From Conference to Practice: Advocating for Open Access after OpenCon2014

This contribute was provided by Jennifer Beamer, Business Humanities Social Sciences Librarian at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.


Aloha from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM). I’m Jennifer Beamer, a graduate student and Librarian at Hamilton Library. In November of 2014, the Digital Library Federation sponsored me to attend OpenCon2014 in Washington D.C. OpenCon is the premier international conference for students and early career researchers on the topics of Open Access to research articles, Open Education, and Open Data. Approximately 175 participants from more than 40 countries attended. Our goal was to learn from each other and then leave with the tools to empower the next generation of scholars and researchers to advance open sharing of knowledge in research, education, and data through awareness-raising in local communities.

I learned at OpenCon2014 that I am lucky to work at an institution that is already committed to disseminating its research and scholarship as widely as possible by adopting an Open Access policy at UHM for its faculty. Since 2012, our faculty has been making their research available to the public by posting their scholarly works in UHM’s online repository ScholarSpace, which houses published articles, working papers, and other materials. I also learned that many researchers and students are fighting an uphill battle to make their research openly available. I left the conference feeling inspired by the advocates working hard to forward Open Access.

Why I am telling you this now? Well, over the past six months I too have been advocating on my campus for Open Access, working with Heather Frey, a Ph.D. student in Political Science, and our Graduate Student Organization (GSO) Executive Council Committee Chair for Academics. Together we wanted to inspire the next generation of researchers and new scholars to consider Open Access for disseminating their research.

Heather and I believe that graduate students are often so consumed with getting their work published that they do not consider the rights they are signing away. Open Access will help protect graduate students’ rights to access their work even after it is published. Open Access will also give graduate students a much larger viewing audience and hopefully lead to future collaboration in their area of interest.

So, I broached the subject of Open Access at a GSO meeting and addressed questions that students might have. Heather drafted a motion similar to the one for Stanford University Graduate School of Education doctoral students and presented it to the GSO to be voted on.

I’m happy to report that our GSO students approved the motion on April 23, 2015. Now our Masters and Ph.D. students can make a wider impact, and hopefully inspire other students in their scholarly journey. None of this would have happened had it not been for the support from the Digital Library Federation. Thank you to Nick Shockey and his colleagues at SPARC, who inspire us all. Thank you also to all the wonderful scholars, researchers, and Open Access advocates I met at OpenCon. And big mahalos to Beth Tillinghast, a Librarian who inspired our Faculty at UHM to embrace Open Access and the belief that we can all make some small difference to the worldwide archive of knowledge!

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