Tuesday, February 04, 2014

e-lis: a model for the world?

E-LIS http://eprints.rclis.org/ is the open access archive for library and information science (LIS). My perspective, as an open access advocate, former member of the E-LIS editorial and governance teams and current passionate supporter of this initiative, is that E-LIS is an excellent illustration of good practices in open access, library and information science, and global collaboration in action. E-LIS provides a venue for LIS authors and journals to meet open access requirement policies that are increasingly common among research funders and universities. On the flip side, services like E-LIS, by providing this venue, make it easier for decision-makers (journals, publishers, research funders and universities) to develop open access policies, by removing one of the potential objections (i.e. no venue).
Open access literature, according to Suber (n.d.), is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions”. Open access was defined in 2002 at three major international meetings, held at Budapest, Berlin and Bethesda; the resulting definition is called the BBB definition of open access (Suber, n.d.).
The first of these meetings was the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) (2002), which in addition to defining open access, developed a visionary statement which from my perspective is less often quoted, but of greater significance, particularly in the context of global communication and information policy. The words are carefully crafted and beautifully expressed, and so repeated here in full:
An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).
E-LIS exemplifies the spirit of the Budapest vision, in my opinion. The E-LIS
team consists of the generous hosting and support services provided by the CILEA consortium in Italy, a governance team including E-LIS co-founders Antonella de Robbio and Imma Subirats, whose work in this initiative I have described earlier on the OA Librarian blog (Morrison, 2005a; Morrison, 2005b), and volunteer editors from around the globe. Information about E-LIS can be found on the E-LIS About page http://eprints.rclis.org/information.html which includes a statement that dovetails with the BOAI vision: “Searching or browsing e-LIS is a kind of multilingual, multicultural experience, an example of what could be accomplished through open access archives to bring the people of the world together”. From a personal perspective, to me this is a major and refreshing change from the typical western-centric focus of most search engines found in North American libraries. Not every archive is fully open access, however E-LIS has a strong commitment to open access and does not accept works unless the full text is openly available.
            The global E-LIS team can work with any language that LIS scholars might wish to use to participate in this initiative. Currently 22 languages are supported; all works are expected to have abstracts in English. English and Spanish are the most common languages. Most of the works in E-LIS are peer-reviewed journal articles, and many other types of works are of similar scholarly quality, such as refereed conference proceedings and theses, as described by Morrison, Subirats-Coll, Medeiros and De Robbio (2007) in an invited, non-refereed article in The Charleston Advisor.
            As explained in BOAI (2002), there are two basic approaches to open access, open access publishing or making works open access in the process of publishing, sometimes known as the gold road, and open access archiving, making works open access through archives or repositories, sometimes called the green road. There are two major different types of open access archives, institutional archives (or repositories) and disciplinary or subject repositories. E-LIS is an example of the latter. Some of the best-known subject open access archives are PubMedCentral, arXiv (for physics, math, computing science and related disciplines), and the Social Sciences Research Network. Seamless searching and full-text retrieval are key attractions of subject based archives.
Libraries are frequently the host of their institutional repositories or archives; for example, see the Canadian Association of Research Libraries’ (n.d.) Institutional Repositories page.  From my perspective, this presents a challenge to E-LIS as a subject archive, as libraries working to build and support a local institutional repository may see deposit in a subject repository like E-LIS as extra work at best and as competition at worst. It is my hope that in time LIS professionals, once institutional repositories become the ubiquitous service that I hope and expect they will become, will return to the vision of the “unprecedented public good” of a global, multilingual and multicultural service like E-LIS, and work to cross deposit all LIS articles in BOTH the local institutional repository and E-LIS, and that, in time, E-LIS will not only be a good option for searching for LIS scholarship, but the first, and often the only stop.
Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), 2002. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Canadian Association of Research Libraries. N.d. Institutional Repositories Project.
Website. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from http://carl-abrc.ca/en/scholarly-communications/carl-institutional-repository-program.html
Morrison, H.; Subirats-Coll, I.;  Medeiros, N. and De Robbio, A. (2007). E-LIS: the Open
Archive for Library and information Science. The Charleston Advisor vol. 9, n. 1. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from http://eprints.rclis.org/10158/
Morrison, H. 2005a. Antonella de Robbio. OA Librarian. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Morrison, H. 2005b. Imma Subirats Coll. OA Librarian. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from
Suber, P. n.d. Open access overview. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2014 from

This post was developed as an example of a case study for ISI Global Communication and Information Policy class. It's intended as an example of a work that is good enough but could be improved with more writing, less quoting and self-citing, and more of a literature review. However I wanted to post this here to share this perspective of E-LIS as a model for achieving the vision of BOAI.