Saturday, March 11, 2006

ASIST 2005: Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together

Papers from the American Society for Information Science & Technology's (ASIST)2005 Annual Meeting, Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together, are now online and freely available in E-LIS.

This initiative beautifully illustrates many of the themes of OA Librarian, in my opinion.

The benefits of open access to these conference papers are obvious. Everyone with access to the internet has ready access to the conference proceedings, not just those who could attend the conference or purchase the proceedings. This helps us all to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This is one of the most exciting transformative possibilities of the combination of the electronic medium and the world wide web, that is, the ability to develop evidence-based practice in areas like medicine and librarianship, most effective through the optimum dissemination of research, which is open access.

The ready findability of the conference papers enhances discovery of these high-quality resources by people interested in the paper topics. No wonder, then, that the US E-LIS Editorial Team received a substantial and enthusiastic response to the question about archiving of these papers; in record time and without reminders, about half the authors responded with an enthusiastic yes, please make my work available in E-LIS, with only one author opting out.

One might speculate that this initiative will enhance the impact not only of the individual authors, but also that of the sponsoring body, ASIST, as well. After all, people are more likely to find the high-quality work that is presented at the ASIST annual meetings.

Placing these papers in the open archive (E-LIS) greatly enhances access to this work - conference proceedings have often been seen as grey literature, quality work but much less accessible than more traditionally published material. Marcus Banks talks about this potential of open access - see Towards a Continuum of Scholarship.

Open access archives facilitate access - but also preservation. Including these papers in E-LIS enhances preservation of these documents in electronic form. This is an important point. Many worry, with good reason, about the long-term preservation of the electronic medium. Open access indirectly facilitates preservation in ways that are little understood. According to the LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe) principle, the more copies of a document, the better the chances that it will survive. With open access, as many copies can be made as people would like. A full back-up of E-LIS is made weekly, and an incremental back-up is made daily. Authors are provided advice on formats for submission for preservation purposes - standards-based, non-proprietary formats that are known to have better likelihood of preservation are encouraged, for example. This is not yet ideal for preservation purposes, of course - but much better than options such as placing powerpoints - a vulnerable format - on websites which may or may not be maintained over the medium to longer term.

Optimum dissemination through open access can facilitate further research as well as improve practice. For example, the following paper by Caryn Anderson and Gabriele Bammer alerted me to a lack of knowledge about the global research environment. Like many, my time for professional reading is limited, and I would probably never have encountered this article if it were only disseminated in the printed proceedings. Thanks to the open access status of this paper, however, I am now aware of an important research question in need of attention, and can readily draw this to the attention of colleagues through a simple URL. To me, this can only highlight the importance of the work presented at this conference, and increase the probablity of purchase of the conference proceedings in these days of very limited acquisitions dollars.

Anderson, Caryn and Bammer, Gabriele (2005) Measuring the Global Research Environment: Information Science Challenges for the 21st Century. In Grove, Andrew, Eds. Proceedings 68th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) 42, Charlotte, NC (US)

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