Friday, October 24, 2014

Open Access Week at Ottawa University: Ottawa University Press

This week was International Open Access Week.  Ottawa University participated in Open Access Week by celebrating five years of Open Access at Ottawa University.  Ottawa University is a unique university with many aspects that differentiate it from other institutions.  It is the largest bilingual university in Canada.  There are 42,587 students, including 6,545 graduate students.  70% of the students are anglophone and 30% are francophone.  Why is the University of Ottawa so excited about Open Access?  The Ottawa University newspaper The Gazette, reported on the exciting progress the university has made towards OA in the past 5 years.  What is Open Access?  Here is some background information from Ottawa University's scholarly communication's website:

In 2002, the Open Society Institute adopted the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which outlines the basic tenets and principles surrounding open access, and promotes an "international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the internet."

University of Ottawa's Library's Scholarly Communication website on Open Access provides further information about the benefits of Open Access:

Increased visibility and greater impact
Research available in Open Access is easily discovered by anyone anywhere and, according to numerous studies listed in the Open Citation Project, is cited more often than that published exclusively in closed, subscription-based periodicals.

Society as a whole benefits
The value of scholarly activity increases through universal access as those who cannot afford costly journal subscriptions can access important research. When knowledge is shared it can be mobilised.

As a Masters student in Ottawa University's School for Information Studies, these issues are of great interest to me.  I am writing this blog post for my class Information et Sociéte.  I attended a talk on campus during Open Access Week, where several panelists spoke about different aspects of Open Access.  This blog post will focus on The Ottawa University Press and their Open Access Initiative in collaboration with the University of Ottawa Library.  The Ottawa University Press was founded in 1936, it is the oldest French press in Canada and the only bilingual university press in North America.  Last year they published 23 books, half in French and half in English.

Tony Horava a professor of Information Studies and a librarian at Ottawa U. gave a presentation explaining the Ottawa University Press's relationship with Open Access.  This relationship is unusual because many publishers worry that Open Access will hurt them, that if people can download books and articles for free that they will not buy a hard copy.  So far the Ottawa University Press has not found this to be true.  In fact, when books are published simultaneously on Open Access and as print books, there seems to be a positive correlation between number of books downloaded for free and the number of copies of the book sold.

The Open Access collection is still just a small part of what the press does.  However, because the traditional relationship with OA and the press is an adversarial one, it is a dramatic step.  Each year, the press has agreed to publish a maximum of 3 Open Access books, using .02% of their budget.  So far, the press has published 36 OA books, half in French and half in English, using OA.  The press tries to target publications that it believes will be most high interest to be its Gold OA Titles.  These books have world-wide impact. Using Open Access publication, the books are simultaneously released world-wide.  Researchers who could not afford a journal subscription can access and benefit from this sharing of knowledge and the research can have a bigger impact.

In celebration of 5 years of Open Access, the Ottawa University Press has published 5 Open Access books.  The Ottawa University Press and Ottawa University look forward to being active players in the exciting future of Open Access.