Open Access and Universities: A Hidden NPL Treasure, Part 1

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In my last blog post, I discussed some resources where patent searchers could locate non-patent literature (NPL).  CopyPDF.com can be useful for finding manuals, FreeFullPDF.com locates journal articles, posters, and theses in PDF format, and the Resource Finder on Intellogist is a great tool for finding all types of NPL databases and publications.  Today, I want to discuss a resource that is very important to me, as a researcher and as a librarian: Open Access repositories.

Open Access (OA) is defined as “the immediate, online, free availability of research outputs without the severe restrictions on use commonly imposed by publisher copyright agreements,” according to the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS).  Through Open Access repositories, searchers can gain free access to technical reports, theses, and journal articles.  Many universities now have their own OA repositories, where faculty, students, and alumni can publish their work. Open Access publishing isn’t completely positive, though; some OA publishers create low-quality online journals and publish almost any article, as long as the author pays a fee.  Read on to learn more about the benefits and controversies of the OA movement!

An Introduction to Open Access

The main question about Open Access resources is, how do you fund them?  A 2009 article by Jeffrey Thomas from America.gov, titled “Universities Work Toward Open Access to Research,” provides an answer:

They typically either are funded by a subsidy from a hosting university or professional society or charge the author a fee when accepting an article (with fees usually waived in cases of economic hardship).

OA journals therefore still have the funding to provide “the same services common to all scholarly journals, such as management of the peer-review process, filtering, production and distribution” (Thomas 2009).  Users receive free access to quality academic literature because of funding provided by either the author of the article or a university.  According to the Jeffery Thomas’s article, “Other benefits [of OA resources] may include larger audiences for an author’s work, reduced expenses for universities and increased return on investments for government and funding agencies.”

Controversies of OA Publishing

Open Access publishing sounds like a very positive enterprise.  Authors receive broad exposure, hosting sites still receive funding, and universities and individual researchers pay less for database subscriptions.  Of course, there are always downsides to an emerging system.  Jefferey Thomas describes two negative aspects of Open Access publishing in his article, and a third negative aspect of Open Access was recently discussed on the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List:

  1. “A recent report, The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations, found that the average cost of publishing one page in major humanities and social science journals was more than twice what it cost in science, technical and medical journals. The report concluded the open-access publishing model ‘is not currently a sustainable option’ for the humanities and social sciences.” (Thomas 2009)
  2. “A study published in the journal Science in February 2009 found that, while open-access articles were used more in the developing world, articles available for a fee were cited more often in the professional literature.” (Thomas 2009)
  3. Users of the  CHIMNF-L listserv recently discussed the prevalence of “predatory open access publishers,” and a user linked to an article by Jeffrey Beall in the Charleston Advisor, entitled “‘Predatory’ Open-Access Scholarly Publishers.”  Beall discusses how some OA publishers use the “author pays” model to profit from academic writers who are willing to pay a fee to publish articles on OA sites.  These publishers use little or no oversight when selecting which article to publish, and they make no effort to permanently preserve the contents of their sites.

In order to avoid reading or publishing on the websites of predatory OA publishers, researchers should utilize the OA repositories hosted by trusted universities.  Many major universities have some form of OA archives that host the work of students and faculty, and patent searchers may find useful NPL through the contents of these repositories.

If you’re interested in learning more about general OA resources, visit the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open Access Directory (OAD), or OASIS.  Below is a screenshot of the DOAJ, which allows the user to search for OA articles and search or browse by title and subject for OA journals.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

To Be Continued…

In part 2 of this article, we’ll look at some examples of Open Access repositories from prestigious universities, including Harvard and MIT.  We’ll also view one example of an OA repository from a state university, in which I’ll show you how to conduct a search for relevant NPL.

Have you had a positive or negative experience with Open Access publishing?  Have you found relevant prior art through Open Access resources?  Let us know in the comments!

Read Part 2 here.


Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

2 Responses

  1. […] last post illustrated the benefits and controversies behind Open Access (OA) publishing.  The OA movement […]

  2. […] going to take a break today from visiting obscure search systems (and writing long 2-part posts) to share with you a delightful patent application that I  hold very close to my […]

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