Open access is a concept that I had not really thought about until becoming a graduate student. I remember struggling to find articles that I had access to as an undergraduate student and just assuming that pay walls were part of the system and that there wasn’t much that I could do to change the way that scholarly articles were published. As a graduate student, however, I have learned that the researcher actually has some control over where they publish and also how they choose to share the data used in their research. I believe that this topic is important in an ethical sense because of the duty that researchers have in getting their work distributed to the public and in allowing other researchers to verify their results.
My final project will be an exploration into how much different members of the Mechanical Engineering Department know about open access issues. I will interview undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty in the hopes of gaining an understanding of how much each group knows about open access. I am also interested in the perception of responsibility to disseminate knowledge. I would like to understand how each group feels about how research gets distributed and who they feel is responsible for the process. Finally I would like to get a sense of how many people plan to, or have published their work in open access journals and what that experience was like.
I personally feel that open access publishing is a very important step in the evolution of academia. Universities have a responsibility to share the knowledge that they create. The current trend towards a few publishing companies controlling the majority of academic journals threatens the ability of everyone to have access to the available research. This is especially true for schools that do not have the financial stability of the larger, well-known universities. My long-term goal with this project is to gain an understanding of how to better educate and promote open access in the next generation of academics.