Concordia opens access to its research output 

By Karen Herland

After a wide-ranging discussion involving faculty from across the university, Senate passed a resolution requiring all Concordia researchers to either deposit their peer-reviewed articles in Spectrum, the university’s institutional repository, or to indicate their reasons for not doing so.

The resolution puts Concordia at the forefront of the issue among Canadian institutions stating: “Concordia University wishes to take a leadership role in Canada and exemplify social responsibility by supporting the principles of Open Access.”

The resolution encourages researchers to upload all the results of their research and creative production into the system, while acknowledging that deposit may be disallowed if rights are shared with other authors, producers, or publishers. (Download it [PDF]). Prior to Senate approval, the resolution had been discussed widely and approved by all four Faculty Councils and the Council of the School of Graduate Studies.

“This is a hearts and minds resolution,” said Gerald Beasley, University Librarian and a spokesperson for the Open Access initiative of the overwhelmingly positive vote on the April 16 resolution. “Many Concordians were already familiar with the principles”, said Beasley, “But it was remarkable to witness the initiative’s rising momentum as faculty took opportunities to shape the resolution to reflect their concern to maintain the high value of research as well as a commitment to its wider dissemination.”

The principle of Open Access was first raised when Congress 2010 Convenor Ron Rudin approached Beasley to discuss ways that the Libraries could participate in next month’s event. They both saw the principle of Open Access as a perfect fit with the Congress theme of Connected Understanding/Le Savoir branché.

At the previous Senate meeting in March, Provost David Graham said, “I believe deeply in the principles involved. I feel that we owe it to ourselves, our peers and the public to make research available.” He added, “all the research we do, except for contracts with private industry, all our grants and salaries are due to public funds.”

Student senator Greg Johannson supported the resolution saying, “students are especially attracted to open access because it breaks down barriers that have traditionally existed between academic and non-academic communities. By its nature it makes the academic realm far more inclusive in how it interacts with the outside world.”

Beasley presented responses to many of the points raised at the March Senate meeting prior to the vote. Peter Stoett, Chair of Political Science, declared himself satisfied with the librarian’s “good faith efforts” to address those concerns. His suggestion that the Spectrum Advisory Committee produce a report next year to monitor the resolution’s impact was welcomed.

During the April 16 discussion, Beasley clarified the principle as “opening access to the fruits of academic research beyond these walls, to communities who cannot afford scholarly databases, books and journals.” He stressed that the intention was to be inclusive, making the rich range of quality material produced at Concordia, whether by full- or part-time faculty, and regardless of format, available to all.

“Open access is a very positive step forward for Concordia as a leader among Canadian universities. The moral principles behind open access, and the ideal of bridging boundaries between the academy and humanity as a whole, parallel the values our institution holds in important ways,” said Johannson.

Beasley explained peer-reviewed scholarly articles represent a universally recognized format for academic output, and journal publishers are very familiar with Open Access principles and related negotiations.

This category of academic work is also the most suited for deposit in Spectrum. The Libraries will use feedback from researchers choosing not to deposit to improve Spectrum as the university’s main forum for Concordia’s new engagement with Open Access.

Fine Arts Dean Catherine Wild said although only three of the departments in her Faculty regularly produce scholarly journal articles, the interest to participate amongst all faculty members was very high. “It’s a great way to access, exchange and share visual work with each other and our students.”

Just before the question on the motion was called, Vice-President Research and Graduate Studies Louise Dandurand endorsed the resolution’s goal saying, “our role as researchers is to produce material, train students and disseminate knowledge.”


Concordia University