Better Together: Partnerships to Bring Open Access Week Events to the Disciplines

by Lauren B. Collister and Jackie Smith, University of Pittsburgh


For Open Access Week 2017, the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh took a new approach for scheduling events built on outreach work done in prior years. The library, instead of hosting an event for OA Week all on our own, partnered with several departments to co-sponsor a talk of broad interest that wove in Open Access as a theme. That event sparked a number of other related events throughout the year, help Open Access reach a different audience, and led to new proposed partnerships for 2018. 

Building an Advocacy Base: 

The event was possible because we had spent several years building connections on campus. Through past Open Access Week events, our library’s e-journal publishing program, as well as outreach on our campus, the library developed a network of Open Access advocates and supporters. One of those Open Access advocates is Jackie Smith, a professor in the Sociology Department and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of World-Systems ResearchJackie had successfully advocated with the American Sociological Association to keep her journal Open, and had been one of our most outspoken voices on campus for the free access to research. She participated in past OA Week events, and in 2017, had an idea for one of her own related to the work that she was doing and the activism of graduate students in her department. 

Creating the Event:

Inspired by Jackie’s idea to approach Open from the viewpoint of activism, rather than focus the event on Open Access, the library decided to take the approach of weaving Open Access into a broader discussion about internet freedom and activism for an open internet. Jackie invited Alfredo Lopez, co-founder of May First/People Link, to be the keynote speaker. Three departments at Pitt contributed to an honorarium and facilities and logistics for the event, while the library covered travel expenses. This sharing of resources created buy-in from the many participating departments, which increased the reach for advertising the event to new and different audiences. 

With Jackie’s help, we asked Alfredo to give us a background on the topic of internet freedom, and we came up with the event Corporate Power, Surveillance, and the Future of Open AccessBased on Alfredo’s interests in surveillance and the impact of corporations on the Internet, we asked another outspoken Open Access advocate in our School of Computing and Information, Sheila Corrall, to contribute remarks about how the publishing companies were buying up the tools and resources used by scholars to create and share knowledge. By tying in the hot topic of net neutrality in the United States with a troubling trend in scholarly creation and publication, we were able to make ties between the two areas and introduce audience members to a broader application of the issues that they studied and its impact on the very work that they were doing in their academic lives. By bringing the Open Access conversation to the scholars, relating it to a topic that they cared deeply about, we built bridges and connections. 

The Impact of the Event:

After Open Access Week, the discussion continued. Community members working to promote inclusion and social justice have continued to meet to find ways to help more residents learn about the importance of working to protect access to the internet and to information. Events have included Building a Just Communications System for Pittsburgh and Forged for All? Amazon HQ2, Human Rights, and the Future of Pittsburgh. There is also discussion among several faculty members about how to provide more OA resources for both scholars and for the larger public. This network of faculty and community residents is helping initiate plans for a panel or event for the 2018 OA week on internet access as a human right. This event will be linked to a broader series of events tied with the recognition of the 80th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights he discussion continued.

The model of partnering with a department to discuss Open Access has also garnered interest, as other departments on campus contacted the library to co-sponsor events for 2018. We plan to continue our model of partnering with departments, scholars, and centers at the University to bring more conversations to more scholarly places. However, we would not be in a position to do this work without a strong history of advocacy and work in our library and with our colleagues. We hope that this model will help others who are wondering about next steps for their Open Access Week planning and how they can take the conversations to another level. 


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Gates Foundation Joins Wellcome Trust in Calling for Open Sharing of Research and Data Related to DRC Ebola Outbreak

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation strongly supports the Wellcome Trust’s call for the open sharing of all research findings and data relevant to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We agree that it is imperative that research and data should be shared rapidly and openly during this and all future public health emergencies….”

The Consortium for a Transparent Transition to Open Access (TTOA): A cost-transparent combination of old and new

“The TTOA Consortium is an initiative of the Fair Open Access Alliance ( and includes ‘native’ open access publishers, traditional subscription-based publishers, and open access publishers that do not charge authors: PLOS, MDPI, De Gruyter, Open Edition, Copernicus Publications, Ubiquity Press, Brill, and OLH. In addition to these publishers, the following organizations are collaborating partners: CWTS (Leiden University), QOAM, MPDL….

The TTOA [Transparent Transition to Open Access] Consortium has instead developed a different approach to manage the transition to open access, while embracing all the final features specified in the ORE Call for Tender….

The submission portal, archive, and publication platform would be financed by research funding organisations, while the peer-review and quality control are carried out by the journals of participating publishers. This infrastructure should be built from open-source software, operate under open standards, and be owned or hosted by non-profit organizations…..”

Fair Open Access Alliance

“The mission of the foundation is

a. to promote and support initiatives concerning (Fair) Open Access publications in the broadest sense;

b. to acquire resources and financially sustain (Fair) Open Access publications;

c. to support foundations financially and otherwise in various disciplines (xxxOA’s) that pursue the same goals;

d. to expand the Open Library of Humanities to other disciplines.

e. to propagate and promote the principles of Fair Open Access over all disciplines of science. “

New fund to support groundbreaking open research – Wellcome

New Open Research Fund supports innovative approaches that enable data, code or other research outputs to be discovered, accessed and reused.

It will allow researchers from any discipline to do experiments at the cutting edge of open research and evaluate the benefits and risks of their approach.

The awards are:

  • for new activities or to develop existing activities
  • open to individuals or teams from anywhere in the world
  • up to £50,000 each.

Wellcome will be accepting applications once a year.

Robert Kiley, Head of Wellcome’s Open Research team, says: “We believe the research community are best placed to devise new and innovative ways to make research outputs more open and usable.

“These awards provide a unique opportunity for the most interesting and groundbreaking proposals to be developed, tested and evaluated.”

The unacknowledged convergence of open source, open access, and open science | Willinsky | First Monday

Abstract:  A number of open initiatives are actively resisting the extension of intellectual property rights. Among these developments, three prominent instances — open source software, open access to research and scholarship, and open science — share not only a commitment to the unrestricted exchange of information and ideas, but economic principles based on (1) the efficacy of free software and research; (2) the reputation–building afforded by public access and patronage; and, (3) the emergence of a free–or–subscribe access model. Still, with this much in common, the strong sense of convergence among these open initiatives has yet to be fully realized, to the detriment of the larger, common issue. By drawing on David’s (2004; 2003; 2000; 1998) economic work on open science and Weber’s (2004) analysis of open source, this paper seeks to make that convergence all the more apparent, as well as worth pursuing, by those interested in furthering this alternative approach, which would treat intellectual properties as public goods.

Effects of copyrights on science

Abstract:  Copyrights grant publishers exclusive rights to content for almost a century. In science, this can involve substantial social costs by limiting who can access existing research. This column uses a unique WWII-era programme in the US, which allowed US publishers to reprint exact copies of German-owned science books, to explore how copyrights affect follow-on science. This artificial removal of copyright barriers led to a 25% decline in prices, and a 67% increase in citations. These results suggest that restrictive copyright policies slow down the progress of science considerably.

The SPAR Ontologies

“Over the past eight years, we have been involved in the development of a set of complementary and orthogonal ontologies that can be used for the description of the main areas of the scholarly publishing domain, known as the SPAR (Semantic Publishing and Referencing) Ontologies. In this paper, we introduce this suite of ontologies, discuss the basic principles we have followed for their development, and describe their uptake and usage within the academic, institutional and publishing communities….”

The Public Domain Manifesto

“The public domain, as we understand it, is the wealth of information that is free from the barriers to access or reuse usually associated with copyright protection, either because it is free from any copyright protection or because the right holders have decided to remove these barriers. It is the raw material from which new knowledge is derived and new cultural works are created.

After decades of measures that have drastically reduced the public domain, typically by extending the terms of protection, it is time to strongly reaffirm how much our societies and economies rely on a vibrant and ever expanding public domain. The role of the public domain, in fact, already crucial in the past, it is even more important today, as the Internet and digital technologies enable us to access, use and re-distribute culture with an ease and a power unforeseeable even just a generation ago. The Public Domain Manifesto aims at reminding citizens and policy-makers of a common wealth that, since it belongs to all, it is often defended by no-one. In a time where we for the first time in history have the tools to enable direct access to most of our shared culture and knowledge it is important that policy makers and citizens strengthen the legal concept that enables free and unrestricted access and reuse….”