New Open Access Fund

Last year, more than one third of the SFU Library’s collections budget—$4 million—was spent on the renewal of e-journal subscriptions. Of that, over half went to just four commercial publishers. “Each year it costs more, leaving less and less money to purchase monographs and smaller independent journals,” says Gwen Bird, Associate University Librarian, Collections. “These large companies post very large profits on their balance sheets every year, while the University finds itself in an environment of ever tighter budgets. The current situation is unsustainable.” Since one of the central goals of the Library is to provide access to scholarly literature, SFU continues to renew the large publisher packages, but carefully tracks usage to ensure those high-priced journals are still in demand. “At the same time, we recognize that reform of scholarly publishing is imperative,” says Bird. Nevertheless, it is the prerogative of faculty and Senate to mandate any open access publishing requirement.

At its January 2010 meeting, the Senate Library Committee adopted sweeping recommendations that will make SFU one of only three Canadian universities to embrace Open Access (OA) publishing. “We’re going to put our money where our mouth is,” says Bird. OA Journals are scholarly peer-reviewed journals freely available on the web without subscription fees, but they are often supported through Article Processing Charges (APCs) levied to authors. Fees range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per accepted paper. Prominent examples are BioMed Central, Public Library of Science, and Hindawi.

SFU’s pre-pay BioMedCentral membership resulted in a four-fold increase in SFU authors publishing in Open Access BMC journals. A full pre-pay BMC membership has been reinstated beginning February 2010, with some restrictions.

Beginning in February 2010, SFU is creating an OA Central Fund to encourage SFU authors to publish in OA Journals. The fund will pay the APCs for SFU authors who lack other sources to cover these fees. It’s all part of the Library’s new Open Access Strategy, which includes:

  • Continuing support for the Public Knowledge Project and its open source software to improve management and to decrease publishing costs,
  • Further development of SFU’s Institutional Repository where authors can share research output, including reports and raw data,
  • Making OA journals more accessible to SFU readers. 

“With the establishment of the Open Access Fund we join a growing movement worldwide,” says Bird. Hal Weinberg, Director of SFU’s Office of Research Ethics, adds, “The new look in academia is free public access to all data collected with public money. Research data should be available to the public so that there can be expansion of knowledge related to that data.” The SFU Library maintains a public repository where researchers can put their data to fulfill new public access requirements of granting agencies.

For more information about Open Access initiatives at the SFU Library, including the SFU Open Access Fund, contact Gwen Bird, The Library’s full OA Strategy document is available on the web: