Columbia University is joining a growing movement among universities and research institutions to make scholarly research available free to the public online. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is the first program at the university to adopt an open access resolution, which calls for faculty and other researchers to post their scientific papers in online repositories such as Columbia’s Academic Commons.
The resolution was adopted by a unanimous vote of Lamont-Doherty’s Executive Committee on Dec. 22, 2010, and will be effective on March 1. Similar resolutions have been adopted at Harvard, MIT, Duke, Stanford, and many other universities in the U.S. and several foreign countries.
Lamont-Doherty researchers typically publish scores of articles annually in many of the leading scientific journals. One of the challenges for scientific research, however, is that articles are often available only to researchers at universities and other organizations that pay substantial subscription fees. By posting articles in an open-access repository, authors are able to make their works freely and widely accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.
“Scientific knowledge belongs to all of humankind, so we should take all possible steps to improve and simplify access to our research findings. This is the fundamental motivation behind the decision taken by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to participate in Academic Commons, Columbia’s open-access digital repository,” said G. Michael Purdy, the director of Lamont for the past 10 years, who this week stepped aside to become the university’s executive vice president of research.
Purdy is succeeded at Lamont-Doherty by interim director Professor Arthur Lerner-Lam, who added: “The earth sciences are relevant to many contemporary policy questions, and open access will ensure that the results of our research are available widely.”
“We applaud the leadership of Lamont-Doherty in advancing open access to research articles. It will serve as a model as the Libraries now work with other Columbia schools, centers, and institutes to expand the commitment and participation,” said James G. Neal, vice president for information services and university librarian.
In addition to increasing the availability of research, the resolution has implications for agreements between authors and publishers regarding the copyrights of the individual articles. According to Dr. Kenneth Crews, director of Columbia’s Copyright Advisory Office, the resolution underscores the connection between publication agreements and the ability to use and share one’s own scholarly works. “While nothing in the resolution will upend publication conventions, the movement toward open access is raising awareness of the need to draft better agreements and for authors to be good stewards of their own copyrights,” he observed.
The Columbia University Libraries will begin working immediately with researchers at Lamont to support them as they upload and make their articles available through Academic Commons.
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is a key component of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is one of the world’s leading research centers seeking fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world. More than 300 research scientists and students study the planet from its deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, nonrenewable resources, environmental hazards and beyond, observatory scientists provide a rational basis for the difficult choices facing humankind.
Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 470 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb is the gateway to its services and resources.
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