Sharing information one citation at a time 

By Wendy Smith

Any student who’s ever Googled the title of an academic journal article, only to be confronted with a two-line teaser interrupted by a demand for a credit card number, knows how frustrating — and expensive — scholarly research can get.

But if the open access movement has its way, those barriers will be history.

Proponents of open access argue that scholarly research, especially taxpayer-funded research, should be available in a digital form, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

Open access policies, they argue, will increase the impact and scope of academic work and allow members of the public to participate more fully in conversations about, for example, issues affecting their health, safety and environment.

“It’s a movement that started among scholars and librarians who were concerned about the rising costs of scholarly publications,” said Jocelyn Godolphin, Assistant Director of Collection Services. “The issue is to provide alternative ways of publishing scientific and scholarly research that ensures it is freely accessible on the internet.”

The movement has been gaining momentum – and Concordia is in the vanguard. (See the Journal, May 3, 2007).

Besides hosting outreach activities on the first international Open Access Day, Concordia University Libraries is developing an open access repository for Concordia. The institutional repository will be available online and will feature publications and research findings produced by students and faculty.

The university is developing the required software and should have a working prototype online by next spring.

Owen Wiltshire, a graduate student in Anthropology who is researching open access in his field, commented on his blog: “I’m sure researchers will make more use of an academy-branded repository. Maybe having the prestige of the institution at stake will start a competition of sorts for making work available.”

For now, students can mine several online repositories of open access content and learn more about the subject at

On Open Access Day October 14, librarians passed out brochures, buttons and bookmarks and answered student questions about open access, including, most frequently, “Does it mean that everything will now be free?”

“No. We are still paying huge costs for our subscriptions (to academic journals) and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to do so,” Godolphin said.

Another popular misconception about open access is that it means authors will lose the intellectual ownership of their work. But that’s not true, Godolphin said, pointing out that publication in conventional academic journals often requires signing over one’s rights to the publisher. “We need a balance between understanding that information wants to be free, and ensuring that what people produce is properly attributed and copyright is respected.”

The field of library science has been shaken by seismic shifts since Godolphin entered the profession 25 years ago, she said.

“When I first started, the librarian’s view was, ‘we’re here to provide information’ but that’s been turned on its head. Now, the younger generations of librarians have started to say, ‘we have to be part of making sure that people can be informed the way they need.’ It’s very much an activist approach.”

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI) have all developed policies to encourage open access.


Concordia University