Tech Hosts Open Forum on Authorship and Intellectual Property

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More often than not, the pace of progress in scientific research is slow and incremental: a discovery built upon a discovery built upon another discovery. The trouble is, published research is not always easily available, a barrier that impacts the advancement of scholarship and innovation.

On October 21, the Library and Information Center sponsors a forum that will examine the flaws of the current model for academic publishing. A panel of Georgia Tech faculty and an intellectual property lawyer will discuss their experiences negotiating with publishers to retain rights to their own research, complying with funding agency requirements to increase public access to their research, and using repositories and open access journals in order to increase the impact and citation of one’s research.

We asked librarians Julie Speer, Tyler Walters, Lori Critz to help provide greater context for understanding the discussion around open access.

What does the Open Access movement hope to achieve?
The Open Access movement is about barrier free, online access to scholarly literature for readers. Rather than locking away scholarship and providing access only to paying institutions, it’s about free access to research for everyone. Open access to scholarship would have a positive impact in academia, medicine, industry and beyond.

Open Access Week, a global event, now in its fourth year, has been an effective way to broaden awareness and disseminate information on the growing Open Access movement.

Why should this be a priority for those engaged in scholarship and research?
Funding agencies are increasingly requiring public access to publicly funded research. Whether you receive NIH funds and are required to submit your publications to PubMedCentral or you receive NSF funds and are required provide public access to your data, open research is unavoidable as other private and Federal funding agencies are considering adopting similar policies. The number of open access repositories, such as and institutional repositories, such as Georgia Tech’s SMARTech (, is also on the rise, as are open access journals. Both are mechanisms for increasing the impact and citation of your research. Some of our peer institutions, including Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, are also implementing school or campus-wide open access policies. Bottom line: the rules of the game are changing for authors, funding agencies, and publishers.

What are the primary obstacles to realizing the goal?
One major obstacle is copyright. Faculty members publish in the major journals in their field to meet promotion and tenure requirements. Some publisher copyright agreements require full or partial transfer of copyright to them and place restrictions on how authors can use their own work teaching and research and in their own disciplinary community. If faculty members were to negotiate with publishers to retain more rights, then they could use their work much more, such as posting a PDF version of an article on their website, archiving the article in a repository, or distributing copies to students in the classroom and to colleagues in the field. Realizing that authors can negotiate rights to their published work is the first step in this process.

Misconceptions about open access are another primary obstacle. For example, some mistakenly believe that open access is not compatible with the peer review process.

What are the ramifications of maintaining a status quo?
The flow of knowledge between learners is slowed and hindered due to economic and technical barriers. Consequently, the pace of research and innovation may suffer. Some studies have shown that open access scholarship in some fields is cited and utilized more than more traditionally published scholarship. The existing publishing system has significant sustainability challenges long term. For instance, authors are signing away rights to their research to publishers only to see their universities paying exorbitant prices to access that same research. This is a problem, especially as prices for published scholarship continue to climb well above the rate of inflation and university budgets are either remaining flat or declining.

What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to get involved or learn more about this issue?  

  • Contact your subject librarian or the Scholarly Communication and Digital Services department at, if you’d like get involved. 
  • To learn more about open access, visit Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview,  
  • For authors interested in retaining more rights to their research, the Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine gives you four addendum options and helps you create a PDF to attach to your publisher copyright transfer agreement.  
  • To learn more about your publishers’ copyright policies with regard to self-archiving, visit the SHERPA/RoMEO database ( The database links out to the copyright policy and identifies which versions of an article are permitted for archiving on the web or in a repository.  
  • To learn more about author rights in general: “Authors’ Rights and Copyright”, by the Association of College and Research Libraries,
  • To learn more about how to increase access to your research: “OPEN DOORS AND OPEN MINDS: What faculty authors can do to ensure open access to their work through their institution - A SPARC / SCIENCE COMMONS WHITE PAPER”, 

To learn more about Open Access Week worldwide:



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    Fletcher Moore
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