Improving Access
with Open-Access
Publishing Funds
Greg Tananbaum, ScholarNext
n open-access (OA) fund is a pool of money set aside by an
institution or other research-sponsoring entity to support
publication models that enable free, immediate, online distribution
of, and access to, scholarly research. In late 2009, OA funds gained prominence
when a number of high-profile institutions signed the Compact for Open-Access
Publishing Equity (COPE). COPE encouraged universities and research-funding
agencies to develop “durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable
publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based
open-access journals.”1 As of this writing, 10 North American universities are
operating OA funds: University of Calgary; University of California, Berkeley;
Columbia University; Cornell University; Harvard University; University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Oregon; University of Tennessee;
Wake Forest University; and University of Wisconsin–Madison.
There are a number of reasons an institution might consider launching an open-
access fund. Each year a smaller percentage of all scholarly publications is available
to researchers because of increasing subscription prices and decreasing library
budgets, even though the production and quantity of scholarly information is
growing exponentially. Faculty members traditionally give away their copyrighted
work to publishers and the academy often buys back the content at premium
prices. OA funds can potentially improve access to research and accelerate the
online availability of peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journal articles.
According to the institutions that have established open-access funds, the
funds’ activities are consistent with a trend toward support of a wide array of
OA initiatives in which faculty are increasingly interested. Faculty members are
regularly exercising their stake in ensuring both the speed and the reach of
research dissemination, by publishing in OA journals, depositing in OA
repositories, retaining their copyrights, and pursuing campus-wide policies for
OA to institutional research outputs.2 The creation of an open-access fund offers
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