ACRL Scholarly Communications Initiative ACRL Board Update

June 2005

This report summarizes the progress of the ACRL Scholarly Communications Initiative since the last update provided to the ACRL Board in January 2005. It highlights the work of the Scholarly Communications Committee, internal ACRL activities related to scholarly communications, and recent major scholarly communications developments.

The Scholarly Communications Committee met at the ACRL National Conference in Minneapolis and will also hold its regular meeting at the annual conference in Chicago. The committee has also conducted various business by email. The chair of the committee has represented ACRL in advocacy work through both the Open Access Working Group and the Information Access Alliance.

Major Developments

We are continuing to see encouraging signs of change in the system of scholarly communication. A number of universities in the United States, including Case Western Reserve, Columbia, Cornell, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Kansas, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have issues policy statements endorsing open access. The policies at both Kansas and Cornell encourage researchers to deposit the results of their work in their institutional repositories.

The National Institutes of Health announced their public access policy on February 3, as discussed below in the section on Open Access Advocacy. The Wellcome Trust in Britain, one of the world’s largest funders of biomedical research, announced that it will require all of its researchers to make the results of their work openly accessible within six months of publication in a peer reviewed journal. The Trust is also partnering with other medical research funders in the United Kingdom to create a UK version of PubMed Central. Universities in the United Kingdom are moving toward policies requiring their researchers to make their work openly accessible through institutional repositories. Major European research funding agencies are launching open access repositories and encouraging author self-archiving. The Berlin3 conference, which was held in South Hampton in March, is adding increased impetuous to the self-archiving movement. Signatory institutions to Berlin3 will require that their researchers make the results of their work openly accessible in open access repositories and also encourage them to publish in open access journals.

Numerous publishers have also implemented policies that increase access to their journals’ contents after specific embargo periods. Oxford University Press announced its "Open Choice" which gives authors the option of paying a fee to make their work openly accessible. The number of peer-review open access journals is continuing to grow steadily; the Directory of Open Access journals included almost 1,600 titles as of the end of May 2005.


The Scholarly Communications Committee has continued a variety of activities designed to educate librarians, faculty, and administrators about the need for change in the system of scholarly communication.

Scholarly Communications Institute
The chair of the committee has worked with ARL staff to develop initial plans for a new Scholarly Communications Institute that will be jointly sponsored by ACRL and ARL and modeled in part on ACRL’s Information Literacy Institute Immersion Program. Current plans call for the 2-1/2 day institute to be held for the first time during the summer of 2006. A description of the institute, along with a proposed timeline and budget, will be submitted to the ACRL Board for approval at its second meeting on Tuesday, June 28. Draft versions of these documents were distributed to the Board prior to the conference. Its hoped that the institute can be offered regularly and that it will greatly increase the number of librarians who are knowledgeable about scholarly communications issues and well-positioned to develop campus communication programs.

ACRL National Conference Program
The committees panel program for the ACRL National Conference was entitled "Taxation with Dissemination: Does the Public Have a Right to Open Access to Federally Funded Research?" The panel featured a videotape of NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni that was specially prepared for the conference. Other speakers were Mark Kamlet, Provost at Carnegie Mellon University, and Elizabeth Marincola, President of the American Association for Cell Biology. The program had an attendance of well over 200 and was very well received.

Institutional Repository Workshop
The committee collaborated with SPARC to hold a workshop on institutional repositories at the ACRL National Conference that was designed primarily for smaller universities and colleges. The workshop had a full attendance of over 50 and was positively evaluated.

The SPARC ACRL Forum at the midwinter conference in Boston, which focused on the NIH issue, was extraordinarily successful. Speakers included Jane Griffith of NIH, Sharon Terry of the Genetic Alliance, and Gary Ward, a neuroscientist at the University of Vermont. The panel drew an audience of well over 300 and was enthusiastically received.

The topic for the annual conference forum in Chicago will be "Three Big Ideas Transforming Scholarly Communication." Presenters will include Debra Lappin, public policy adviser for SPARC and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, who will speak on the topic of open access to federally funded research; John Price Wilkin, Associate University Librarian at the University of Michigan, who will speak about the Google Print project; and John Wilbanks, Executive Director of Science Commons, who will speak about legal mechanisms to encourage sharing of intellectual property.

Scholarly Communications Toolkit
The ACRL Scholarly Communications Toolkit was made publicly available prior to the ACRL National Conference. The toolkit provides a basic introduction to scholarly communications issues; suggested actions for librarians, faculty, and administrators; and a variety of tools to support campus communication efforts. The toolkit was widely publicized on listservs and a bookmark advertising it was included in the ACRL National Conference packets. Karen Williams also wrote an article on the toolkit for C&RL News. Karen created most of the content of the toolkit during a recent sabbatical from the University of Arizona and she finished work on it after moving to her current position at the University of Minnesota. ACRL owes Karen a deep debt of gratitude for her volunteer efforts to create the toolkit. The toolkit appears to be a hit with those who have used it. The following is the response of one librarian: "I looked at this site over the weekend and it's wonderful. I'm going to use it to frame my next [faculty] talk and I'm telling every librarian I run into to use it as a basis for any discussions they have. Thanks for doing a great job and making my life immensely easier."

C&RL News Column
The committee has continued to coordinate the ongoing bimonthly column on scholarly communications issues for C&RL News. Columns published since the last board meeting include Karen Williams’ article on the toolkit and a report by Lee Van Orsdel on the invitational anti-trust symposium that was sponsored by the Information Access Alliance and the American Anti-Trust Institute in February. An article by Sharon Terry, president of the Genetic Alliance, that describes her efforts to gain access to biomedical research will be published in the July/August issue.

ACRL Discussion Group
The ACRL Scholarly Communications Discussion Group held a well-attended session on open access at the mid-winter conference in Boston. Plans for the annual conference discussion group session include an appearance by Heather Joseph, who will become the new SPARC Director in July, as well as a discussion of topics raised at the SPARC/ACRL Forum.

Advocacy and Coalition Building

Open Access Advocacy
The Open Access Working Group (representing AALL, ALA, AAHSL, ACRL, ARL, Creative Commons, MLA, Open Society Institute, Public Knowledge, The Public Library of Science, SLA, and SPARC) has continued to work actively on the issue of public access to federally funded research. The final National Institute of Health public access policy was announced in February 3 and rolled out for implementation on May 2. The policy is a major step forward, but it is also disappointing in some respects, since it is voluntary and allows NIH funded researchers a period of up to 12 months to make their work openly accessible in PubMed Central. ACRL joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access in a letter to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, that responded to the policy and called on NIH to monitor its implementation closely to determine the extent to which it is successful. In addition, Frances Maloy and Ray English sent letters to Secretary Leavitt and NIH Director Zerhouni that were supportive of the policy, but also suggested improvements.

The OAWG, under the leadership of Rick Johnson at SPARC, is following the implementation of the NIH policy closely, focusing especially on measures of success. It will be relatively easy to determine the effectiveness of the policy by the percentage of NIH funded researchers who do decide to deposit their work in PubMed Central and then the average lag time before their work is openly accessible.

The OAWG and the consulting group employed by it to support the NIH effort are continuing to work on a Congressional strategy to strengthen the NIH policy and also to have similar policies implemented at other federal agencies. It is encouraging that there appears to be very strong interest--both within Congress and at selected scientific agencies--in a much broader policy.

On a discouraging note, the American Chemical Society is leading an effort to shut down PubChem, an openly accessible database of information on the chemical structures of small organic molecules that is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at NIH. ACS is arguing that PubChem is a government-funded competitor to the Chemical Abstracts Services. The Open Access Working Group has written to Representative Ralph Regula, chair of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIH, in support of PubChem,

Anti-Trust Issues
The Information Access Alliance (AALL, ACRL, ALA, ARL, MLA, SLA, and SPARC), partnering with the American Anti-Trust Institute, held a very successful one-day invitational conference on anti-trust issues in the journal publishing industry on February 11, 2005 at the Georgetown University Law Center. The symposium, which explored a broad range of anti-trust issues, was attended by several federal and state anti-trust policy makers. The symposium led the attorney general’s office in one state to express strong interest in investigating this issue.

ACRL Liaison Activity

The Scholarly Communications Committee has worked with the Council of Liaisons to distribute a brief survey to ACRL liaisons in order to assess possibilities for working with liaison organizations on scholarly communications issues. The Scholarly Communications Committee will discuss the survey responses at its meeting in Chicago and decide what organization(s) might be appropriate to approach.

ACRL is unfortunately continuing to encounter difficulties in providing staff support for the Scholarly Communications Initiative. Shannon Cary’s reconfigured position was posted and widely advertised, but only a small number of candidates applied and an even smaller number met the minimum qualifications. The search eventually proved unsuccessful, as one finalist candidate withdrew in the later stages of the process. Mary Ellen Davis has reached agreement with ALA to re-advertise this as a contract position with benefits. This should make it possible to pay a higher salary and also attract a better applicant pool.

RE 6/1/05