Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research (AIC News)

Exerpt: Anderson, Priscilla, Whitney Baker, Beth Doyle, and Peter Verheyen. “Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research.” AIC News, vol. 39, no. 3. May 1, 2014. pp. 1-6.

The conservation field has articulated the importance of publishing our research to disseminate information and further the aims of conservation. Article X of AIC’s Code of Ethics states that conservators should “contribute to the evolution and growth of the profession, a field of study that encompasses the liberal arts and the natural sciences” in part by “sharing of information and experience with colleagues, adding to the profession’s written body of knowledge.” Our Guidelines for Practice state “the conservation professional should recognize the importance of published information that has undergone formal peer review,” because, as Commentary 2.1 indicates, “publication in peer-reviewed literature lends credence to the disclosed information.” Furthermore, our Guidelines for Practice state that the “open exchange of ideas and information is a fundamental characteristic of a profession.” In publishing our research, we can increase awareness of conservation and confidence in our research methods among allied professionals as well as the general public.

However, current publication models limit the free flow of information by making access expensive and re-use complicated. An alternative to traditional subscription publishing is the Open Access movement, which strives to remove barriers to access and re-use of published information by reducing the costs of publishing and rethinking permissions issues.

To synthesize growing interest in professional publishing and spark discussion, this article proposes to:

  • Define Open Access and how it differs from traditional publishing in its approach to access and re-use of peer-reviewed publications
  • Discuss the implications of Open Access for the conservation field including interdisciplinary research, outreach opportunities, preferred medium for consuming professional publications, perspective of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC), and author impact.
  • Outline issues related to funding models, copyright, and licenses
  • Raise questions about current and future publication practices

Open Access

As described in the Budapest Open Access Initiative FAQ, Open Access is the publication of scholarly information that is free for readers to view online and puts little restriction on the use or re-use of the content. Peter Suber, the Director of the Harvard Open Access Project,in an interview with co-author Priscilla Anderson, explained that the Open Access approach is different from traditional (usually for-profit) publication, which generally requires readers to purchase access (through paid institutional subscription, individual membership, or per-article purchase by non-members). Additionally, in the traditional model copyright is generally assigned to the publisher (not retained by the author),
and re-use of the content is limited to what “Fair Use” restrictions will allow.

Suber debunked some common assumptions about Open Access publications, including that authors must pay a fee to publish their work and that there is no peer review. Suber reports that in reality, many Open Access journals have alternate funding models (i.e. neither author nor reader pays) and most are peer-reviewed, although some employ alternative review models such as  committee abstract review. Furthermore, many of these journals retain a high “impact factor,” an indicator of respect a journal commands within its field as measured by university standards. Suber provides more details in his Open Access Overview, available online. Authors should inquire about sources of funding before publishing with an open access journal, to ensure there are no
conflicts of interest.

In correspondence with co-author Whitney Baker, Ada Emmett, Head of the Office of Scholarly Communications & Copyright at the University of Kansas, clarified that there are two main types of Open Access models. In one model, individual authors choose to share their published journal articles, making them  “open,” whether or not the journal is a traditional “subscription” journal or open access journal. In the other model, the journal publisher chooses to make the entire issue/volume/title open, and the author goes along with it. The important distinction is who is making the decision to “open” access to the resource.

One common feature of Open Access journals is that they are available primarily online in digital form. Most have eliminated print versions. Printed publications can be expensive to produce and distribute, and removing these costs makes alternative funding models feasible. Some Open Access journals offer a hard copy option using a “print-on-demand” model (as opposed to traditional offset printing which requires a large minimum order).

To read the rest of the article, including AIC’s viewpoint on Open Access, please see AIC News online.


(Slightly More) Open Access

JPASS_Primary_LogoAs announced in the March issues of AIC News, AIC members have the opportunity for discounted access to articles in JSTOR via JPASS. Why does this matter? If you are a preservation or conservation professional with no institutional access to JSTOR you now have an opportunity to access this database for a reduced yearly fee.

As part of your AIC membership, we are able to offer you the 1-year JPASS access plan for $99—a 50% discount on the listed rate. JPASS includes unlimited reading and 120 article downloads to more than 1,500 humanities, social science, and science journals in the JSTOR archival collections. For those with a short-term project or research need, there is also an option to purchase one month of access for $19.50.

To use your member discount and sign up for JPASS, follow the “Learn more” link on the AIC Online Resources page at This member-restricted page about JPASS has a link that will admit you to the JPASS purchase website for AIC members.

To use your member discount and sign up for JPASS, follow the “Learn more” link on the AIC Online Resources page at This member-restricted page about JPASS has a link that will admit you to the JPASS purchase website for AIC members.

While not all JSTOR content is available through JPASS, Pres/Cons professionals can find a lot of information here. Some journals indexed in JPASS include:

  • American Anthropologist
  • American Antiquity
  • American Archivist
  • American Libraries
  • Archaeology
  • Journal of Museum Education
  • Midwestern Archivist

Obviously this is a very small sampling of the titles available. JAIC isn’t yet amongst the JPASS collection that I could tell, but maybe it will be added in the future.  Don’t forget, you may be able to get journal articles via your local public library or public university’s library through their interlibrary loan service.

Open Access to our professional literature and research will be the next frontier that we need to cross as a group. While not quite true Open Access to JAIC, it is a step forward for access to allied professional journals and we applaud AIC for making this access more affordable for its members.

No Soup (Or Records) For You!

Remember the Seinfeld episode about soup? You are waiting in line to order soup and you get to the counter and the owner says “No soup for you!” Well, that is what the Georgia legislature is saying about its state’s records, “No records for you!”

By now you have heard the announcement that the Georgia State Archives will be closing as of November 1, 2012, due to state budget cuts. Here’s a clip from the official press release (emphasis mine):

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has instructed the Office of the Secretary of State to further reduce its budget for AFY13 and FY14 by 3% ($732,626).  As it has been for the past two years, these cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia.  As an agency that returns over three times what is appropriated back to the general fund, budget cuts present very challenging decisions.  We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety. …

To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.  The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation.  To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state.  The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced.  The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed.  After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.

SAA’s Archives Month PR kit.

Within hours a petition on was started (and is still accepting signatories), a Face Book page was set up, and many individuals and organizations lent their voices to protest these cuts. Will it be enough? That remains to be seen.

A lot of thoughts run through my head at moments like these. First is concern for our colleagues who work at the Georgia State Archives. What will become of their jobs and that beautiful conservation lab? I wonder what will happen to the records and how long they may have to sit in their expertly designed (and nationally recognized) building unattended and unused?  Is it even legal to separate the electorate from their records?

When I see headlines like “History By Appointment Only” I have to do a gut check. Times are indeed tough all over and difficult decisions must be made, I get that. But it does start me thinking about how we defend what we do, and how we convince people (especially those holding the purse strings) that what we do is vital not only to the history of our organizations and our families, but to that of the very fabric of this nation.

I keep going back to this idea that we need multiple ways to express the importance of preserving the cultural record, from a 30 second elevator speech to a 20 minute “this stuff matters” presentation. It is easy for us “in the business” to understand why preserving records matter, but how do we gauge that understanding in the broader public, especially in those people who are living on the edges (either at the bottom or the top) of society?

The timing of this is ironic considering that October is American Archives Month. While we lament and gnash our teeth over this decision, let us also remember that we should never sit on our heels and think it couldn’t happen to us. As a nation we pay for what we value. Let’s hope that the great state of Georgia will hear the arguments for keeping the Archives open and reverse this decision.

DIY Conservation Goes Viral

I’ve written for my work blog about DIY conservation and its consequences. This week we saw a DIY paintings conservation effort go horribly wrong, and then images of that “treatment” went viral on the internet. I think we have come to, as we say, a teachable moment.

In case you are behind in your news feed the short story is this: An elderly Spanish woman, concerned about the condition of a fresco in her church, took it upon herself to touch it up with perhaps predictable results. The news broke on BBC on Tuesday, and of course there is already a Tumblr called “Beast-Jesus Restoration Society.” Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner’s (University of Delaware) was interviewed by PRI’s The World and provided some perspective on what might happen next.

Left: A deteriorated version of the original (left) of “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus by Elías Garcia Martínez, a 19th-century painter. Right: The “restored” version of the fresco. (Photo: BBC)

First I have to say that I do believe that the woman had the best of intentions when she wanted to save her church’s beloved painting. As we laugh, make fun, and point fingers, let’s remember that she did this with a good heart, she is 80 years old, and we need to be empathetic.

Indeed, I think most of the time, people who attempt to repair their possessions are doing so because they value them and want to keep them whole. They probably also do it themselves because they either don’t know who to call or don’t have the funds to pay for a professional.

This story serves as a reminder of what happens when professionals are not called. But more importantly it reminds us that we have work to do to help people understand the complex nature of treatment decisions and what skills are needed to carry them out. Providing the public with information such as AIC’s FAQ page or How To Care For Your Treasures is a start. ALA Preservation Week (April 21-27, 2013) is also a good opportunity to provide information on how to find and work with a conservator.

I am disheartened at the truly awful comments and vicious name calling that is now on the web about this woman. I am sad at what happened to this fresco and wish she hadn’t done it, but I understand her intent…she just wanted to see this fresco treated and took it upon herself to do the work. Let’s be forgiving and take this moment to re-energize our mission to educate the public about what we do  and how they can best care for their own treasures, including knowing when to call a professional in for consultation.