Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Open Educational Resources Grant Winners Start Saving Their Students Money This Fall


Last spring the Office of the Provost and the University Libraries announced that they are joining together to support faculty interested in providing their students with a less expensive yet educationally rewarding alternative to expensive commercial textbooks.  Ten $1000 stipends were granted to faculty as an incentive to encourage the faculty to use low-cost or free alternatives to expensive course materials; these can include open-access scholarly resources, library-licensed and owned resources, and learning objects and texts that faculty create themselves.
                                                                                       OER Logo 2012 J. Mello, used under a Creative Commons license CC-BY

The winners of the grants are: 
  •         Robert Anemone , Professor and Department Head, Anthropology
  •         Heather Helms, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies 
  •         Channelle D. James, Lecturer, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism
  •         Liz McNamara, Lecturer, Political Science
  •         Carrie A. Wachter Morris, Associate Professor, Counseling and Educational Development 
  •         Nancy Myers and Brenta Blevins, College Writing Program Director and Asst. Director, English
  •         Terence A Nile, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  •         Elizabeth Perrill, Associate Professor, Art
  •         Jennifer Reich, Associate Director/Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences Advising/Art 
  •         Kelly L Wester, Associate Professor, Counseling and Educational Development.
The faculty used their time this summer to research and create resources that their students could use in class without having to purchase an expensive textbook. Grant recipient Jennifer Reich says, “The resources I found are much better than the textbooks and the students can do more with them.”  

At the end of the fall semester the University Libraries and the grant winners will assess the effectiveness of this initiative in their classes.  





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Senate Committee approves the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act

HSGAC approves Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, which would ensure that public access to research articles becomes the law of the land
Washington, DC –The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) today passed S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, unanimously by voice vote and moved it to the full Senate for consideration. This marks the first time the Senate has acted on a government-wide policy ensuring public access to the results of publicly funded research, and is an important step towards codifying the progress made by the 2013 White House OSTP Directive.
FASTR calls for federal agencies with extramural research budgets in excess of $100 million to establish consistent, permanent public access policies for articles reporting on their funded research making articles freely available to the public no later than twelve months after publication – and preferably sooner.
“SPARC is encouraged by today’s bipartisan action by the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which signals strong support for the principle of public access to taxpayer funded research,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). “The ultimate passage of FASTR will ensure a stable path for greater innovation and economic growth by opening up access to publicly funded research, regardless of the position any given Administration.”
“FASTR represents the next step forward in the competitiveness agenda, while protecting classified research and royalty generating works.  It harnesses the Internet allowing us to take advantage of the digital environment to disseminate the results of publicly funded research.”
“While we recognize this is just the first step in a long process, it is a significant one. We call on all Members of Congress to follow the Committee’s lead and will work closely with them as FASTR progresses.”
Background
Every year, the federal government funds tens of billions of dollars in basic and applied research.  Most of this funding is concentrated within 11 departments/agencies (e.g. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy) and the research results in a significant number of articles being published each year – approximately 100,000 papers are published annually as a result of NIH funding alone.  Because U.S. taxpayers directly fund this research, they have a right to expect that its distribution and use will be maximized, and that they themselves will have access to it.
The government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries resulting from that research will advance science, stimulate innovation, grow the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans.  The Internet makes it possible to advance these goals by providing public online access to federally funded research, and has revolutionized information sharing by enabling prompt sharing of the latest advances with every scientist, physician, educator, entrepreneur and citizen.
One of the critical challenges faced by industry today is gaining quick access to research for commercial application, to spur investment in development of new innovative products.  Businesses – small and large – need faster access to this information to be competitive in the global marketplace.


In February 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Directive, that requires the results of taxpayer-funded research – both articles and data – be made freely available to the general public with the goal of accelerating scientific discovery and fueling innovation.  To date, 13 agencies and departments have released their initial plans.  However, as is always the case, the OSTP Directive can be overturned by a subsequent Administration.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Deciding on next year’s textbook adoption? Learn about ways to save your students money

Are you interested in bringing down the cost of textbooks for your students?  The high cost of commercial textbooks (print and electronic) is a major concern for both students and their parents. A new program at UNCG encourages you to do something about that concern.

The Office of the Provost and the University Libraries are joining together to support UNCG’s Open Education “Mini-Grants” initiative to encourage instructors to use low-cost or free alternatives to expensive course materials; these can include open-access scholarly resources, library-licensed and owned resources, and learning objects and texts that faculty create themselves.

Ten $1000 “mini-grants” will be available this spring, and are meant to offer an incentive for the time it will take faculty to identify new resources, adjust syllabi, and modify assignments and can also be used to cover any actual expenses you incur.

If you are interested in applying for these “mini-grants”, you are encouraged to attend one of the Open Education Initiative information sessions to be held April 14 and April 15th from 12 pm to 1 pm in Jackson Library Room 216.  Please RSVP prior to the workshop or direct your questions to Beth Bernhardt at brbernha@uncg.edu.

Additional literature on open educational resources is available at http://uncg.libguides.com/oer

See what UNCG students think about textbook costs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIza8rp79-w&feature=youtu.be
The deadline to apply for the “mini-grants” is April 24th.  You can apply at http://tinyurl.com/o2xck9j

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

HHS Releases Public Access Plans for 5 Agencies

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a comprehensive set of plans outlining the steps that its five largest Agencies will take to create policies expanding public access to the results of their funded research.  The policies are expected to go into effect by the end of this year.

The HHS release includes plans to update existing policies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as plans for new policies at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  Additionally, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is also voluntarily developing a plan for its portfolio of funded research.

Because each Agency created a separate plan, there is a lot of information packed into this single release. The plans relating to articles are relatively homogenous across the five Agencies;  all five will use the NIH Manuscript Submission System to deposit articles into the PubMed Central database, which will serve as the focal point for compliance.  

Of particular note: the discussion of HHS’s proposed mechanism to allow stakeholders to petition to change the embargo period centers on providing mechanisms to shorten the embargo period, underscoring that in all cases, across all operating divisions, the 12-month embargo is a guideline, and the rights holder can set an embargo period of less than that at any time.

Also of note is that while the individual Agencies indicate that their copyright and license provisions will be aligned with currently those in use by PubMed Central,  the NIH plan contains language which points to a possible shift in the Agency’s thinking on this crucial element.  The NIH plan notes: that the Agency is exploring the possibility of using the government use license specified to help make papers public. Such a move would greatly expand the utility of articles in the PMC database. 

The HHS blueprint for the sharing of digital research data are not as tightly defined as the plans to deal with research articles.  In particular, unlike in the article arena, HHS does not have a common repository for research data -- though it is envisioned that ultimately the operating divisions will utilize the health.gov portal to serve as the mechanism for the public to locate and access HHS-funded research data sets.  

This does not indicate a lack of commitment on the part of the department to move towards making the open sharing of research data a priority. Researchers across all HHS Agencies  will be required to provide plans for data access and sharing as part of the grant proposal process, or explain why their data cannot or should not be shared -- effectively setting a new default mode for sharing research data across HHS.

With the five operating divisions in different states of readiness, HHS's strategy for proceeding with data policy development is by necessity, quite pragmatic. The Department will first conduct an assessment of data holdings across its agencies, and create an enterprise-wide data inventory. It will also create common metadata elements for use by all of its agencies. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Open Education Initiative Mini-grants Will Be Available in the Spring

Are you interested in bringing down the cost of textbooks for your students?  A new program at UNCG encourages you to do so.

At the Faculty Senate Scholarly Communications Forum recently the Office of the Provost and the University Libraries announced that they are joining together to support faculty interested in providing their students with a less expensive yet educationally rewarding alternative to expensive commercial textbooks.

The high cost of commercial textbooks (print and electronic) is a major concern for both students and their parents.  UNCG’s Open Education Initiative stipend program encourages instructors to use low-cost or free alternatives to expensive course materials; these can include open-access scholarly resources, Library-licensed and owned resources, and learning objects and texts that faculty create themselves.

Ten $1000 mini-grants will be available in the spring of 2015. These modest yet significant mini-grants are meant to offer an incentive for the time it will take faculty to identify new resources, adjust syllabi, and modify assignments and can also be used to cover any actual expenses you incur.

Application announcements will be forthcoming in the spring of 2015.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Open Library of the Humanities

Here’s some exciting news for readers interested in experiments in academic publishing: the Open Library of the Humanities has just received a substantial Mellon Foundation grant to build its technological platform, business model, journal and monograph pilot scheme.
The Open Library of the Humanities (OLH) — run by the enterprisingMartin Paul Eve (@martin_eve) and Caroline Edwards (@the_blochian) — is an ambitious project to replicate the Public Library of Science (PLoS)project for the humanities.  PLoS is a non-profit organization of scientists dedicated to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible to scientists and to the public.
OLH is most well known for its effort to experiment with a sustainable large-scale model for academic publishing. This is urgently needed. Critics argue that the existing model for research is broken, with academic publishers like Elsevier criticized for taking research that has been produced by academics for free and then selling it back to university libraries at inflated cost.  Yet, “open access” research is often unsustainable as the publishing process still generates substantial costs, which cannot be recouped if people believe that open access equates to free. OLH is a major experiment to find new solutions to this conundrum, such as through their Library Publishing Subsidy system—which asks libraries to support an infrastructure rather than purchasing journals—and an interesting new mechanism termed “curation journals,” or co-branded journals that run on top of the OLH platform.
Stay tuned for a ProfHacker interview of OLH director Martin Paul Eve soon to find out more about what the Mellon funding will mean for OLH and the plans the organization has in store for the future.

Friday, November 15, 2013

SPARC Applauds Senators Durbin and Franken for Bill to Make College Textbooks More Affordable

SPARC Applauds Senators Durbin and Franken for Bill to Make College Textbooks More Affordable

Washington, D.C. – The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) today applauded Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) for introducing the Affordable College Textbook Act of 2013, which would reduce the cost of college textbooks by expanding the use of open educational resources - academic materials that everyone can use freely.

"Higher education is calling for solutions to the textbook costs crisis, and this bill provides an answer," said Nicole Allen, Open Educational Resources Program Director for SPARC, which works to broaden access to academic knowledge. "For too many students, the cost of textbooks has become simply unaffordable, even with cost saving measures like renting and used books. It is time to focus on solutions that deliver meaningful, long-term savings for students, and open educational resources are the most effective path forward."

The cost of textbooks has emerged as a significant piece of the college affordability and access debate. Textbook prices increased 82% between 2002 and 2012, and the average student budget for books and supplies has grown to $1,207 per year. Despite the vast potential for technology and the internet to solve this problem, many digital materials – especially e-textbooks – actively restrict much of this potential and perpetuate high costs.

Open educational resources (OER) provide a new model for publishing academic content that is designed to take full advantage of the digital environment. OER are textbooks, videos, articles, and other materials that are distributed online under a license granting advance permission for everyone to freely use, adapt and share them. Using open textbooks in place of traditional textbooks reduces the cost to students by 80-100%.

Details About the Bill

The Affordable College and Textbook Act directs the Department of Education to create a competitive grant program for higher education institutions (or groups of higher education institutions) to establish pilot programs that use OER to reduce textbook costs. Pilot programs may focus on using existing OER, creating or improving new OER, or conducting efficacy research – or any combination of these, so long as the end result is student savings.

Any educational materials developed or improved through the program will be posted online and licensed as OER so that everyone – including other colleges, students and faculty – can feely use the materials. The bill contains a strong definition of an open license with equivalent to the terms to the Creative Commons Attribution License, which grants full reuse rights on the condition of author attribution. This license would ensure the public gains the maximum benefit of the materials created through the grant program.

"While the potential benefits of this bill to students and professors alike are tremendous, it is important to note that states, institutions and faculty members can start leveraging the power of open educational resources today," said Allen. "From Tidewater Community College's zero textbook cost degree to Washington State's Open Course Library, dozens of initiatives are already leading the way. As we advocate for the bill, we should also advocate for the ideas behind it right away."

To follow the conversation on this issue on Twitter use the hashtags #oer and #oerusa.