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Expanding the impact of research

By Eileen Harrington, University of Maryland Libraries | Sept 30, 2019


The first thing that comes to mind when hearing the term “open science” is often open access journals. For many academic libraries, open access journals are their entry point into the open science arena. Often facing flat or reduced budgets along with rising costs for journal subscriptions, libraries have a vested interest in supporting the expansion of open access journals. When librarians advise faculty and graduate students on possible publication outlets, they often promote open access journals. Many academic libraries also maintain open access publishing funds, which researchers on their campuses can tap into to help defray the costs of publishing in an open access journal.


Open access journals, however, are not the only component of open science. The term also encompasses other types of content, such as open textbooks or research data. Infrastructure also plays a role through the development of open systems and standards to ensure interoperability; Open Science Framework, GitHub and Mendeley are examples. Changes that make the processes related to research more transparent — such as alternate forms of peer review and citizen science—can also be considered open science. Many of these components overlap, and open science initiatives often incorporate a mixture of them.


The University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh provides an example of the interconnected nature of open science initiatives. ULS has moved beyond simply supporting publishing in open access journals and has become an open access journal publisher itself. As described in my book, Academic Libraries and Public Engagement with Science and Technology (2019) from the Chandos Information Professional Series, ULS publishes about 40 electronic open access journals from the US and around the world. Many of these journals come from emerging fields of research or small societies and would not exist without the ULS publishing program.


Rising costs in another area—textbooks—have driven many libraries to undertake open educational resource (OER) initiatives. Students often forego purchasing required textbooks, to the detriment of their academic success. Some libraries provide copies of required textbooks through course reserves, but often this is limited to one copy. With budget constraints, many cannot even offer this. In addition to ensuring all students have access to course materials, OERs offer other advantages, including more inclusive and customized materials that support a range of learning styles.


Institutional repositories maintained by academic libraries are also emerging as an important component of open science. They can house alternative forms of research outputs that might not be easily disseminated elsewhere, as well as data and OERs. Institutional repositories can also help researchers who need to comply with federal grants that require data sharing. Because OERs can be hard to locate and are often repurposed when found, depositing them in an institutional repository can make them more easily accessible, allow for version control and ensure their long-term preservation.


All these examples highlight some of the advantages of the open science movement. Through open access journals and OERs, anyone can learn about research and basic principles in the sciences, even those who are not affiliated with a university, college or research organization. This helps make science more equitable and fosters greater science literacy among the general public — which can lead to more people being involved in shaping public policy and confronting environmental and public health issues. Open science also can mitigate the reproducibility problem plaguing several research fields (Nosek, 2017).


It makes sense for libraries to be strong advocates for open science since, ultimately, sharing is the backbone of libraries. In my book, there is a chapter on open science that provides a literature review and case studies for how academic libraries can support the open science movement.


Library Connect is pleased to offer our readers an exclusive look at the author's book by providing a PDF of Chapter Seven, Open Science, here.  



Harrington, E. G. (2019). Academic libraries and public engagement with science and technology. Cambridge, MA: Chandos Publishing.

Nosek, B. A. (2017). Opening science. In R.S. Jhangiani & R. Biswas-Diener (Eds.), Open: The philosophy and practices that are revolutionizing education and science (pp. 89–99). Retrieved from