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Open Educational Resources at SUNY ESF: Why OER Matters

Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS)

Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. OASIS currently searches open content from 80 different sources and contains 331,461 records.

OASIS is being developed at SUNY Geneseo's Milne Library.

Long-term Solutions

We need to change the model for academic publishing in order to maintain our ability to afford to be a research-based institution. 

SUNY-wide, library acquisitions costs have grown from $27 million to $63 million from 2002-2012.  They are higher this year, and will continue to grow.  Yet we are not increasing our access to information relative to the increase in expenditures.  In fact, we are paying roughly $40 million more now than we were ten years ago for far fewer titles.  The number of volumes added system wide in 2002 was 165,000.  In 2012 it was 91,000 volumes. Across SUNY, we are paying more and have access to far less.

 We have a structural deficit, as do other campuses in the system. SUNY System has a $14 million dollar budget gap this year.  Higher Ed in general is facing a really uncertain future as demographics change and the cost of a college degree continues to rise, and journal price increases far outstrip HEPI every year.  How sustainable do we think this situation really is?  If the system doesn’t fundamentally change, how are we going to continue to afford to do this?

 SUNY UFS just passed an affordable textbook resolution.  Any potential savings for the students generated by that effort will be erased by the next 6% increase in the cost of Science, or Nature, or any other prestigious journal or large database package, which will be charged back to students in the form of tuition increases, fees, or loss of other services and access which we can’t afford to provide.  If we do nothing to change this situation, do we really care about the costs of education borne by our students?  The $63 million spent SUNY-wide on journals in 2012 was money not spent on infrastructure, capital improvements, staff positions, faculty lines, support services, or decreases in the rate of tuition.  It may have contributed significantly to the generation of research funding, but as we have seen here, that doesn’t always produce a positive balance on the indirect recovery side. As these costs grow, how many faculty will we not hire? How many faculty will we lose because we can’t afford start-up packages?  How many grad students will we not be able to fund? How many disciplines can we not afford to support?

The College Libraries recognize the need for faculty and students to have access to, to read, to publish in, and to cite to high quality, high-impact journals with prestige in their fields of study. However, “Prestige” is in the eye of the beholder and is granted to journals by the consumers and providers of information in those journals. It can be revoked and given elsewhere.

Cognitive authority and prestige are granted to online resources in other formats . No one reads or pays for the OED or Britannica anymore.

 It would only take 5-10 leading scholars in each field to grant “prestige” to quality, peer-reviewed, open access journals. (The ones that don’t charge enormous page fees!) They could do this by publishing high quality work in open journals rather than expensive ones.  What “prestige” – after all -  does Science have if the content stops flowing to it and readers stop insisting we pay (in our case $4600/year) for it?  The professional societies, and the Faculty (Faculty across SUNY, and more broadly – not just ours) could make this happen by granting/assigning value to open access publications in the P&T process, and by advocacy within and across the disciplines for this activity. SUNY System cannot dictate this. The libraries certainly cannot. It needs to come up from the department/discipline/society level.  But it needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. Otherwise the desire for prestige and reputation among our colleagues is going to price us all out of business.

            The language below is taken from a letter to Chancellor Zimpher (by Jenica Rogers) on behalf of the SUNY Library Directors:

"We, as SUNY, need to develop a multi-faceted long-term strategy for scholarly communications and library funding across our campuses that includes:

  • Disengage from profit-driven publishing. We know faculty are aware of the inequities inherent in our scholarly communication processes -- more than 14,000 scholars have signed the boycott of Elsevier housed at The Cost of Knowledge ( If we feel that Elsevier (or other publishers) is not a strong partner for SUNY, then SUNY should say so, not just with words and dollars, but with our influence, calling on our faculty to cease their unpaid editorial, publishing, and refereeing work for Elsevier/other Publisher publications.
  • OA mandate. It is time for SUNY, the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, to join the ranks of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in adopting Open Access mandates. Our faculty are already producing research funded by organizations that have adopted Open Access mandates for grant recipients -- organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, Research Councils UK, National Fund for Scientific Research, Wellcome Trust and the European Research Council. Such a mandate would position us on the right side of history.

Such a strategy will require strong statements of direction from the SUNY System Office, significant cultural change in the promotion and tenure processes on our campuses, and alignment with faculty governance.

The SUNY Council of Library Directors knows that the current model of journal subscriptions and pricing are unsustainable. However, change is coming slowly. Until a time when SUNY unites with other universities across the nation under an Open Access mandate, we cannot afford to end our student and faculty access to the extensive research databases offered by Elsevier. The transition from a journal subscription model to a more sustainable economic solution that integrates Open Access will take time, and as we work towards that goal, our student and faculty researchers will continue to require access to ScienceDirect.”

Learning about OERs