Library introduces open-access publishing platform

Kevin Lata
Contributing Writer

The Scholars Compass, an open-access database that compiles student and faculty work, is the library’s newest addition.

VCU is joining the growing open-access movement with the recent implementation of a new innovative digital publishing platform, the Scholars Compass.

The free program seeks to make academic content more widely available by aggregating the scholarly work of students, faculty and researchers. 

Currently, VCU libraries annually spend $8 million of their budget on journal subscriptions.

“If you project ahead with the cost increases of scholarly journals, they can eat up the entire budget for this entire university in 20 years,” said university librarian John Ulmschneider. “That’s not an exaggeration,” he added.

The Scholars Compass is a way to navigate around the for-profit academic journal industry and it’s climbing subscription rates that do not compensate submitters or peer-reviewers monetarily for their work.

Ulmschneider also said that on average the library is compounding the cost of scholarly journal subscriptions by about 5 to 7 percent a year, which can add up to millions of dollars over an extended period of time.

“Most of things I write for are magazines whose content is already open access, so for me the advantage of Scholars Compass is that it aggregates the work that I’ve done and points people to, in most cases, final published versions,” said Jeff South, journalist and associate professor of mass communications.

South believes most people who look at conference papers, long academic papers and theses are in the field and already have access to databases that include the work.

However, Sam Byrd, the digital collections systems librarian noted that practicing professionals outside of an academic environment probably don’t have access to databases, and can benefit greatly from a platform that allows them access to current research.

This platform displays the open access production of Scholars Compass submitters, which Byrd said could foster relationships between researchers outside the university.

Faculty members also cite publication of their work to supplement their CVs or help earn tenure.

Byrd added that not only will VCU’s contribution to the movement help disentangle the system that trades academic work for a bullet point on a CV, it will enhance the exposure of faculty, student and researchers’ work.

Byrd said, “There are lots of places that scholars can put their work in the universe, however, there isn’t any one place for VCU scholarship to be highlighted.”

He also said that the platform will help bring together all aspects of the university.

“It’s a face for VCU scholarship,”Byrd continued, “It’s the one place people can go to see all the great things going on at VCU.”

Byrd explained that those who arrive at Scholars Compass are doing so through a Google or Google Scholar search.

“People are looking more for specific topics and specific keywords that are linking them directly to things that are here.”

Byrd said this is due to the strong search engine optimization and full keyword indexes of work that’s been done.

Of the 4,195 submitted works on the platform, approximately 3,000 of them are student theses and dissertations. The library has been working with VCU faculty and researchers to help upload more of their content to the repository. 

Byrd predicts the number of works to rise as time passes and awareness of the platform is increased.

VCU is hosting an open access week from Oct. 20 to 26 to educate students more on the Scholars Compass and the open access movement.

Faculty and students with faculty-sponsored research intertested in submitting work can visit: http://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/submit_research.html 

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