Jonathan Eisen at The Tree of Life writes

If you need any more incentive to publish a paper in an Open Access manner if you have a choice – here is one. If you publish in a closed access journal of some kind, it is likely fewer and fewer colleagues will be able to get your paper as libraries are hurting big time and will be canceling a lot of subscriptions.

He’s absolutely right.[1] Eisen refers to a statement from his own university’s library (UC Davis), describing a major review and cancellation process. Charles Bailey has compiled public statements from seven ARL libraries (Cornell, Emory, MIT, UCLA, UTennessee, UWashington, Yale) about substantial cuts to their budgets. My own university will be experiencing substantial collections budget cuts in addition to major layoffs following on from the Harvard endowment drop of 30%. The Harvard libraries are not being spared.

The ARL has issued an open statement to publishers about the situation on behalf of their membership, 123 premier academic libraries in North America. They note that in addition to 2009 cancellations, “Most member libraries are preparing cancellations of ongoing commitments for 2010.”

Now more than ever, academic authors need to take responsibility for making sure that people can read what they write. Here’s a simple two-step process.

  1. Retain distribution rights for your articles by choosing a journal that provides for this or amending your copyright agreement with the journal (but don’t fall into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” trap).
  2. Place your articles in an open access repository.

As budgets get cut and cancellations mount, fewer and fewer people will be able to read (and benefit from and appreciate and cite) your articles unless you make them accessible.


[1]Except for the implication that your only recourse is an open-access journal. In addition to that route, you can also publish in a traditional subscription-based closed-access journal, so long as it allows, or you negotiate rights for, your distribution of the article. Most journals do allow this kind of self-archiving distribution.

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One Response to “As library budgets collapse, authors need to take responsibility for access”

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