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American Today


Questions Arise as Journals Go Digital

By Sally Acharya

In the traditional world of academic work, scholars publish in peer-reviewed journals that are printed, purchased, and stocked in university libraries.

In the new world of the digital era, the rules still aren’t certain. How can scholars expand access to their work in an online environment while still protecting their copyrights? Can online peer-reviewed journals carry as much weight as more traditional journals?

The questions are many. The AU Library joined with other libraries in promoting discussion of “open access,” which is sometimes defined as free digital access to journals. The journal itself may not be free. It may, for instance, be paid for by university libraries as part of a database subscription. But open access is a way to make information more widely available within the academic community.

Encouraging changes in that direction, though, requires some education. That’s why university librarians were busy spreading the word during last month’s nationwide Open Access Day, talking with faculty about steps that would be useful.

One suggestion: when faculty publish articles, they should make sure to retain the copyright, transferring only the right of first print and electronic publication. Alternately, they can transfer the copyright but retain the right of post-print archiving. Either approach can ensure that rights aren’t lost in the digital world.

“The big thrust is to encourage faculty to retain their intellectual property rights as much as possible,” said librarian Diana Vogelsong.

More information on issues surrounding open access and tips for universities and faculty members is available through the library.