. Many authors have funds available from either institutions or awards to cover costs, with the end result being wider distribution and access to their scholarly output, as access to these publications are not limited to the pool of subscribers. Green open access is open access archiving: authors place copies of their articles in an institutional or subject-based digital archive or repository where they are freely accessible, usually after an embargo period specified by the publishers. Many publishers already give authors permission to archive the pre-print (pre-peer review version) or post-print (post-peer review version incorporating changes from peer review but not yet formatted for final publication), and some even grant permission to archive the final published version.

Although green open access removes price barriers, it does not necessarily remove permission barriers. Gold open access publishing removes permission barriers by granting in advance the rights to reuse and redistribute articles for non-commercial uses, and occasionally even commercially. Sometimes even derivative works are allowed. There is great flexibility within the various open access options to meet authors’ needs and comfort-levels regarding distribution and reuse of their works. For more information on open access, see Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview.

Here at Wake Forest, the WFU Libraries are working to raise awareness of open access among faculty, students and staff. Both the Z. Smith Reynolds Library and the Coy C. Carpenter Medical Library have resource pages on scholarly communication issues (ZSR, Carpenter) and open access (ZSR, Carpenter). A group of librarians, with input from faculty and research administrators, are working to build an institutional repository for Wake Forest that will enable us to better collect, highlight and disseminate the world-class research conducted at our University. Faculty members from both campuses are already publishing in open access journals and hybrid access journals (traditional journals with article-by-article optional open access), and submitting to subject-based repositories, such as PubMed Central. Through compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy, many faculty researchers are realizing that they are able to retain many of their rights as copyright owners in their works when seeking publication, without forfeiting the opportunity to be published in premiere journals.

For more information on open access and what you can do, talk to your librarians at ZSR and Carpenter Libraries. And stay tuned for more news about the WFU Libraries’ growing support for open access pursuits at Wake Forest!

–By Molly Keener, WFUBMC Library