Research work propels the human race forward. Had there been no ongoing research in the areas of science, arts, the humanities and other fields of study, we could not make new discoveries, improve on existing models or enhance knowledge. It is hard to underestimate the importance of conducting research. However, what proportion of this knowledge is actually accessible? Most researchers opt to consult academic journals and monographs but how much of this material is available to students and individuals who are not researchers but who may be interested in a particular subject? Journal subscriptions incur hefty recurrent expenditures, while academic research monographs are significantly expensive. The question arises as to how such research can be widely accessible when there are so many financial barriers.
Nowadays, researchers are encouraged to publish with Open Access (OA) journals. These do not ask for subscription fees from readers. Such journals can be freely accessed online and the research published can be re-used. This is because open access publishing grants a CC BY license, which allows others to distribute, reuse, and build upon previous research, including commercial research, as long as the authors of the original paper are credited. Using OA does not affect the quality of publishing since articles that are accepted still go through a peer-reviewing process. Some journals ask for article processing charges (APCs) to cover the costs of publication, editing and peer-reviewing. Funding agencies and institutions have started to allow for such APCs through their research budget.
OA publishing is not just a choice that the researcher makes while thinking about the publishing options. EU research programmes such as Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation programme, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020), require that all funded research be published in Open Access. APCs need to be included when applying for research. Beneficiaries of such funds are mandated to deposit a copy of the research in a repository of their choice and ensure that the publication is made available in OA within 6 months from publication for the sciences, and 12 months for the arts, the humanities and social sciences. Such measures guarantee that funded research is made freely accessible online and potentially disseminated globally.
As a fundamental believer in the dissemination of knowledge and research, the University of Malta Library, offers academics the possibility to upload their research papers on its Institutional Repository - OAR@UoM. This increases the visibility of the research carried out at the University and enhances the Library’s collections. Since OAR@UoM is the sole institutional repository on the Maltese Islands, non-university researchers can also upload their material, as long as they have an approval form signed by an academic from the respective field of study.
Uploading academic works on OAR@UoM, provides 24/7 access. Furthermore, since all the works uploaded are harvested by Google and Google Scholar, thereby enhancing dissemination as well as discoverability and divulging the work to an international audience. This increases the chances of research collaborations with different entities, local and/or international. Having more readers may lead to further recognition. Studies show that research articles published in Open Access are cited by other authors more frequently than comparable articles which have restricted access. In a study published in 2008 by Harnard (The University’s Mandate to Mandate Open Access) it was shown that OA can increase citations from 25% to over 250%.
As of September 2016, there are over 10,300 items on OAR@UoM, ranging from articles to book chapters, audio recordings, ephemera and dissertations. These items cover over 15,000 different topics and subjects. Such a volume of resources offers OAR@UoM the potential to be very visible online thanks to search engines like Google that retrieve material from the repository in any relevant search. To this effect, the University of Malta Library received a number of requests from researchers from countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Nigeria, and Holland to access dissertations, which metadata is showing online but which are restricted to University patrons. OAR@UoM is also OpenAIRE compliant. OpenAIRE aims to support the implementation of Open Access in Europe. It provides the means to promote and realize the widespread adoption of the Open Access Policy, as set out by the ERC Scientific Council Guidelines for Open Access and the Open Access pilot launched by the European Commission.
OAR@UoM provides a platform for Maltese research to be disseminated and made accessible on a global level. Besides enhancing awareness and reputation, academics who upload their research on the institutional repository also increase their opportunities of further collaborations with other international researchers and research institutions.