Back when she was a student in Bulgaria, Nedelina Tchangalova was attempting to finish up her degree when she hit a roadblock: she couldn’t access many of the publications she needed to write her thesis.
That frustrating experience put her on the path towards advocating for open science, a path she continues to walk today as the University of Maryland’s Public Health Librarian.
“Libraries value intellectual freedom as part of their mission to provide and protect access to information and ideas,” Tchangalova said. “Scientific knowledge and discoveries should be widely available to everyone in the world.”
Aside from conducting research in library science and public health that she aims to publish in open access journals, Tchangalova instructs faculty and students in using information resources. She promotes the Libraries’ Open Access Publishing Fund, which encourages researchers to publish their work in open access journals, and covers a portion of the publishing fees to do so — researchers like Kellee White.
White was initially apprehensive about using open access journals, having come across some that abuse the open-access publishing model through dubious money-making schemes and lack of a sufficient peer review process. Differentiating between credible journals and their nefarious counterparts has been part of her journey toward recognizing the value of open access.
Like Tchangalova, White’s personal experiences have driven her advocacy. She finds herself frustrated when she has to rely on friends and scholars at other institutions to access articles she needs for her research.
Personal access isn’t the only reason she champions open science, though.
“The ability to disseminate my findings more broadly is another reason why I think open access is critical,” White said. “For me, as a researcher, it’s really important for not just other academics — who are in the ivory tower, so to speak — to read my research, but for community members [and] people at community-based organizations.”
Open access journals let researchers share their findings more quickly and more broadly than traditional journals, often at a lower cost to libraries — but the publication fees for some open access outlets can be cost-prohibitive for researchers.
That’s where the Libraries’ open access fund comes in. In February, White and Tchangalova used the fund to co-publish an article about socially-assigned race and health inequity that’s already been cited several times this year.
Tchangalova has seen open access have global impact, too: a group of researchers studying HIV/AIDs and cancer in Nigeria found a systematic review guide she compiled, and reached out to her about free databases and tools their institute might be able to use.
“Research is not done in a vacuum,” Tchangalova said. “Open Access allows scientists to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ and make research discoveries without borders.”