One year later, KU shown to be leader in open access scholarship

Practice grows on campus, across world

It’s been just more than a year since KU became the first public university in the United States to implement an open access policy for published scholarship. In that time, the practice of making research available to anyone — not just journal subscribers — has grown at KU and around the world.

KU recently celebrated international Open Access Week along with about 900 institutions from more than 50 countries. The weeklong series of events was part of the ongoing effort to help more faculty and grad students understand the issues before them and make their published research available to anyone with internet access, not just those who can afford often-costly academic journal subscriptions. KU is also becoming a resource for other universities looking to institute similar policies.

“I’d categorize the steps we’ve taken to be supportive to other campus open access advocates as aggressive,” said Lorraine Haricombe, dean of libraries. “We saw an opportunity for the libraries to have a strong supporitve role in and be a catalyst for the adoption of open access here at KU and to continue to help other universities as needed.”

The libraries oversee KU ScholarWorks, the online open access repository that houses published KU research. The repository can show which works were added specifically in accordance with the open access policy and what documents were added simply to share research. Ada Emmett, associate librarian for scholarly communications, said KU ScholarWorks can show faculty authors how often their research is being downloaded, and where the download is coming from. She cited ecology and evolutionary biology as a department that is taking advantage of open access as a way to expand the reach of its research. Last year, the department had just over 3,000 of its documents downloaded from the repository. So far this year, more than 13,000 have been downloaded. The downloads have been made in more than a dozen countries including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Mexico, Russia and Brazil.

“There’s been a significant amount of increase in our activity here at the Center for Digital Scholarship,” Emmett said. “This department is showing the open access movement can make a transformational difference in the accessibility of the scholarship authored at KU and funded by the citizens of Kansas.”

To help encourage more departments and faculty members to make their research available via open access, the libraries have identified early adopters and “open access liaisons.” The liaisons work with faculty within their departments to learn more about the policy and utilize the services of the library for help participating. Library staff now offer a “full service” submission process by uploading articles for authors, both to encourage participation and avoid adding another task to the already full schedules of faculty members. Anyone who would like to be an open access liaison can contact Emmett at

Emmett and her colleagues are making presentations weekly to faculty and graduate students across campus to answer questions and show the benefit of open sharing of research in general and the policy specifically.

“The idea is to build on the success and satisfaction of the people we’re serving,” Emmett said. “This is not just a libraries thing, it’s of direct benefit and concern to scholars and meant to be viral, to encompass all of campus.”

KU is also answering questions from across the country about how to implement such a policy and encourage faculty authors to take part.

Haricombe said the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition regularly refers people with questions about open access to KU. Institutions such as the University of Utah, Emory University, University of Hawaii and University of Illinois-Carbondale have all been in contact within the last year.

“This shatters the myth that there are no alternative or complementary publication channels,” Haricombe said. “It’s also a point of pride for KU. It shows we are absolutely committed to making our research available to as many people as possible.”

KU ScholarWorks is available online. KU’s open access policy is available in the KU Policy Library.

Campus closeup
Kevin Liu, associate director, Confucius Institute


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