SI521 "Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan" Open Textbook/Open Access Publishing

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by Bryan Birchmeier
edited by Samantha Bigger

What is Open Access Publishing?[edit | edit source]

Open Access refers to works and materials which are openly distributed; these materials reaching as wide an audience as possible. It differs from the idea of open publishing, which refers to works that are published transparently allowing for open collaboration, much like this textbook. To learn about Open Publishing (a different concept), please see the Wikipedia article on Open Publishing.

Open Access Publishing and Education[edit | edit source]

As with many other "open" initiatives, open access publishing relies on the breakdown of the traditional competitiveness of academic institutions. Chief of these are the administrators and collection development directors that have historically seen their collections in a possessive way. Many institutions, including the University of Michigan, have a progressive library staff and faculty that understand cooperation with other departments within their own university as well as with other institutions. There is still some resistance to inter-institution cooperation present, even in larger more developed universities; a sense that their budget is theirs alone and combining some funds with other universities is somehow a bad idea.

Universities and individuals are using open educational resources more even though they are still a relatively new idea. Open access publishing sprouted from the same set of ideals as other open initiatives, and garners its share of attention. There are organizations that are turning to newer ideas that more closely resemble open access publishing than traditional methods. While there is no fully implemented open access publishing model from any major university, there are a mix of hybrid models of open access publishing, as well as other open access initiatives which involve.

There exists a large educational gap between developed countries and those still developing. There are many methods for people within these countries to access materials from universities online, such as the Open Courseware project from MIT [1]. These programs provide access to the materials, but open access publishing reaches further by actively attempting dissemination to areas of need. Open access publishing promises to address the issues faced by low internet access by developing methods to actively disseminate publications that might otherwise only be available to select students or faculty.

Open access publishing provides other research libraries and institutions the information that all other participating institutions have published. This will create a constantly growing, circulating, and improving body of scholarly knowledge that will be available to millions of people. These people will be able to read the materials and produce their own works, many of which will be publishing from research institutes such as major university presses. The resulting cyclical publishing cycle is similar to the traditional cycle in the fact that it is a cycle. The production of knowledge is cheaper, taking into consideration the sharing of knowledge via the open access publishing systems, and is more robust for the same reasons. Time of researching will be shortened by open access publishing initiatives. The very act of openly sharing shortens the time for research as each participant may build off of or add to research completed by another.

This creates its own set of issues. Resistance in these situations is the standard. It is important for institutions pushing the idea of open access publishing to make the distinction between beneficial academic works and entertainment. A person publishing a novel or collection of poems and other items has a legitimate desire to make sure their finished materials generate income, while an academic professional is supported by his or her institution. Their name is still credited on the material and their ownership of the research and finished academic product will still be the same based on copyright law.

Why Does Open Access Publishing Concern Universities?[edit | edit source]

An educational institution's ability to get academic material into the hands of as many people as possible is quickly becoming a benchmark goal to measure how advanced that university has become. Previously, there were no realistic ways to accomplish this task outside of the research libraries' academic community. With advancements in IT, publishing in a much more open fashion has begun to form around the university presses. Clifford A. Lynch addresses this development in his article, "A Matter of Mission: Information Technology and the Future of Higher Education." Lynch expounds the idea that universities should be actively disseminating as many materials as possible from their research libraries. He also argues that due to most research libraries being present on major university campuses that the responsibility of this dissemination falls upon higher education.[1]

Lynch focuses on the idea that universities need to begin considering how to implement education into technology that is already available. Following this statement, Lynch is adamant about applying education into an open access publishing format, allowing access to openly published materials from each university. Unlike the chapter he has written for MIT's book Opening Up Education [2], in which he states he is pleased with the turns technology has taken in education. This article chastises universities for hanging on to the idea of simply using technology as another classroom tool. In Lynch’s view a university’s biggest goal is continuing their histories of academic dissemination. The final view in the article is that universities should use their resources and access to knowledge creators to take a presence at the forefront in the world of open access publishing. Lynch specifies that open access publishing and the actual dissemination of materials to the ever growing number of students is only a beginning to developing educational resources for these people.

The other main idea behind Lynch's argument of university press involvement in Open access publishing is preservation. Because of the amount of knowledge being produced there is a growing need to meet the requirements of managing that amount of material. Because libraries have historically been the stewards of information, Lynch illustrates that their transformation to stewards of the growing number of digital resources is much less of a stretch than adapting another existing system or creating a new one.

Disseminating Copyrighted Materials[edit | edit source]

The major obstacle to distributing these materials is (and possibly always will be) copyright. For a much deeper discussion of how copyright affects Open Educational Resources; there is an expansive chapter on the subject of copyright in this text.[2]

The status of university presses[edit | edit source]

University presses have made shifts in recent years toward a more open access publishing model. In his article, Lynch delves further into an analysis of how university presses have performed and where they currently stand with regards to open access publishing efforts. This analysis is much more of a general overall view of the state of university presses rather than multiple looks at the presses of specific universities. The focus falls on shifting university presses from print resources for a university community to an information age resource for the rest of the world. The goal of the open presses is eventually to share all publications of the university press system openly, disseminating knowledge and increasing its productiveness and effectiveness.

Lynch sees the status of the university presses as having various degrees of implementation in effect. He does note that many universities are beginning to push for a much more open role in their publishing schemes as they begin to understand the value of openly disseminating scholarship.[1] Many presses are operating in a hybrid model which involves some mix of print publishing and digital open publishing. The final goal of these presses is to find justification for the free dissemination of information. The only true way to do this is to completely redesign the structure and operation of the university press system.

Rice University created the first totally digital press within the last decade, a major step toward an open publishing system. Like other forms of Open Educational Resources, the technology needed to put an open publishing system in place is still evolving. Because of this gulf between technological innovation and the traditional university press system, there is a growing disparity at many universities with presses. The desire of the press staff and the traditional operation of the press is now at odds with many faculty and administrators who see the press as a tool which is able to disseminate their university's knowledge openly. This is an example of the most common problem that faces university presses which are attempting to shift to open access publishing.
Among universities affecting such a transformation is the University of Michigan which has actually merged their University Press with the University Libraries, an organization that has experience providing educational resources openly.

The Future of Open Access Publishing[edit | edit source]

The question that is often asked is: what will be accomplished by open access publishing in the future? Like many other questions which follow this pattern, there is currently no answer for it. A much more appropriate question is: What should Open Publishing attempt to accomplish in the future? The former question is almost as difficult to answer as the latter, but serves a much better and constructive purpose. University presses will have the biggest impact on the future of open access publishing. With many universities already pushing toward a more open model of publishing, there are certainly a number of modifications that would improve the effectiveness of Open Publishing projects.

The first and most important modification for success in the future of open access publishing is developing long-term goals and strategies for their development at the given university press system. If open access offices at universities concentrate only on their ongoing projects and not their expansion or pressing their rights regarding copyright. By forming a more concrete organization of the projects' progression, the development of the open access publishing model will move forward at a constant pace, contingencies may be planned for, and there will be better representation of the project when its necessity is questioned. All of these benefits keep the open access publishing system functioning. The long-term strategy may always be adjusted to accommodate changes that may not be foreseen. There really is no reasoning to not create a long term strategy, and that long term strategy can be used to ensure that the open access publishing project conforms to the resources and image of the university which has undertaken the project.

Every open access publishing project is not going to function the same way for every university press system. If a university is interested in creating an open access publishing model similar to that of another university, the borrowing university must take their own situations into account before attempting to implement such a system. This seems like common sense to many, but it is important to realize that many open projects, digital government initiatives, and other large projects have fallen victim to a lack of contextual planning. One way to accomplish the contextual basis for a university would be to place part of the project within the control of an appropriate office within the university. An example of this that has already been mentioned earlier in this chapter would be the Scholarly Publishing Office at the University of Michigan. Librarians and Library organizations have a history of open dissemination. Appropriately then, U of M moved the SPO within the control of the University Library System, allowing the SPO to work with academic professionals who have experience with open dissemination of materials.

Another important modification to consider in a university press' goal of becoming successfully open revolves around "champions of open." They are the people whose forward thinking has made them the leader in the pushes for their institutions open projects. In the case of university presses, it is usually a lone administrator, a collection of forward looking professors, a number of enlightened staff, or some other combination of these things. The problem is not that these people exist, but that many open projects, including those in open access publishing, have a tendency to rely on these "champions of open." By actively promoting the benefits of open access publishing across a university campus and making it a point of pride for the university community, the reliance on these individuals may be reduced. It must be clarified that these people should not be removed from the project; rather that their work might be supplemented by other able professionals and students who share in the interest of disseminating materials through an open access publishing model.

With the practice of open access publishing partially originating from the assistance to students, library patrons, faculty, and staff with disabilities, the constant appreciation and satisfaction of these individuals should not be overlooked in regards to open access publishing efforts. Expanding these and other programs within the structure of the open access publishing model is sure to yield new and unexpected benefits to other users of the press system as well.

University presses who share their findings, methods, and publications with other university presses will be rewarded in the long term with an "escalating domino effect" of improvement on methods for open access publishing. Just as sharing academic research and publications will lead to faster and more complete advancements in academia, sharing methods and research in open access publishing will accomplish the same goals for the press systems. This is the final step of an open access publishing model, though it does not have to be taken as a last step. The earlier this step is taken, the greater the opportunity for a more complete development for an open access publishing project. It is also important to note that the creation of a successful open access publishing project along with developing support throughout the university should be the first primary goals of these projects. The sharing of open access publishing methods during the early development of a project is encouraged, but should not steal focus from initial primary goals.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. a b Lynch, Clifford A. "A Matter of Mission: Information Technology and the Future of Higher Education." The Tower and The Cloud, Richard N. Katz (Ed.), (Boulder: EDUCAUSE, 2008), 43-50.
  2. Lynch, Clifford. "Digital Libraries, Learning Communities, and Open Education." Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education Through Open Education, Open Content, and Open Knowledge. Ed. by Toru Iiyoshi. MIT Press, September 2008. p. 105-118.

Related miscellaneous open resources[edit | edit source]

The website for the Scholarly Publishing Office at The University of Michigan [3]
Clifford A. Lynch's Article, "A Matter of Mission: Information Technology and the Future of Higher Education." [4]
University of British Columbia's Emerging Technologies Discoordinator, Brian Lamb's, Blog post on Open efforts[5]
University Record article about the University of Michigan's Open Publishing initiative[6]
John Willinsky's article "Toward the Design of an Open Monograph Press," which details a likely layout of a completely digital university press system[7]
JISC article by John Houghton et al. which lays out economic concerns and solutions for Open Publishing models[8]
A report by Ithaka, a non-profit organization, titled "University Publishing in a Digital Age." [9]