A Celebration of Open Access for All

Guest post by Lisa Federer, PhD, Acting Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, National Library of Medicine.

Since 2008, the academic and research communities have come together at the end of October to celebrate International Open Access Week, which will be held this year from October 23 to 29. Open Access Week raises awareness of open access, fosters discussions about open scholarship, and encourages new ways to promote knowledge sharing. In honor of Open Access Week, let’s dive into some of the ways that NLM supports open access all year long!

What is open access?

Open access (OA) is part of the broader open science movement that I discussed in a previous blog post, A Year of Open Science, A Lifetime Commitment for NLM, about NLM’s involvement in 2023 as a federal Year of Open Science. Open science is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of practices aimed at opening up the products of research, including data, code, and other raw materials of research. OA is a part of open science, which refers more specifically to making the results of research, usually in the form of scholarly articles, freely available online without access charges or other limitations. This means that knowledge becomes readily available to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of geography or institutional affiliation.

Making publications freely available has numerous benefits for scholarly communities and society in general. Through OA, researchers can share their findings with a wider audience, which fosters collaboration and innovation while enabling interdisciplinary exploration. By removing barriers to information, OA can also help accelerate scientific progress and enable researchers to build upon existing knowledge while reducing duplication of efforts. In addition, OA enhances the reproducibility of scientific findings by promoting transparency of research findings, thereby improving the quality of research.

OA publications can help reach people who would not otherwise have access to scientific literature. For example, OA can be a lifeline for researchers in developing countries who may not have access to subscriptions. OA also makes research available to the public as they are not likely to have subscription access to journals. OA ensures that the public can freely read the results of the many research projects that are funded by taxpayers or public institutions, thereby maximizing the return on investment for society. Having access to scientific literature among the public can help increase awareness about science and promote trust through transparency.

NLM’s role in enabling OA

Open science is at the heart of NLM’s mission, and NLM enables access to a broad range of research products. As the world’s largest biomedical library, NLM plays a particularly pivotal role in enabling open access to scientific literature. For example, NLM runs PubMed Central (PMC), the platform that makes the NIH Public Access Policy possible. This policy requires researchers to deposit NIH-funded peer-reviewed articles into PMC, where they become part of an archive of nearly 10 million freely available articles. In addition to providing access so that anyone can read these articles, some portions of PMC are available for text mining, meaning that researchers can use computational methods to analyze many articles at once. This can be useful for discovering trends that lead to new insights and discoveries, generating hypotheses for further exploration, and enabling data integration across diverse sources.

The NLM Digital Collections also provide OA in the areas of biomedicine, health care, and the history of medicine. This includes digitized texts such as personal papers from notable figures in biomedical research, historical FDA notices involving products in violation of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and other texts that are not formally published through traditional publishing channels (known as grey literature). The collection also includes historical films and still images that capture the social and historical aspects of medicine dating from the 11th to 21st centuries.

These are just a few of the numerous resources that NLM provides to the public to open world of scientific literature and research results to the world. In honor of this year’s Open Access Week, explore some of the vast content in NLM’s collections! And if you’re a researcher, this is a great time to learn about how you can make your work freely available to everyone. You can also learn more about events near you on the Open Access Week events listing. Please join me in celebrating Open Access Week and equitable access to scientific research!

Lisa Federer, PhD

Acting Director, Office of Strategic Initiatives, NLM

Dr. Federer serves as principal advisor to the NLM Director on strategic directions of NLM, including open science, analysis, evaluation, and reporting on NLM programs and activities. Prior to this position, Dr. Federer served as NLM’s Data Science and Open Science Librarian and previously served as the Research Data Informationist at the NIH Library, where she developed and ran the Library’s Data Services Program. She holds a PhD in information studies from the University of Maryland and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as graduate certificates in data science and data visualization.

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