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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Scholarly access considered

By Elizabeth Mitchell
Associate Editor


Friday, April 11, 2008

From Apr. 14-16, St. Olaf, Carleton and Macalester will be visited by Gavin Baker, a representative of SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. The goal of SPARC, a coalition of 200 members endorsed by the Association of Research Libraries headquartered in Washington, D.C., is to enable open access to all scholarly research to all who might need them, particularly colleges and college libraries.

The open access movement has gained momentum in recent years, beginning with the Budapest open access initiative which garnered signatures from thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations.

In the current system, researchers receive no monetary compensation for publishing the results of their studies. These studies are published in for-profit journals, many of which are owned by the same company. The problem with this, SPARC contends is that many libraries struggle to pay the rising costs to subscribe to the more mainstream, accredited journals.

At the same time, however, few libraries, especially college libraries, have been willing to sacrifice making this information accessible to their patrons. The result, SPARC members say, is the need for a change in the system. SPARC hopes to encourage change by educating the public about problems facing scholarly communication, advocating policy changes which recognize the importance of open access, and incubating real-world business models and demonstrations to prove the plausibility of open access. It hopes that, by making these changes, researchers, publisher partners, libraries, and society as whole can benefit.

Baker, a 21-year-old 2007 graduate of the University of Florida, is one of five SPARC student activists who were recognized by the organization in December 2007 as "SPARC Innovators: Agents of Change."

Baker's online biography said he believes "true success for open access will be the transformation of values, assumptions and strategies by the stakeholders in scholarly communication."

Baker interned at SPARC following his graduation, where he developed a student outreach campaign to raise open access awareness. He also founded the Baker Open Strategies LLC to work towards open access awareness in his own way, citing the groups Science Commons and Creative Commons for ideas and inspiration in his own advocacy work.

On Tuesday, April 14, Baker will visit both Macalester and Carleton Colleges to speak with students about the importance of Open Access.

On Wednesday April 16, Baker will meet with St. Olaf library staff and also hold a panel discussion for St. Olaf students along with Bryn Geffert, St. Olaf College librarian, and Gary Muir, professor of psychology. In this panel, Baker will discuss both the importance of the open access debate and the ways in which college students across the nation can get involved in the cause.

Geffert feels that SPARC's cause is an important one, and one which can make a difference, especially with the current generation of college students. "This is a generation that really appreciates open access," he said.

In addition to attending Gavin Baker's panel, students who want to get involved in the open access movement can visit SPARC's website, http://www.arl.org/sparc, where they can learn about the history of the organization, its members and partners, and what advocates of open access are doing right now.





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