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Library expands OA publishing opportunities

Author: Abbey K. Elder, Eric Schares, Robin Sinn

Library expands Open Access publishing opportunities

Making your research open access (OA) is a great way to widen entry points to knowledge for all your potential readers and increase the impact of your work globally. Articles published OA have been shown to receive 4 times more downloads, 1.6 times more citations, and 2.5 times more attention in news outlets and policy than equivalent articles in closed access venues (Draux, Lucraft, and Walker, 2021). 

However, publishing OA is not always an easy choice. Some open access journals charge Article Processing Charges (APCs), author-facing fees which are necessary for many publications to sustain themselves. Since their articles are free to read, OA journals do not generate revenue to cover the publisher’s editorial, hosting, or other production costs. To support OA publishing efforts and help Iowa State researchers make their work OA at no cost to them, the University Library has negotiated OA agreements with several publishers.  

The OA Agreements 
The university library’s OA Agreements are contracts and memberships that the university library manages to expand OA publishing options for ISU researchers. Since 2019, the library has set up OA agreements with over 20 individual publishers. Although the impact of our OA agreements started off relatively modest, this changed in 2020 as more researchers across campus learned about the agreements and began making use of them.  

Figure 1. Number of articles published through the Library’s OA Agreements 

Articles published Open Access chart

Today, approximately 380 articles are published openly under our agreements annually. A review of the publishing output of ISU authors found that roughly 3,800 articles per year have one or more ISU-affiliated authors, and just under half of those articles have an ISU corresponding author. With that in mind, our OA agreements are currently supporting open access for approximately 20% of the potentially eligible research from at Iowa State, though it is likely that an even larger portion of the research originating at ISU is available OA through the ISU Digital Repository or through other means.  

Discussion and Future Developments 
The university library’s OA agreements were developed to expand the opportunities available to ISU authors for quality OA publishing. However, that isn’t the only benefit of these agreements. The university library is also able to use our negotiations with publishers to advocate for our peers. In our recently renegotiated agreement with Oxford University Press, for example, we asked that small universities and community colleges be given low-cost access to read OUP journals, whether the articles therein are open access or closed. Authors at participating institutions will also have their APCs covered to publish openly in OUP journals. This advocacy grew out of discussions about who benefits from large universities like Iowa State making OA agreements, and how we can align our work for open access more closely with Iowa State University’s land grant mission.

We recognize that we cannot negotiate with every publisher or pay every APC for ISU’s authors, and that other institutions cannot afford to play hardball with publishers the same way we do.  So, in addition to our OA agreements, the Iowa State University Library is also committed to advancing openness in other ways. We support small scholarly societies and publishers which take a diamond open access approach, wherein there are no author-facing fees for OA publication. Through our support for the Open Access Community Investment Program (OACIP), for example, we’ve supported four journals flipping to a no-fee OA approach. Diamond OA journals are not available for all fields and subdisciplines; however, there are still more options for making your research available to a broad audience.  

The University Library hosts the ISU Digital Repository, an institutional repository available to all faculty, staff, and students to host and share their scholarship. Repositories like the ISU Digital Repository have been shown to expand access to research beyond what publishing OA alone can provide, with marked improvements to citation counts for research shared in a disciplinary or institutional repository (Huang et al, 2024). 

As the options available to researchers for making their work open and accessible to readers continue to grow, the university library will continue to prioritize the needs and interests of our faculty and staff, while leveraging the support we have to help others. You can learn more about the University Library’s Open Investments on our website. 
Abbey K. Elder, Open Access and scholarly communication librarian, 150 Parks Library, 515-294-5753