Thursday, February 19, 2015

Open Access Publishing and Open Education Resources

Open access (OA) does not equal free. Nor does OA publishing mean lower quality scholarship marked by the lack of a traditional peer review process. There are costs involved and most OA journal articles and books are peer-reviewed, but those two concerns persist in conversations about the merits of OA. As OA does involve costs, either by producers or subscribers, it is important to note that finding a sustainable cost model is one of the ongoing challenges facing libraries when presented with the variety of options that are now appearing regarding OA materials. While there are a number of factors that contribute to our library being involved in the OA movement, the most important factors are our interest in removing barriers to content and published scholarship and participating in activities focused on reducing costs and expenses. For this reason, the library has promoted OA through a variety of initiatives including Open Access Week each October, working with faculty to pay author fees to publish in OA journals, and looking for opportunities to post faculty pre- or post-imprints for articles published in journals that allow for deposit in our institutional repository. Last year, the library published an OA multi-media monograph, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers; Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand Burma Railway 1942-1945 by Prof. Sears Eldredge. It is in the area of OA books that a number of new initiatives are capturing our attention and we see some significant changes that will have an impact on all the disciplines. We will continue to explore new funding models, such as Knowledge Unlatched, while also looking forward to continuing developments with the recently announced NEH and Andrew Mellon grant-funded Humanities Open Book project. Many of these initiatives have developed around the idea of creating and sharing books in a more cost-effective manner than currently possible in traditional publishing methods of production and delivery.

 In higher education another area of stress in terms of costs is textbooks. A recent report showed that textbook costs have increased by 800% since 1978. (See graph below) It is estimated that Macalester students spend $1096 per year on textbooks. Our library staff have worked with students in the MCSG to place copies of some of the most expensive textbooks on reserve as a means to help alleviate some of the costs students have, but another new OA trend is gaining momentum in an attempt to help reduce the costs of textbooks. This the Open Educational Resources movement.

As defined on the Hewlett Foundation OER webpage, OER (Open Educational Resources):
     “...are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been    released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” 
Open textbooks are just one component of OER. An open textbook is intended to provide a textbook that can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. There are many websites that have been developed around sharing open textbooks. The University of Minnesota has created an Open Textbook Library which includes open textbooks in almost every discipline. Tim Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives and housed here at Macalester, is co-author for three of the listed titles in economics. One of the features of the U of M website is to connect faculty to reviews of materials. Currently, the U of M is looking for reviewers for the textbooks, but they are also interested in faculty who would like to develop an open textbook. There are also additional initiatives with open textbooks including:
  • repository of all CC-BY content (conected to OpenStax project) 
  • open textbook publisher (funded by Hewlett and Gates foundations) 
  • American Institute of Mathematics Open Textbook Initiative 
  •  COERLL - Center for Open Education Resources and Languages and Learning 
  • OER Commons - Open Educational Resources
 The question is, what if we could do more to address textbook costs? If you had access to high-quality, peer reviewed textbooks or could create your own textbook for use in your class at a lower cost, would you be interested? Maybe you are already using open textbooks or other OERs for your courses, in which case we’d like to hear from you. Open Education Week is March 9 - 13th. We’re planning to sponsor a lunch discussion on Wednesday, March 11, 11:45 - 1:00 in the library and would like to invite faculty who are interested in learning more or are already using OA materials to join us. We will post notices to the Piper with location and more details, but if you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me or your liaison librarian.

Graph will be found in a variety of publications.  See;
visited 2/18/2015

Textbook costs for Mac, based on information from Financial Aid Office; as per email from Polly Fassinger, February 2, 2015