Open Access Week: Open In Order To… Ensure Longevity

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Today’s blog post is our second response to the theme of “Open In Order To…” An important aspect of Open Access is the idea that once something has been made openly available, it should remain so; this of course necessitates measures to ensure the long-term preservation of openly-available materials.

Let’s take the example of a traditionally-published journal article. The publisher puts it on their website (and charges anyone who wants to read it), but does not permit people to host copies elsewhere as well. What happens in the event that there is a technical fault with their website, or in the (relatively unlikely) event that the publisher’s business fails and they cease to exist? Assuming that the publisher has no continuity plans, then suddenly there are no copies of that journal article available to anyone and it becomes almost impossible to access that piece of research if you had not already managed to buy a personal copy before the website disappeared.

Contrast this with the same journal article published under Open Access. The publisher puts it on their website (and still charges anyone who wants to read it, if it is Green Open Access; if it is Gold Open Access then they make it freely available – see here for a more detailed description of Green and Gold), but now other copies of the article are also hosted elsewhere (e.g. on open access repositories). Not only does this make the article even easier to discover and widen its potential audience, but it makes it far more likely that there will still be a copy available into the future. This is further enhanced by many repositories’ commitment to digital preservation, which looks to ensure that content remains accessible as file formats and software continue to change.

A further example of how Open Access can help to preserve research outputs is in the form of a project website. “On the Edge Research” is an ongoing research programme looking at the development of artists’ roles within society. It has a project website, which documents the various constituent projects and outputs. However, what will happen when the research programme comes to an end? Who will be responsible for ensuring that the website is maintained and that the projects outputs remain available for people to learn from in future? The Publications Team at RGU have helped the On the Edge project participants to preserve their work on our institutional repository, OpenAIR@RGU, creating a full set of records that describe the various aspects of the project (the main page for the project is available here). As an open access repository, OpenAIR@RGU will be able to help preserve this research and ensure that its findings will continue to be available for others to learn from for many years to come.

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