KU pushes to increase public access to published research

Viewed through the front arches of Spooner Hall is Dyche Hall, right of center. At left, in the distance, is Danforth Chapel and Fraser Hall.

Kansas University is trying to make the research done at the school available to a wider audience.

A new policy asks KU researchers to retain some of the copyright on their work if they wish to, allowing journal articles, e-books and other scholarly work to be posted online on a KU Web site for all to see.

The repository is at http:// kuscholarworks.ku.edu.

Joining institutions such as Harvard and Stanford, KU became the first public school to institute such a policy last year. A set of revisions to the policy is up for review by the provost.

Ada Emmett, scholarly communications librarian, has been working with a KU task force to implement the policy. She said she hoped to have 25 percent of the total research KU does posted online over the next two years, though the output of research done at KU is difficult to quantify.

Not all journals agree to give up the copyrights — and when that happens, the policy does not interfere with professors publishing their work as usual.

Emmett said the policy can have benefits to both sides. For professors, their work is more widely distributed — and can mean additional citations for their research. Journals can gain more visibility and potential subscribers, she said.

Town Peterson, a KU distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has been working on the issue for years.

He said that publishers of scholarly journals have driven up costs over the past 30 years because they knew that libraries would pay for subscriptions. As costs grow, libraries have to cut some subscriptions, and many overseas institutions have no access to scholarly work, he said.

State taxpayers, too, will gain additional access to the work, as many public libraries are increasingly cutting back on academic journals, he said.

On the leading edge of the trend, KU has offered advice to other schools that have been interested in making changes to their own policies, Peterson said.

Even when journals say no when asked whether authors can retain their rights, Peterson said, KU can still send a message about where the industry is headed.

“Scholarly publication is knowledge, and knowledge should be available to everybody,” Peterson said.