Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, May 15, 2008

OA strategies at the U of Pennsylvania

Newsmaker Interview: Shawn Martin, Penn’s New Scholarly Communication Librarian, Library Journal Academic Newswire, May 15, 2008.  Excerpt:

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Libraries recently announced the appointment of Shawn Martin to the newly created position of scholarly communication librarian —and what a job it promises to be. With Harvard’s faculty and law school mandating open access, institutional repositories (IRs) poised for growth, and publishers suing Georgia State University (GSU) over its electronic course content, these are, like the fortune cookie says, interesting times. At Penn, Martin, who holds a MA in history from the College of William and Mary, will be responsible for the libraries’ institutional repository ScholarlyCommons@Penn, and offering “guidance on and promoting awareness of issues” surrounding intellectual property rights and academic publishing....

LJAN: Can you tell us a little about your background, and what kinds of things you'll be addressing in your new post?

SM: ...Most recently, I worked at the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) project at the University of Michigan. There I worked with three publishers, ProQuest, Readex, and Gale, and over 100 academic libraries around the world to create searchable text for commercially available image databases of early English and American printed books. The catch was that all of the text we created eventually would enter the public domain. In essence, TCP was a model of working with publishers, librarians, and scholars to determine how all three could come together and deliver content in new and unique ways. That is the primary way that I'll be approaching open access and scholarly communication.

The IR at Penn will be a major focus of your work, I’m sure. First, your thoughts on Harvard's recent faculty OA mandate?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate the Harvard mandate. Obviously I would love it if Penn moved in a similar direction. Penn is a decentralized institution and will probably move more slowly. It is a goal, however, to at least educate faculty about what is going on at Harvard and elsewhere and try to get them to take a more active role in the dissemination of their scholarship. I intend this to be a major focus, and will be doing outreach with our faculty over the summer and fall.

One thing I would add is that we in the academic community really need to grapple with how this will change the scholarly communication system. How will all of this be paid for and who will be paying? Do universities or publishers have an obligation to add value to content, through enhanced disciplinary databases, for example? How does this affect the revenue streams of scholarly societies who are an important component of peer review? Open access is a major overhaul of the scholarly communication system. Regardless of how noble our goals may be, we must think about the disruptions it could cause and how we modify those disruptions.

Deposit rates for many IRs have been low, and much of that seems to be because many faculty don't seem to understand the role of IRs serve. How do you see the IR’s role?

We need to figure out what the IRs role is in terms of the larger system of research, teaching, peer review, publication, and dissemination of scholarship. IRs certainly can help make the intellectual output of any given university more accessible, but to be really successful, they need to have a more central role. As they are construed now, you’re right, some faculty see little point in them, it is just one more thing they have to do. And when faculty members are shielded by libraries from the costs of journal subscriptions, they often don’t understand how IRs differ from published journals. I'm not sure I have an answer as to what role IRs will play, but I hope to work it out with my colleagues here and elsewhere.

How will you persuade faculty to participate in Penn’s IR? Do you have a strategy you have in mind?

Any strategy has to work on two levels, I think. First, one has to work with higher administration (provosts, deans) to try to encourage mandates for deposit. Second, and perhaps more important, one has to educate faculty about the issues of scholarly communication so that they can then serve as advocates for open access within their own departments or schools. It has to be a top-down plus a bottom-up strategy in order to be successful. So far we have marketed to both individual faculty and departments at Penn. In many cases, schools have a policy encouraging deposit in the repository. I plan on working with individual faculty as well to use them to encourage their colleagues to deposit....