Open Access Publishing Initiative Broadens Reach of Faculty Research
Haverford students who are just beginning their scholarly journey benefit, too.
Last fall, Rebecca Compton was faced with a conundrum. As the Haverford professor of psychology was preparing to publish a peer-reviewed article about the neural mechanisms behind a wandering mind, she was asked by the journal that accepted the paper if she wanted to make it more widely accessible. The cost: $3,000.
For a researcher with modest funding, the fee was “not trivial,” she says. But as journals and publishing houses increasingly shift the burden of underwriting open access publishing onto academics and their institutions, more researchers are being forced to decide if extending the reach of their work is worth such costs.
Compton, however, had support. She turned to Benjamin Le, professor of psychology at Haverford and associate provost for faculty development. Le encouraged Compton to apply for assistance from a new fund dedicated to promoting open access publishing among the College’s faculty.
“The whole purpose of publishing scientific papers is not just to say that you published them or get a credential on your CV, but to share with the scientific community,” Compton says. “Even small-scale studies add incrementally to the body of knowledge we share, and science progresses because of shared information across labs and institutions, so mechanisms for increasing the sharing of information are all good.”
The open access movement began in earnest in the early 2000s, seeking to make academic research accessible without restrictions, rather than limiting it to only those able to pay for scholarly journals. In recent years, the publishers of academic journals have begun asking researchers to pay article processing charges like the one Compton encountered to open up access to their work. In addition, they have begun reaching “transformative agreements” with libraries, which allow institutions to both subscribe to journals and openly publish work in those journals.
In response to these shifts, Le and Associate Librarian of the College Norm Medeiros have sought ways to support faculty in navigating this thicket and expanding the reach of their work. Their efforts underscore the significance of faculty scholarship and dissemination for the college, they say.
“The impact of their work is greater because it's seen by more people, and there's literature showing that open access articles are cited more,” Le says. “We’re a small school. We maybe aren't on everybody's radar all the time, but if we can get our scholars’ work out there more easily, that's great for our profile.”
In 2022, Le and Medeiros, whose duties include coordinating collection management and metadata services, began to pilot strategies to help more faculty publish their work open access, using money from both the libraries and the Office of the Provost. In that year, Professor of Classics Bret Mulligan published Reading Friendship and Enmity in Ancient Rome, an intermediate-level Latin sourcebook, with support from a grant program developed by Librarian of the College Terry Snyder. The book was published as an open educational resource — an offshoot of open access that allows scholars to create textbooks entirely composed of publicly available elements, replacing costly commercial textbooks.
Since then, Medeiros and Le have seen a spike in inquiries from faculty hoping to publish their work open access. Now, in addition to supporting open educational resources with grants, the college has a growing stable of transformative agreements that provide waivers for article processing charges, as well as funding to cover those charges when necessary, as Compton experienced.
“We want to make it normative that when you publish, if you want it out there we can do that,” Le says.
Like Mulligan, Associate Professor of Linguistics Brook Danielle Lillehaugen has garnered support for working on an open educational resource in connection with her third-edition coursebook for Valley Zapotec, an endangered Indigenous language spoken in southern Mexico and by some communities in California and throughout the United States. Publishing in the digital format allowed her to embed videos in the book, adding an important element for introducing the language to new speakers, while also offering a Spanish-language version. It has also broadened the book’s impact, she says, by ensuring that students and members of the Zapotec community won’t need to pay a hefty fee to read it.
“I don't want the work that I do that has benefited from so much Zapotec expertise and labor to end up in an ivory tower and to not feed back into work that Zapotec people are doing to protect their own language,” Lillehaugen says.
Like much faculty research at Haverford, Lillehaugen’s work involved student researchers (Brynn Paul ’20 and Lillian Leibovich ’24). Compton’s research, which was published in the journal Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, included five student co-authors. Open access publishing, then, is also a boon to students who are just beginning their scholarly journeys.
“For them to have the projects that they worked on have some more visibility is awesome — and it helps bring them on board with this idea that we try to share our knowledge as best we can,” Compton says.
The open access revolution at Haverford is still in its infancy, Le and Medeiros say, but already they’re encouraged by the breadth of research they have been able to support.
Professor of Political Science Paulina Espejo argued in the journal Perspectives on Politics that pueblos, or grounded Indigenous communities, should be given territorial rights, alongside individuals and states. Assistant Professor of Philosophy Qrescent Mali Mason wrote in Hypatia, a journal of feminist philosophy, about the Black Girl Magic movement’s ability to unite Black women across borders. The growing list of open access research also includes Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Tarik Aougab on toroidal curves; Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Jonathan Wilson on physiological selectivity among plants during the Pennsylvanian geological period; Associate Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen on the potential for naturally occurring marine antibiotics; and Paul Smith, professor emeritus of history and East Asian languages and cultures, on the fragility of peace in 11th century China.
“Now we have folks thinking about open access and transparency as part of the whole arc of a research project, not just something to tack on at the end,” Le says.