Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Open Access @ Purdue: What It Is and Why It Matters

October 19th, 2020

By: Nina Collins, Scholarly Publishing Specialist

Photo Courtesy of Purdue Libraries

As we begin our celebration of Open Access Week 2020, it is important to define what Open Access means and why it matters at Purdue University.

Open Access, in the broadest sense, is free and immediate access to scholarly literature, coupled with re-use permissions. Open Access does not require subscription fees. Anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, or re-use Open Access scholarship, regardless of whether or not they have the ability to pay subscription fees. Open Access content is immediately available to everyone. This immediacy helps to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and creation of new scholarship. In this way, Open Access also helps to encourage innovation and enrich education. 

According to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), “Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education form a broad Open Agenda that is critical to accelerating the way we discover knowledge and unlocking our potential to solve big problems and make new discoveries.”

Never has the necessity to accelerate scientific discovery and solve big problems been more important than it is in 2020. “On 30 March 2020, UNESCO hosted an online meeting of representatives of science ministries of 122 countries to exchange views on the role of international cooperation in science and increased investment in the context of COVID-19. During the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called on governments to reinforce scientific cooperation and integrate open science in their research programmes to prevent and mitigate global crises”. (reference) On April 7, 2020, the Executive Committee of the German Commission for UNESCO released a statement calling for global open scientific cooperation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The release emphasized that open science is a question of survival and is necessary to overcome the pandemic (reference).

The benefits of Open Access scholarship reach beyond the pressures of discovering solutions to the current pandemic. Open scholarship has numerous advantages for teaching and learning. If an educator cannot access scholarly works, they can’t teach it. If students cannot access it, they cannot learn it. A 2015 report from UNESCO, titled, Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good, stated, “. We must consider not only how knowledge is acquired and validated, but also how access to it is often controlled and, therefore, how access to it can be made commonly available”(79).

At Purdue, Open Access helps fulfill our land-grant mission. Open Access Scholarship can more readily be accessed and taught, it can speed up discovery and innovation, and can help with engagement by ensuring access to all. To support the myriad benefits available to scholars who publish their work openly, Purdue Libraries established Purdue e-Pubs, our institutional repository for scholarly works. Launched in 2005, Purdue e-Pubs currently hosts more than 76,000 Open Access documents. These works have been downloaded more than 22 million times across the world. With the current focus on virtual teaching and learning throughout the world, Purdue e-Pubs downloads have increased more than 25% this year.