Brock University is one of the most recent universities in Canada to adopt an institutional Open Access Policy, passed by Senate Wednesday, May 27.
The new policy calls for Brock researchers and scholars to deposit an electronic copy of their academic journal articles into the Brock University Digital Repository, an online collection of scholarly output produced by the Brock community and managed by the Brock University Library.
Drafting the policy was the Open Access Policy Working Group (OAPWG), co-chaired by University Librarian Mark Robertson and Health Sciences Professor Ana Sanchez.
“Dissemination of knowledge is a key part of what we do at Brock University,” says Robertson. “Open access to research is good for science, good for Brock, good for social justice and good for the integrity of scholarship.”
Sanchez says making peer-reviewed publications freely accessible is also a way to ensure accountability and transparency of research.
Ideally, journal articles should be submitted to the Repository at publication, although articles may be embargoed in the Repository for a time depending on publisher requirements. There is also an opt-out clause in case publishers do not allow open dissemination of an article copy.
The procedure to submit articles to the Repository can be found in the Brock University Institutional Repository Submission Instructions or with assistance from Library staff.
Open access — defined as free, unrestricted online access to content — has been a long-standing movement in the research and scholarly community. Academic publishers have traditionally required institutions or individuals to pay hefty subscription fees to be able to access those articles. Researchers and scholars were also restricted in what they could share of their work due to copyright restrictions.
“We’ve seen a significant movement towards open dissemination of research in recent years,” says Robertson.
Open access journals, which makes their content freely available online, have been created, with many subscription-based journals also modifying some of their policies.
The focus of the new Open Access policy is on the dissemination of research using the Repository rather than on where scholars choose to publish their work, says Robertson.
“It’s about open access dissemination,” he says. “The policy is itself agnostic on which journals researchers choose to publish in.”
Robertson says around 85 per cent of academic publishers will allow for some form of a deposit in an open access repository such as the Brock University Digital Repository, regardless of whether the journal is open access or subscription based.
The Brock Library is available to help researchers determine which version of an article can be deposited, says Robertson.
“The value of our Repository is that it really helps our research products get out there into the world because the Repository is search-engine optimized,” he says. “It allows knowledge from research that might otherwise be behind paywalls to be able to be shared with the broader community.”
Deposit in Brock’s Digital Repository is also a way to meet the conditions of federal Tri-Agency grant recipients who are required to ensure that their grant-funded works are “freely accessible within 12 months of publication.”
And sharing information, knowledge and insights with the world is very important, says Sanchez.
“I once published a paper on biosafety competencies in a discipline-oriented, subscription-based journal published in the U.S.,” she recalls. “The paper was not easily available for many years after, so the knowledge we produced did not really reach a wide audience. This is of huge importance as we can see with the current pandemic. Biosafety is of universal relevance.”
As co-chairs of OAPWG, Sanchez and Robertson held at least 15 consultations with a variety of groups and individuals across the University to ensure that the policy was tailored to the needs of Brock scholars.
Brock University joins 11 other universities in Canada in formally adopting an institutional Open Access policy.