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Open Access

In The Access Principle (MIT P 2006), John Willinsky writes, “A commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit [benefit] by it” (xii). In light of the principle that university sponsored and funded research be circulated as widely as possible, the University of New Mexico Graduate Studies requires that all graduate students submit their theses and dissertations electronically to the University Libraries/Graduate Studies open access repository known as the UNM Digital Repository.  Some granting agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, require that their sponsored research be published in open access.

“Open Access” means that the full contents of your work—thesis, dissertation, project, or other form of thesis or dissertation—are available online to anyone with access to the Internet. Thus, researchers will be able to search, read, download, and print the full text of your thesis or dissertation. Before you panic, remember that your work is fully copyrighted (see the Graduate Studies Guidelines on copyright) so that anyone who uses your work must credit you and properly cite your work.

Advantages of Open Access: Before open access repositories and electronic submission, scholars typically waited several months to several years before their work was fully acknowledged as they shepherded their manuscripts through the various channels of academic publishing. As a result, their work was not readily or easily accessible to readers outside the university.  With open access, scholars and researchers around the world can access the results of your research and scholarship with the click of a button. Thus, open access accelerates and broadens the dissemination of your work, increasing the likelihood that your work will be acknowledged and cited early in your career.  Open access enables you, then, to contribute to the advance of knowledge in your field and increases the visibility and impact of your work in real time.

Open access work is fully copyrighted, and scholars who cite your work must respect your intellectual property rights in the same manner as they would any published work. Thus, your work will be cited in professional journals and books, just as if it were published in a more conventional print medium.

Prior Publication Considerations: In some cases, making a thesis or dissertation available in open access could hinder or prevent publishing the work in professional journal or with a book publisher.  If you intend to revise and publish your thesis or dissertation as a book or publish chapters from your work as articles, you should consult with your committee chair and with potential publishers so that you can make an informed decision about open access.  While some publishers of books and journals consider works available in open access repositories such as the UNM Digital Repository to be the equivalent of a published work (prior publication), some book publishers and professional journals officially state that they do not.

Publishers’ policies regarding open access and the question of “prior publication” can usually be found in the Instructions to Authors section on the publisher’s website or in a journal’s guidelines for authors. While it is currently incomplete, the Sherpa-Romeo database holds information on publisher’s open access policies: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/

Websites for further consideration on Open Access: Here are some other links to websites containing statements about open access: