Montana State University

MSU Library joins group that makes research articles freely accessible to all

March 7, 2014 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

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The Montana State University Library has taken a big step toward making important physics research more widely accessible.

The library recently signed on to participate in a program that makes peer-reviewed literature on particle physics open to everyone. Traditionally, in order to access leading journal articles on particle physics, people seeking those articles would have to purchase a subscription to the journal in which the article appeared, or their university would have to have purchased a subscription.

But a new system in which the MSU library is participating is more inclusive and promotes open, easy access to information, said Leila Sterman, MSU scholarly communication librarian.

The new system is known as SCOAP3, or Spon­soring Con­sor­tium for Open Access Pub­lishing in Par­ticle Physics. SCOAP3 is an inter­na­tional group of uni­ver­sity libraries, funding agen­cies and research institutions that have redirected their subscription fees from 10 leading particle physics journals to membership in the consortium.

SCOAP3 then pays the journals to make hundreds of articles open to all. The result, Sterman said, is win-win: The materials can be accessed freely by anyone in the world, and the journals still get paid.

“It was an easy choice to join SCOAP3,” Sterman said. “MSU believes in supporting open access, and so we are working to support models like this one that look viable.”

Open access to materials is important, Sterman said, because as articles become more widely accessible, their potential impact also becomes greater.

“A widely used example is cancer research,” Sterman said. “If a researcher makes a discovery that furthers our ability to fight cancer, everybody should be able to access that information.”

She added that open access can also help researchers expand on prior work more easily, and it can help prevent duplication of experiments and enable data to be reanalyzed more efficiently. Open access can also increase opportunities for collaboration by fostering connections among researchers in a variety of disciplines.

“This should all be good for science,” Sterman said.

In addition, open access is increasingly becoming required of researchers who receive federal funding, Sterman said. For example, since 2009, the White House has required that all research funded by the National Institutes of Health be made available to the public, a mandate that also gives researchers financial incentive for open access.

SCOAP3 is not MSU’s only foray into open access initiatives. Sterman added that MSU also recently signed on to participate in another group known as Knowledge Unlatched, which offers open access to a pilot collection of 28 books. In addition, the MSU Library maintains ScholarWorks, an open access repository for articles and other intellectual work produced at MSU in support of the university’s teaching, research and service missions. ScholarWorks is available at http://scholarworks.montana.edu/.

SCOAP3 is still in its early stages – the first articles went online at the beginning of the year -- but Sterman noted it could be a promising model for many disciplines beyond particle physics.

“Open access is growing, and this could be one model that works well in many subject areas,” Sterman said. “And if we can make research more available, that will help knowledge grow. The more we push information into the world, the more information we get back.”

Individuals who would like to access particle physics articles through SCOAP3’s online repository are invited to visit http://repo.scoap3.org/.

Contact: Leila Sterman, MSU Scholarly Communication Librarian, (406) 994-4519 or leila.sterman@montana.edu