University Libraries Commit to Open Access Initiative

Last spring, we discussed the costs of publishing open access and the various models that can support the creation and publication of openly available research. Publishers, institutions, societies, and authors continue to search for fair and sustainable means of providing barrier-free access to scholarship. A familiar model uses APCs (author processing charges) to support publishing costs.

But what of the other less familiar but pragmatic approaches? Today, I’d like to review a collaborative, community-centered approach to open access (OA) publishing and talk about why the University Libraries supports such initiatives. This model depends on funding commitments, usually from libraries or institutions, to collaboratively support the publication costs of scholarship, resulting in the end-product being made available to all.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Let’s walk through how this could work. Instead of many libraries buying separate copies of a published book, several of those libraries could pool their money to pay for publishing costs. Without the need to recoup publishing costs, the publisher can immediately make the book freely available online to anyone who wants to read it. The library has paid about the same price for something they would have purchased, but others beyond their affiliates benefit from the investment as well.

This type of model not only benefits those who have invested in the publication of the content, but other stakeholders who might not otherwise be able to access the research: practitioners, underfunded institutions, journalists, K-12 educators, and even policymakers. If institutions equitably contribute to diverse initiatives in lieu of exclusively purchasing unique content, overall costs could potentially decrease while access increases.

One initiative that has used funding commitments to publish open access content is Knowledge Unlatched. To support emerging publishing models and open access to research, the University Libraries pledged funding for two collections through Knowledge Unlatched. If the KU Select 2020 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Collection and the KU Select 2020 Modern Languages and Linguistics Collection are fully funded, all of the titles within will be “unlatched” and published openly. If the pledging goals are not fully met, as many titles as possible will be made free to access. These valuable collections are carefully curated and include titles from Bloomsbury, De Gruyter, and other well-known publishers.

We are optimistic that other institutions similarly perceive the benefits of open access publishing and will be able to support these valuable initiatives.

-Contributed by Amie Freeman

New NIH Policy Expands Requirement for Data Management and Sharing Plans

Recently, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the agency of the US government primarily responsible for biomedical research, released an update to its 2003 data sharing policy. The revisions hold ramifications for health research workflows and more importantly, the new policy, which will go into effect on January 25, 2023, sets an improved standard for data management and sharing in health sciences research.

The new NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing covers all research funded by the NIH that results in the creation of scientific data. The NIH defines scientific data as “The recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate and replicate research findings, regardless of whether the data are used to support scholarly publications” (NIH DMS Policy). The new policy sets an expectation that a data management and sharing plan must accompany all proposals for research that will produce scientific data, an expansion on the previous requirement that only proposals over $500,000 include such a plan.

A draft of the new policy was released last year with a request for public feedback. Here, summaries of public comments and the wording of the new policy can be found. While the NIH encourages sharing of research data, the new policy stops short of requiring that the sharing of all data becomes the norm. A number of commenters felt that the NIH should have voiced a stronger commitment to data sharing, although this new policy does encourage sharing more strongly than in the past. Interested readers might consider reading through the public comments and changes made to the draft based on that feedback.

Although the new policy doesn’t go into effect until January of 2023, planning for these changes should be considered now. For NIH researchers who haven’t needed a DMP in the past, there are many resources available to help with data management and sharing plans, including these: Elements of an NIH Data Management and Sharing Plan, Selecting a Repository for Data Resulting from NIH Supported Research. And for those looking for a template and more guidance, DMPTool is an online resource that helps researchers create data management plans that meet specific funder requirements, including the NIH. As funder requirements change, the staff at DMPTool update templates and guidance, ensuring that researchers are prompted to include all needed plan components. For more help with planning for the management of research data (federally funded or otherwise), contact Digital Research Services at the University of South Carolina Libraries.

–Stacy Winchester, Research Data Librarian

Celebrating GIS Day through Career Discovery

In celebration of GIS Day, 2020, I interviewed my brother, John Foster, Senior Manager, GIS at Apex Clean Energy to learn how he uses GIS in his profession.

Getting Started
In 2001 John received a master’s in Environmental Planning at UVA’s School of Architecture. While in graduate school, he happened to take a class in GIS, which was a relatively new discipline at the time. Upon graduating, this experience helped him land a job at a local land trust. There was one other colleague at the time working on GIS and the two of them worked together for seven years, honing their analytical and mapping skills.

In 2009, John was hired by a renewable energy development start up, Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, VA. At the time the company had around 20 employees, and had its sights set on developing utility scale wind projects throughout the Midwest for utilities and corporate entities. Helping answer the question of where (and where not) to develop, the need for GIS support increased as the company grew to 200+ employees. While the GIS team at Apex currently consists of 8 full time Analysts and Developers, the company’s Environmental, Land, and New Markets departments have also added team members proficient in GIS. Apex’s projects completed to date range in size from 100 to 525MW, and total over 4GW of wind and solar power providing electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes, and companies such as Apple, Facebook, Starbucks, IKEA and McDonalds.

Data Gathering with GIS
Within the GIS team, Analysts are assigned to specific solar and wind project development teams, and provide critical information throughout the development process. The wind projects tend to be more complex, because they range in size from 20,000 to 45,000 acres, and can include thousands of parcels of land owned by hundreds of landowners, whereas the solar projects are significantly smaller in scale geographically.

The majority of the data used to site wind and solar facilities is publicly available and gathered by Apex’s New Markets GIS Analysists, and then handed off to the GIS team, which uses it to create the blank canvas on which project facilities (turbines, underground 34kV collection lines, access roads, and overhead transmission lines) are designed. Areas to avoid, otherwise known as setbacks, are calculated using a Python script which takes into account the type of feature- houses, barns, pipelines, roads, and then the dimensions of the wind turbine, which typically exceed 500’ in height. These setback distances are determined by local zoning ordinances, as well as industry accepted safety standards. Additional data is collected by wildlife consultants who conduct surveys for the presence of endangered species, such as eagles, bats and prairie dogs. Consultants also provide GIS data related to air space constraints, and geology, but ultimately it’s the landowners who agree to lease their land to the project that determine if a project gets sited within a community.

Data Sharing
The foundation of the GIS team’s ability to share data throughout the company is a web map, known internally as “Atlas,” which is built on ESRI’s Portal and Enterprise GIS software platforms. As the quantity of data managed has grown, new web maps have been created specific to solar and wind, as well as project and department specific web maps. As the goal of the GIS team is to provide as much transparency as possible into the spatial data influencing the placement of facilities, company wide facing web maps offer the best visibility into the data the GIS team manages.

Everyday Work, Changes, and Possibilities
What John likes about his job is helping people find answers to questions quickly and efficiently using this powerful software. Although some of the spatial analysis can be repetitive, the use of Python, algorithms, and machine learning have automated many of the processes and increased the accuracy of analysis. John thinks the future of GIS will bring more automation, and an ever increasing flood of data from companies like Google, Microsoft, and local governments. The biggest challenge at the moment seems to be quality control. While many operations have been automated, the human eye is still required to catch many of the nuances that are difficult to decipher in an aerial image or a complex map.

Although John has learned most everything he knows on the job, he does recommend taking advantage of the immense amount of training on ESRI’s website, as well as online courses available at colleges, universities and community colleges in your area. While programming languages such as Python are becoming essential, having the ability to effectively communicate details and complexity with a single map or image is equally critical.

If this post interests you, check out Apex’s paid internships, where you will be on the front lines assisting the company with their next project.

— Contributed by Kate Foster Boyd and John Foster

Open Access Week 2020

Open With Purpose Logo

October 19 – 25, 2020, is International Open Access Week, and we at the University of South Carolina Libraries are happy to take part. The theme for this year’s OA Week is “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion.” While we often frame publishing in OA journals or sharing a version of your research as an opportunity to increase visibility and impact, we may sometimes forget that open access can build knowledge and increase access universally. And sometimes, those who would most benefit from publishing in open access publications may be excluded from doing so because of structural inequities in the publishing system.

We take this week as an opportunity not only to celebrate the valuable reach of open access research and the opportunities that OA can bring, but to reflect on how we can strive towards a more open and equitable future. If you’re interested in reading more on this subject, is a great resource to get you started.

In the meantime, enjoy this curated list of freely available webinars and virtual events offered during OA Week. Most events require advance registration. Times shown are in EDT. Let us know what you think @UofSClibraries!

  • Monday, October 19; 4:45 AM – 11 AM; Open and Engaged Conference 2020: Inequities in Scholarly Communications. Register
  • Monday, October 19, 2020; 4:00 PM: Rapid Response: How arXiv and other open access resources are adapting to research community needs during the pandemic. Register
  • Tuesday, October 20; 1:00 PM: Introduction to Open Science Framework. Register
  • Tuesday, October 20; 2:00 PM: Introduction to Open Educational Resources. Register
  • Wednesday, October 21; 10 AM: Publishing your Work: Understand & Manage your Rights. Register
  • Wednesday, October 21; 2:00 PM: ACRL Presents: Celebrating Open Access Week: Building Structural Equity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications. Register
  • Wednesday, October 21; 5:00 PM: Copyright, Creative Commons, and Open Licenses. Register
  • Thursday, October 22; 2:00 PM: Teaching with Open Pedagogy. Register
  • Friday, October 23; 8:00 AM: UCL Press: Author Experiences of Publishing OA books: Lunchtime Webinar. Register

-Contributed by Amie Freeman

University Libraries Research and Educational Dataset Procurement Pilot

Would you like to have access to a dataset for research or teaching but don’t have the funds available to purchase it? University Libraries is pleased to announce the launch of a data purchase program that aims to meet those needs.

University of South Carolina – Columbia affiliated researchers and instructors (faculty, staff, and graduate students!) who would like for the libraries to purchase a dataset are invited to apply here. To learn more and read the fine print, visit the program’s website here. Researchers and instructors at other campuses, including Medicine and Law, should check their local resources for funding sources. The deadline to apply is October 30, 2020.

(image credit: Block Chain Data, Pixabay image)

This pilot program was conceived of by the libraries as a way to discover and fulfill previously unmet data needs and add more data products to the collections. The Libraries will purchase/license the data, store it if needed, and provide access. Data purchased through this program cannot contain sensitive information and must be available for campus-wide dissemination. The program aims to fund several small requests in the $1,000 – $5,000 range. Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate that the data may be useful to others and collaborative proposals across units, departments, research groups, or courses are encouraged.

If you are interested in this program but have questions, please contact Stacy Winchester, Research Data Librarian at If you have a dataset in mind, but don’t have all of the information requested on the application, the Libraries can work with the vendor for price information, licensing options, and other details.

— Stacy Winchester