Mainz University promotes easier access to research results

Free online access to scientific data as prerequisite for a virtual research environment


Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is taking an increasingly strong role in promoting the verification and publication of scientific works as Open Access publications. This decision was laid out in a January 2012 policy paper entitled "Open Access Policy at JGU."

Open Access publications are accessible on the Internet and can be read in full, downloaded, and replicated at no cost to the user. This enables unrestricted dissemination of research results among scientists and other interested parties. The Mainz University Library will provide support and consultation to researchers interested in this form of publication. Those responsible at JGU view Open Access as a forward-looking alternative to traditional publication formats. "Open Access is essential for the creation of the virtual research environments of the future that we hope to establish as part of our institutional strategy," explains Dr. Andreas Brandtner, director of the University Library. This institutional strategy is at the heart of JGU's current application for funding in the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments.

The Open Access movement started in the late 1990s in the wake of the so-called 'journal crisis.' Disproportionate price jumps on the market for journals forced libraries to cancel many of their journal subscriptions. "This endangers our researchers' and students' access to a suitable selection of scholarly literature," Brandtner says. At the same time, questions are raised as to why research funded through taxpayer money must then – once published – be purchased a second time using public funds. JGU's medical and natural researchers publish almost 2,500 scientific papers each year. Less than 10% of those are available from freely accessible sources. Now as then, the majority are published in subscription-only journals, including highly respected periodicals such as Nature and Science.

One key engine behind the expansion of Open Access publishing is the promotion of faster circulation of research information, which helps scientists raise the profile of their work, the scientific community at large by contributing to a much-needed, omnipresent network, and even Third World countries, which in many cases can afford access to important information only in this way.

Yet, Open Access has its own costs such as for editorial assessment and publication-ready preparation of articles. For this reason, many Open Access publishers, especially the most prestigious titles, charge publication fees that must be paid by the authors themselves. To prevent this from becoming a hurdle to Open Access publication, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz set up a publication fund in 2012. Authors associated with JGU can apply to the University Library for reimbursement of the author's fees from the fund.

Scientists can also require that the publishing company assign rights for the secondary utilization of their publications. This secures the author’s right to place the article in a publicly accessible repository after a certain period of time following its initial publication in a prestigious journal. JGU members can use the University Library's "Archive of Mainz electronic Documents" (ArchiMeD) repository for this purpose. Texts of this type, known as post-prints, can be uploaded to this server and are then freely accessible in the quality-certified electronic archive.

The Mainz University Library hopes to take this even a step further. In collaboration with the "Open Journal Systems" (OJS) project, located at the Free University of Berlin and providing the software, the management team aims to support the publication of scientific journals on the Internet. The time appears to be ripe for this, as the example of "TC3 – Translation: Computation, Corpora, Cognition," an academic journal for interpreters published by JGU Professor for English Language and Translation Sciences Silvia Hansen-Schirra, has already taken the first plunge. With the support of the Mainz University Library, the periodical was published in January 2012 as an Open Access journal. Another journal is under preparation at JGU.

"Through these measures we want to promote the publication of Open Access journals on the one hand, and on the other hand we also want to facilitate researchers seeking to convert their own journals into the Open Access model," explains Brandtner. In all cases the Mainz University Library stands ready to advise researchers and is seeking to address young scientists in particular who have the most to benefit from Open Access, as it can help raise their profile in their disciplines.

Without Open Access, a global virtual research landscape is almost inconceivable. Open Access will allow researchers to work together on a research topic across the Internet, accessing the same data without copyright restrictions and exchanging their information freely. Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz firmly believes that its Open Access policy, which provides financial support for authors and the University Library’s support services, can make a significant contribution to this effort.