Dave Johnston is an Information Services Librarian and Scholarly Communications Coordinator at Leddy Library. He received his MA in philosophy and MLIS from the University of Western Ontario. His research interests include open access and the continuing impact of digital technology on scholarly publishing. He recently joined us at GATA Winter Academy to talk about Scholarship at UWindsor, an exciting open access project here at the Unversity of Windsor. In this guest post, Dave explains what the project is and how it affects you.


Scholarship at UWindsor is the institutional repository of the University of Windsor. So what is in an institutional repository (IR)? An IR is a curated digital collection of an organization’s intellectual output intended to centralize, preserve, and make accessible the knowledge generated by academic institutions. The knowledge generated by institutions is typically in the form of journal articles and books but can also include musical scores, images, reports, presentations, datasets and so on. IRs are a relatively new phenomenon in the timeline of academia, but most major universities now have an IR and many (Harvard is a great example) now require their researchers to post their work in their IR. You may be asking yourself why IRs matter. Typically interested users gain access to the journal articles and books they are care about through their university library that pays a lot of money to make sure these works are available to you. My goal in this article is to look under the hood of this simple picture of scholarly communication in the hopes of explaining why institutional repositories like Scholarship at UWindsor are important.

Copyright Transfer

When an author writes an article they are the copyright holder and control the rights to that work. These rights include the right to reproduce and publish the work. If you wanted to, you could just put your work up online for free for anyone to access. However, most researchers want the first place of publication to be in a peer reviewed journal in their field (though there is a long history of physicists using the arXiv to quickly communicate the results of research). However, when you publish with a journal in most cases you sign an agreement to transfer your rights to the work to the publisher. In doing so you have given up your copyright. The publisher then controls the work and dictates the terms of access. Usually they turn around and sell your work as part of the journal it appears in along with hundreds of other journals they control to universities around the world.

Pros of Copyright Transfer

The most obvious benefit to you is that your article by your has been reviewed and will appear in a journal that is recognized by your peers and potential employers. It also will be indexed by in database of like resources so it is easily discoverable.

Cons of Copyright Transfer

You no longer control your work. Though your work may be funded by public grants (SSHRC, NSERC etc.) and reviewed by your peers for free as part of a their academic service, at the end of the day it is only accessible to those who can afford to pay, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford to pay even for academic libraries. The increasing cost of journals means cutbacks to journals, books, and other resources. Outside of universities many potential readers have no access to this research. This includes government agencies, not-for-profits, community groups, developing countries, researchers outside of institutions, interested members of the public. It can become cumbersome to navigate the rights around simply using your work in a classroom setting. Once you are no longer a member of an academic institution, it can be difficult and costly to access research in your field at all.


Open Access to research 

How can we ensure the broadest access possible to the research produced by our scholars? Open access is essentially free online access to research. If an article is available open access, anyone anywhere with access to the internet can get online and access the work. IRs have become the the place where institutions seek to make the research output of their scholars available open access. Scholarship at UWindsor is a growing full-text searchable database of Windsor research which is in most cases available open access. This includes scholarly articles, books, and theses and dissertations. It is optimized for indexing by Google and Google Scholar (along with other search engines). As of January 20th, the items in Scholarship at UWindsor have been received 104,351 downloads from readers around the world. Each author with a publication in Scholarship at UWindsor receives reports about the usage of their work. Our IR is also a place that provides long term preservation and showcases Windsor research in once convenient space.

What about Peer Review?

The articles in Scholarship at UWindsor have been published in academic journals. We simply work to make sure the journal provides us the right to host a copy of the work in our IR. Theses and dissertations in our IR are included by the permission granted to us by our graduate students when they publish their thesis or dissertations. Some users also find it helpful to host works like conference presentations and reports in the IR as well as a means of communicating about their current projects. Because of the growing pressure from government granting agencies and universities to open up access to research, publishers are becoming more explicit about providing authors and their institutions the right to post copies of their works in IRs.

Think about rights when Publishing!

When you publish an article you can discuss these issues at the time of publication. There is a lot of good information about your rights as an author to look into. There are also many high quality peer reviewed journals that are open access from the ground up. There are several such journals published at the University of Windsor with support from the Leddy Library and grants. If you’re looking to publish and are interested in finding open access journals in your field you can contact me or another librarian and we’d be happy to help!

To wrap up, Scholarship at UWindsor is here to showcase and preserve Windsor research. As part of a larger network of such repositories at universities around the world it is helping make research everywhere accessible to the broadest possible audience and helping to lift the cost barriers that exist accessing research. However at the end of the day it requires the cooperation of researchers here at Windsor to continue to grow and work. So please get in touch with me (Dave Johnston djohnst(at)uwindsor.ca) if you have works you’ve published and are interested in including in Scholarship at UWindsor or have any other questions about the process. To read more about open access I would recommend visiting Peter Suber’s page (Harvard’s director of Scholarly Communication) or reading his book on the subject which is itself available OA through MIT press. For answers to frequently asked questions you can visit our OA FAQ page. As always, feel free to drop me a line.

Dave Johnston
Information Services Librarian
Scholarship at UWindsor Administrator
University of Windsor
Leddy Library
Ext 3208