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Open Access and COVID-19

May 4th, 2020

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of access to digital information. Collaboration in a digital environment has become paramount as researchers seek to answer questions about the novel coronavirus. These researchers and scholars need immediate access to research and datasets being used by other scholars in order to build on existing work, to rapidly push the rate of dissemination and discovery for other scholars to keep moving these important efforts forward.

Both higher education as well as K–12 educational institutions throughout the world are closed. Those institutions capable of moving teaching and learning to digital environments have now done so. To meet the needs of online education, dozens of educational companies and publishers have made their content and platforms free.

The idea of providing free access to knowledge is not new. The Budapest Open Access Initiative laid out a way in which new technology could combine with old traditions to “make possible an unprecedented public good. . . . The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds.”

These words were written in 2002. Since that time, many libraries have sought to make scholarship freely available by participating in the Open Access movement. Open Access can take many forms, from supporting publications that are born open (Gold Open Access) to opening versions of subscription journal articles (Green Open Access). In establishing and maintaining institutional repositories, libraries support Green Open Access—providing free versions of scholarly works that may otherwise require large fees to read. Purdue e-Pubs is the institutional repository of Purdue University, established by Purdue Libraries nearly 15 years ago. In that time, we have published more than 75,000 works, all freely available online to anyone throughout the world. Open scholarship posted to Purdue e-Pubs has been downloaded more than 21 million times, in more than 230 countries. With quarantine and stay-at-home measures in force, the need for access to open works has never been higher. This year, Purdue e-Pubs downloads increased significantly compared to downloads this same time last year: January by 28%, February by 19%, and March by 10%.

Open Access fulfills our land-grant mission by giving back to our community, increasing the pace of research and development, leading to greater access and use of scholarship, and providing needed resources to practitioners and technical workers.

In these unprecedented times, the need for free, immediate access to scholarly literature is more important than ever. The Purdue e-Pubs team is here to help the Purdue community open your work to the world. We provide a free publisher sharing policy review service and will upload works on your behalf. If you would like to participate, contact Nina Collins, nkcollin@purdue.edu, or send a list of publications to epubs@purdue.edu.