Access to information is currently a hot-button issue in Canada. With the muzzling of our nation’s top scientists by the federal government, the Canadian public as well as high-ranking decision-makers are at a serious disadvantage. Without access to leading research in important fields such as drug safety or climate change, how can the public make informed judgments about the topics that matter most? How can decision makers develop effective and enlightened policies that will affect not only our country but also the world at large, today and in the future?
The answer is simple: They cannot.
This example serves to demonstrate how, now more than ever, open access to scholarly research, not only in the sciences, but also in the arts and humanities, is crucial to our society. When research is made freely available to all online, knowledge can be shared, acquired and acted upon without the restrictions inherent in more closed forms of publication.
While the benefits of open access are undeniable, it is not always feasible in a world measured in dollars and cents. To defray publishing costs, many open access and hybrid journals charge authors article processing fees. These fees can range in the thousands of dollars, depending on the journal and subject matter. This is hardly an incentive for researchers to make their work available in open access, especially for graduate and post-graduate students on shoestring budgets.
To encourage authors to go the open access route, uOttawa and other universities across Canada and North America have established funds that their professors, students, and research institutes can draw on to help pay for some of the costs associated with open access publishing.
At uOttawa, all full and part-time faculty, staff, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and adjunct professors, as well as members of on-campus and affiliated research institutes, can apply for funding for up to two publications each fiscal year. Peer-reviewed journal articles, scholarly books, and book chapters are all eligible for funding.
It is also interesting to note that the Author Fund is also available to authors who are already receiving funding from Canadian granting agencies that have open access requirements, provided that the amount of funding allocated to submission fees and publication costs by the agency is insufficient to cover these costs.
uOttawa’s Author Fund is an important step in the right direction for the open access movement. It gives authors who might not have otherwise had the chance to participate in the movement, increase their visibility, and disseminate their research findings, all while maintaining control over the copyright of their own work.
This blog post was submitted as part of the course work for ISI 5701 Information et Société at the School of Information Studies, uOttawa.