22 to 28 October marks Open Access Week, a global event organised by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) to celebrate and promote open access to research. This year’s theme is Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge: citing this week as an “opportunity to take action in making openness the default for research—to raise the visibility of scholarship, accelerate research, and turn breakthroughs into better lives.”(1)
UAL’s Scholarly Communications team is based at LCC, being a part of Library Services and we oversee all research outputs from across the University. We manage UAL Research Online (UALRO), the University’s institutional digital repository, which provides “scholars with the ability to fulfil Open Access (OA) requirements of their funding bodies, and showcases the wealth of our research to a world-wide audience.”(2) We are currently the world’s largest OA collection for research within the arts, providing unrestricted access to the rich and diverse work of our researchers.
I had the pleasure of joining the Scholarly Communications team this summer, my background is within Library Services and the arts, however this is a new and exciting role for me. I have been enthusiastic to learn, so we thought it would be interesting, as a newbie to the profession, to reflect on my experience of working with OA, .
Through my new role I have become aware of how research is funded at UAL and that funding bodies often mandate that our research outputs be OA. It stands to reason that publicly funded research needs to be public. We’re gearing up for the REF 2021 (Research Excellence Framework), the UK’s audit of research in HE institutions. Funding is allocated off the back of thorough assessment of our research outputs and I have been digesting the scope and application that such a large undertaking requires.
OA not only conforms to funding policy, it removes paid barriers to resources and dissolves elitism surrounding academia. This is an ethos that I can proudly advocate to increase research impact and reach enquiring minds globally. UALRO provides content that is easy to find via search engines, is available to everyone and students from any institution can access content for free.
I was shocked at the imbalanced labour exchange and economic model that currently underpins how the larger organisations behind academic journal publishing operate. A researcher provides a journal article for free to a journal publisher, the publisher then sells costly subscriptions to academic institutions; or creates a paywall, so those outside of the institution have to buy articles. The producer of the original research receives nothing other than the perceived kudos of appearing in certain journals, an exploitative model considering the large profit margins publishers achieve.
UALRO has specific requirements as a repository for an arts institution, we have a large amount of practice based outputs (non-text based) in comparison to the proliferation of journal articles held at non arts focused institutions. This means entries can comprise of images, movies, sound files or a combination of these, “the aim is to curate the best collection of digital materials to provide the fullest representation of that research output.”(3) This also means the outputs that populate UALRO are lively in their variety, creating an engaging platform to explore UAL research.
Being new to OA means that I am navigating copyright, intellectual property and publisher’s embargoes in relation to our own policies. This is offset by the evolving terrain of scholarly communications, making it a complex and exciting field to work in. A hugely rewarding part of the job is being able to have an overview of all the research outputs occurring across UAL. I know that by adding them to our repository, it means everybody is able to access world class content which has “successfully demonstrated that academic research can enrich cultural life, enhance public awareness and understanding of major issues, and are of benefit to the creative industries.” (4)
Scholarly Communications Assistant