Green Open Access: An Introduction

Faculty, community input sought on next steps for open access

To help inform the next stages of discussion about open access scholarship at the University of Oregon, a University Senate subcommittee has issued a new white paper on the state of the movement at the UO.

Comments from faculty members and the university community are now requested.

In recent years, the open access movement has gained momentum in academic institutions around the globe. Also known as OA, it is generally defined as “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment."

Proponents of open access believe it has the potential to affect positive change in the world by freeing access to life-changing knowledge that has historically been locked behind expensive paywalls. At the same time, the transition to open access poses considerable start-up challenges for higher education and drives debate about publishing protocols among scholars.

“It’s a complex picture, but by and large the University of Oregon has benefitted from OA trends and we now seek to move towards further open access on several fronts in the coming years,” said David Condon, an assistant professor of psychology and chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Open Access. “The questions facing UO currently are how and where to prioritize the institution’s efforts.”

The report reviews factors that have triggered recent developments in open access, provides a brief history of initiatives at the UO, and summarizes the advantages and challenges to launching further open access approaches. In order to prompt discussion and help frame next steps, the paper concludes with a number of suggestions for local actions that may help advance the next stages of open access at the university.

According to Mark Watson, interim dean of libraries and the project manager of the Senate subcommittee, while open access is a movement with ramifications for every unit on campus, the library is a stakeholder with a central interest.

“In recent years, academic institutions around the globe have begun negotiating and signing creative new agreements with for-profit commercial publishers, and innovations to the business models for disseminating scholarly research have become more widely adopted,” he said. “Digital methods for accessing and acquiring content have moved academic libraries far beyond the days when subscriptions to print journals were the norm for providing access to research content.”

According to Watson, outlets for various types of open access publishing are labeled with a color-coded scheme — gold, green, bronze, diamond or platinum — with each category indicating a different set of publishing terms. Scholars’ Bank, the UO digital repository, is a green open access platform, as are many discipline-specific preprint repositories, such as PsyArXiv.

In addition to the white paper, the subcommittee commissioned a two-minute video to help introduce Green open access principles.

Despite the momentum of the open access movement, Watson noted that significant challenges remain. Many of the mechanisms and protocols for open access publishing are still in the developmental stages. In the meantime, library budgets are strained by the spiraling costs of the “big deal” subscription packages that many research libraries are abandoning.

Especially in these uncertain times, and with the UO Libraries’ current contract with the major publisher Elsevier scheduled to sunset in December 2020, issues of open access to the world’s store of knowledge feel particularly relevant, the report’s sponsors noted.

“In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the motivation for change is stronger than ever,” Condon said. “The need for rapid and open access to scientific findings has greatly increased awareness of the OA movement. At the UO, the next step will depend on engagement from stakeholders across the community.” 

Condon will report on the white paper at the University Senate meeting May 13. Watson said the campus community is invited to a virtual open hall town hall May 28 at 3 p.m.

By Jason Stone, University Communications