Trinity College provides online access to its research

20 Oct 2010

Trinity College has adopted a policy similar to that of MIT, Harvard and Stanford to make its scholarly articles available to the public for free online, in a move aimed at broadening access to its research and scholarship.

The move places Trinity at the forefront of academic institutions worldwide that are pioneering the move to open access, said Trinity’s dean of research Dr David Lloyd.

“Knowledge must be accessible widely if its benefits are to impact on society. Trinity is proud to make the work of our world-class researchers and scholars available on open access.

“This policy means that the institutional supports will be in place to assist our researchers in making their work freely available,” Lloyd said.

The ‘mountain’ of TARA

Under the new policy, faculty authors give TCD non-exclusive permission to disseminate their journal articles and other scholarly publications for open access through TARA, Trinity’s Access to Research Archive.

The policy covers all scholarly articles, peer-reviewed conference papers, reports and TCD research theses. The deposit of books, book chapters and datasets associated with published research is strongly encouraged.

TCD’s open access policy is the first such policy adopted by an Irish university and is the result of an ongoing partnership between TCD library and its faculty to capture the intellectual outputs of the university, facilitate access to them via the web and maintain and preserve that access into the future.

TCD’s resolution is similar to those adopted by the universities of Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, but differs from those policies in that it does not require faculty members to retain copyright to their publications.

Instead, it works within the boundaries of scholarly publishers’ copyright policies (up to 95pc of these publishers allow authors to make some version of their papers freely accessible).

Unanimous approval

The new policy was approved unanimously at Trinity’s recent research committee meeting and will take immediate effect.

Open access policies have been adopted by more than 96 universities worldwide and 46 research funding councils.

Major research funders such as the U. National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the European Research Council and all UK research funding councils have mandated open access, as have almost all Irish funders (such as the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA)). Last year, Dublin Institute of Technology became the first Irish higher education institution to adopt an open access policy.

There are more than 24,000 research periodicals publishing worldwide but in the current scholarly publishing system authors are usually required to transfer all or most of their rights to the commercial publisher.

Typically, these publishers will strictly limit access to the work through licensing and will charge high subscription rates back to universities to access the articles. For many years, university libraries have faced rising subscription rates which far outpace inflation. Publicly-funded research is locked into this traditional means of dissemination and is effectively inaccessible to the public and to researchers nationally and internationally who cannot afford to subscribe to these publications.

“TCD’s open access policy is an opportunity for the library and TCD researchers to work together to promote the research output of our university, so that the Irish public and the international research community can be aware of the important work undertaken by our scholars and scientists,” said Trinity’s college librarian, Robin Adams.

“It will also ensure that this work is preserved in digital format to international standards,” added Adams.

TCD’s TARA repository contains, in digital form, the research outputs of TCD faculty and researchers. It allows them to be saved, searched and shared worldwide. It is the largest open access institutional repository in Ireland, with more than 12,000 items freely available, consisting of some of TCD’s highest quality research papers as well as books, book chapters, conference papers and research theses.

The entire archive of the distinguished 160-year-old Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland is there, rubbing shoulders with the latest scientific, technical and medical research from Trinity’s top researchers, as well as theses from our post-graduate students.

There are books and book chapters from arts and humanities disciplines, thousands of images from Trinity’s Irish Art Research Centre (TRIARC) as well as reports in law, economics and social sciences, many of which have impacted on public policy making in Ireland.

The new open access policy will remove any remaining barriers to making TCD’s research openly available to the world. Its aim is to provide the institutional support necessary to realise this goal.

Under the new open access model, potentially thousands of papers published by TCD faculty each year will be added to TARA and made freely available on the web and accessible through search engines such as Google.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years