Five years of Open Access at uOttawa: defying the conventional model of academic publishing

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When uOttawa became the first research-intensive Canadian university to adopt a comprehensive Open Access (OA) program in 2009, it established itself as a leader in the OA movement that was sweeping across the academic world. A lot has happened in the five short years since then.

While the worldwide growth of data, including the near-doubling of OA repositories and tripling of institutional OA policies, is part of the story, University of Ottawa researcher Heather Morrison feels that the more important change is a philosophical one.

"Five years ago, I think there was still a question of do we want to do this?" says Morrison, who recently received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to study the logistics of transitioning from the traditional academic publishing model to a scholarly communication model based entirely on Open Access, or what she refers to as a Sustainable Knowledge Commons. "The question now revolves more around how we do it."

Some of the answers to that question lie in initiatives that have been launched on campus since 2009.

The University's Open Access Author Fund, which is managed by the Library with the support of most faculties, has helped 372 uOttawa researchers publish over 530 articles in Open Access. That support has meant that Alzheimer researchers such as Steffany Bennett are able to make their peer-reviewed research freely available through uO Research.

"Through Open Access, I can let people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and their families read the research for themselves," says Bennett. "If we can explain what we do, provide people with the actual peer-reviewed research, and then answer any questions they have, then we can truly make a difference."

With world-class researchers such as Bennett contributing to uO Research, it's not surprising that the University’s digital repository is home to over 20,000 items that have been downloaded almost 3,000,000 times in the last two years alone. In fact, the Canadian OA movement has grown so strong that the three main federal funding agencies are on the verge of mandating that all taxpayer-funded research be made available on Open Access. Once this policy becomes official, Canada may well be past the tipping point of Open Access and uOttawa will be well prepared to meet the challenges that come with it.

"It truly has been a remarkable five years and everyone at uOttawa has so much to be proud of when it comes to Open Access," says Chief Librarian Leslie Weir. "With evolving topics like Open Data, Open Government and Open Educational Resources, I wouldn't be surprised if the next five years will be even more remarkable."

To mark the fifth anniversary of Open Access at uOttawa, the University of Ottawa Press and the Library invite you to join them for #uOttawaOA5 on October 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The University of Ottawa Press will be releasing five new OA titles, and will be hosting a panel discussion and QA period.

For more information, visit the Open Access website.

Quick facts about Open Access at uOttawa: Maximizing the impact of research

  • Number of items downloaded from UO Research since January 2013: over 2,855,000
  • Searches performed: 281,000
  • uO Research contains approximately 20,000 items and an average of 115 are added every month.
  • The top 10 most consulted items have been viewed over 29,500 times in total
  • The Open Access Author Fund has supported over 370 authors from 59 different departments
  • The 370 authors have published over 530 articles
  • The University of Ottawa Press has published over 60 titles in OA, including Michael Geist's The Copyright Pentalogy
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