WSU News

Oct. 21-27: Open access unlocks information for everyone, everywhere

Open-access-logo-180By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

PULLMAN, Wash. – Gabriella Reznowski’s son, Xavier, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder last year – 14 long years after she first noticed the developmental delays and helped him ride out the seizures caused by it.

The most current information that describes it is only found in research journals – journals that often require subscriptions to access the information. That’s something Reznowski, humanities librarian at Washington State University Libraries, would like to change.

WSU Libraries will host three events, followed by light refreshments, in October and November to showcase Open Access Week Oct. 21-27. The international event is dedicated to free, immediate online access to the results of scholarly research and the right to use and reuse those results as needed, according to the event website at http://www.openaccessweek.org/page/about.

Popular sources are silent
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Gabriella Reznowski, left, and Sue Shipman, both with WSU Libraries, and Xavier Reznowski on Shipman’s unicycle. (Photo by Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries)

The name of Reznowski’s son’s disorder is virtually unpronounceable: Megalencephaly, polymicrogyria, polydactyly and hydrocephalus syndrome – or MPPH for short. First identified in 2004, the syndrome is little understood, with no known cause and only about a dozen cases worldwide.

“I think that the case for open access really hits home when you have a situation where you are trying to find out as much as you can about an issue for which there is very little published information,” she said. “Due to how rare a disorder this is, there is very little out there on the syndrome and virtually no information in popular sources, such as magazines, newspapers or even blogs.

“It is really difficult when you want to access a research article and you find out that you have to subscribe to the journal or even pay a price for temporary (24-hour) access to the article,” she said.

Open access week celebrates scholarly impact

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, Michael Buschman, co-founder of Plum Analytics, will give a keynote lecture, “Redefining Impact,” 3-4:30 p.m., in Smith CUE 518.

He will discuss the latest developments in open access and reflect on almost two years of experience collecting, analyzing and visualizing alternative metrics or “altmetrics”- alternative systems for analyzing citations and the impact of scholarship in all disciplines. He will show how alternative metrics are being used by research institutions as diverse as the University of Pittsburgh, Smithsonian museums, scholarly publishers and individual researchers.

He also will lead a hands-on workshop for faculty and graduate students on alternative impact measures 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, in Terrell Library 20E.

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, a webinar hosted by Jason Priem, ImpactStory co-founder and doctoral student in information science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will be in Terrell Library 20E.

Priem will discuss how, as the workflows of scholars are moving online, important parts of the scientific process, once hidden, are being exposed. Conversations, arguments, recommendations, reads, bookmarks – the stuff of day-to-day science – are leaving traces in places like Mendeley, Twitter, blogs, Faculty of 1000 and many others.

Mining these traces, in addition to traditional metrics such as citation counts and journal impact factors, can give researchers and publishers faster, more diverse and more accurate data of scholarly impact.

Cancer detection breakthrough thanks to open access

Open access caught international attention recently in part because of 16-year-old Jack Andraka of Crownsville, Md., who developed a revolutionary cancer detection test in 2012.

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Inventor and cancer researcher Jack Andraka. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Designed to detect the presence of a protein for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer at the early stages, the test costs 3 cents, takes 5 minutes to run and is virtually 100 percent accurate, according to a blog (http://www.rightto
research.org/blog/open-access-empowers-16-year-old-to-create-breakth.shtml
) published by the Right to Research Coalition. The test is also 26,667 times cheaper, 168 times faster and 400 times more sensitive than the current pancreatic cancer test.

To research his cancer detection method, Andraka read free online articles he found at scientific journal websites and the National Institutes of Health online article database, PubMed Central. But paid subscription requirements from other journals were an impediment.

“I hit a lot of paywalls, like you have to pay $40 per article, and unfortunately I couldn’t shell out a lot of that,” Andraka said in the blog. “So instead, I would have to cheat and copy the article title back into Google and look for PDF versions, and a lot of the time, I actually found them on the NIH PubMed site…

“If we can just go to Google or Wikipedia and find these amazing articles, we could have this great innovation, but these paywalls are stopping us,” he said.

Information ‘lockdown’

Reznowski and other WSU librarians hope Open Access Week at WSU will create greater awareness of the importance of open access and how it can empower those who have a real information need, including researchers in poorer countries with limited access to subscription-based scholarly journal literature.

“As a librarian, I am generally used to being able to access most of the information I would ever need, so it’s possible to lose sight of the fact that barriers exist and impede our right to be informed,” she said. “In my case, as I want to share information on Xavier’s syndrome with family, schoolteachers and medical doctors, I am reminded of the fact that much of this information is ‘locked down.’

“It does not make sense that scholars give their research to journals for free, only to have the journals turn around and sell the information – sometimes back to the very institution that the scholar is affiliated with,” she said.

 

 

Contacts:

Gabriella Reznowski, WSU humanities librarian, 509-335-5596, reznowski@wsu.edu

Kay Vyhnanek, WSU scholarly communications librarian, 509-335-9514, kayv@wsu.edu

Nella Letizia, public relations/communication coordinator, WSU Libraries, 509-335-6744, letizia@wsu.edu