The Online Research Collections team in the Library was recently invited to deliver a training session to the Goldsmiths Student Library Reps.
Open Access at Goldsmiths
The concept of Open Access is central to everything that the Online Research Collections team do. Open Access is the process by which online research outputs are made free for anyone to view, read and download, without the need to log in or make a payment. Where possible, Open Access materials should be free of most copyright restrictions.
The team support and develop Open Access provision at Goldsmiths through our institutional repository Goldsmiths Research Online (GRO) and our Open Access journal platform Goldsmiths Journals Online (GOJO). Currently, there over 21,00 Open Access items on GRO that can be accessed by anyone in the world with an internet connection and there have been nearly 3 million downloads from the repository since 2006.
|Total number of items on GRO||21,053|
|Total number of Open Access items||7,487|
|Total number of downloads (all time)||2,998,225|
Open Access for students
In the past, our training and advocacy activities have largely focused on academic staff members and PhD students. Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students have largely been left out of our conversations around Open Access, so this was a great opportunity for us to engage with a new audience.
Our current training activities emphasise the benefits Open Access to researchers and the way that it can improve the global visibility, readership and impact of their work, both within academia and more widely. However, Open Access is also enormously beneficial to students as it offers easy access to research outputs, and they can benefit just as much as those further into their academic careers by knowing how to find, evaluate, and use Open Access resources.
Introducing Open Access to the Library Reps
Our session with the Library Reps started with an introduction to the concept of Open Access and then explored some of the key issues around copyright and licensing. We then demonstrated how to find Open Access resources on GRO and Library Search . We also introduced the Reps to some of the key Open Access resources available and useful browser tools to help them discover Open Access content online such as Unpaywall and Open Access Button .
The session was a really good way of raising awareness of Open Access with a new audience and the team is very enthusiastic about delivering future sessions to our students at Goldsmiths.
Marco Pace, Library Rep for Music, on Open Access
Marco Pace, the postgraduate Library Rep for Music, attended the session and was invited to reflect on the relevance of Open Access to his studies and its impact on his role as a Library Rep.
As a Masters student, I believe that the session with the Open Access team was very useful in letting me understand an extensive range of resources that are available, whose existence I was not aware of. These databases would have helped me, for instance, preparing the piece of academic writing needed for my application to Goldsmiths: as a mature student who had been several years out of higher education, the only access I had to academic literature was through books I bought. Also, it is important to know that when I leave Goldsmiths I will still have considerable access to specialist research such as PhD theses and Goldsmiths researchers’ output.
Databases such as EThOS, the British Library electronic theses online service, provide me a wealth of resources which are extremely focused, all of which also include in their literature review up-to-date introductions to their topics. As an example, I remember last term struggling to find information contained in a thesis of which I could only access a preview of, while a quick search on this database immediately produced incredibly suited (and free to access) entries that I could have used for my PhD research proposal.
The team offered a thorough explanation of how GRO and Open Access systems in general assist the dissemination of the findings of researchers, and how the world of academic research publications work. As a student considering pursuing a career in academia these are valuable insights, which will also help me strengthen my PhD research proposal – I can more effectively state that my findings would be shared in an openly accessible form.
On this regard, as part of the Student Library Rep Project, I was asked yesterday to add a book to the library which is in fact a published version of a recent PhD thesis. It represents high quality research on a very narrow topic (while I must prioritise items that would be helpful for the most students), and the book in itself is quite expensive: I can now put that request on hold in case more relevant items are requested in the next month, and in the meantime explain to the student who requested it how to access it through Open Access systems.
I believe that Open Access systems and especially GRO should receive more attention from Masters students too, especially in the induction week at the beginning of the academic year when the resources of the library are presented. I would not exclude the idea of mentioning these resources somewhere in the “how to apply” page for postgraduate courses: consider returning students who have been out of academia for a while or students coming from conservatoires where they were never asked to write essays (both applied to me), awareness of these tools would highly simplify the preparation of academic writings, personal statements or research proposals.