Library Search has a new feature highlighting Open Access material. Articles and eBooks that appear in search results are sometimes marked with an Open Access icon to distinguish them from others where a username and password is required. There is also an option to restrict the search results to only those counted as ‘open access’.
Inside a university, for its current students and members of staff, this my not seem hugely relevant. After all the results presented for any searches are all either covered by existing library subscriptions or ‘free’ anyway.
For people outside the university: those who are hoping to come; those who have just left and those who may never have that opportunity, the position is very different. The paywalls that are part of the standard model for distributing academic research can be a real obstacle to the opportunities members of the public have to understand science.
Take the example of an area to which De Montfort University has made a key contribution through its research. When I used Library Search to find academic articles on ‘benefits of nature’, the first seven results (on 24 May 2017) were only available because they were covered by library subscriptions and would not be accessible directly to people outside the university.
Now if I had an interest in this field, I might want to find academic quality research that I would be able to read. Being able to refine my search to just open access material would focus the results on those which anyone, inside or out side of a university could explore. By clicking on the Open Access link in the Refine Your Search section I was able to find such material. I then used the ‘Peer-Review’ link to filter out articles that had not been quality-checked by other academics.
One of the results asks “What are the benefits of interacting with nature?” and features research to which Katherine N. Irvine of DMU’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development.
At no point in this search have I been asked for a username or password or proof that I am a member of a Higher Educational Institution. Which means that this search option is open to anyone to use.