Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Nan Li, Nan Li

Open access in Asia series- An interview with Singapore Management University Library

In the second instalment of our series to explore viewpoints on open access (OA) in Asia, Yeo Pin Pin, Head of Research Services at the SMU Libraries shared with us her perspectives on the impact of OA in her library, trends in Singapore, how the SMU libraries support users in OA and the librarian’s role in this journey.

Q: What do you think are some of the drivers for libraries to support OA in Singapore?

Initially, university libraries in Singapore were keen to support the open access movement and many of us launched our own institutional repositories. It also helped that it aligned with the institutions’ desire to promote research done by their faculty members. The objectives of my repository are:

•      To create visibility and raise the profile of SMU research and scholarly assets

•      To provide organisation of the records of SMU research and scholarly assets

•      To provide access to the publications’ full text where possible for SMU research and scholarly assets

Our institutional repository (IR) plays a role in showcasing the research output of our university. We leverage on the IR platform to make research more discoverable, visible and accessible to the world. Our researchers get to make more meaningful impact and the general public benefits from the increase in research accessibility as well.

The rising costs of journal subscriptions was a motivator for us to support open access and we go through a rigorous process to evaluate our journal subscription decisions. We need to judiciously manage our budget while making sure our users have access to the resources they need. We understand that other libraries also operate within budgetary constraints and easily discoverable papers in our repository enhance their collections too.

Q: Is there growing interest from researchers in your institution in OA over the past few years? If yes, why?

Yes, I have seen growing interest in open access. Some faculty members observed that their open access papers are downloaded, read and cited more. They were also approached by companies to collaborate with them after reading their work on the IR.  It is also more likely for their papers to be used as course reading materials by other universities.

Some faculty members also need to satisfy funder requirements and publish open access when they are the principal investigator, or when they work with co-authors with similar requirements.

The practice of sharing papers on personal websites or on pre-print servers is also customary for some disciplines and having papers available in the IR was no issue.

Q: The OA movement is prominent in the West. Has that reached libraries in country, or have you seen how that impacted your library in areas of OA over the past few years?  

Yes, the OA movement has definitely impacted libraries in Singapore. Besides having repositories, policies and mandates have also been put in place by universities and research funding agencies. These mandates initially applied to open access publications only, and it has now been extended to its research data and research data infrastructure. There is still much work that needs to be done to increase the uptake of infrastructure for research data of open access publications.

Librarians have also been working to grow their scope of knowledge and skillsets to include metadata and copyright for publications. Recently, the focus has shifted to understanding and learning about datasets, including concepts like FAIR principles and sensitive data.

Q: How is your library supporting OA publishing currently?

We encourage faculty members to keep the author-final version of their papers as most journals allow this version in institutional repositories. We support the green open access route which in turn, represents our advocacy for the Rights Retention Strategy in Plan S.

My library does not have funds to pay for Article Processing Charges (APCs), but researchers have alternative options for financial support. We also advise faculty on copyright, Creative Commons licenses and APCs.

To support our institution’s Research Data Management Policy, we launched a data repository in April 2020 for faculty members to upload their data and to retain it. We are also hosting the COAR Asia OA meeting virtually in 2021 and hope to further raise awareness of open access and the role that libraries in Asia can play in driving it forward.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your library’s goals for OA?

The COVID-19 pandemic has really propelled the sharing of our publications in full text. We created a collection of publications published by our faculty related to COVID-19 and showcased them in our repository to our community.

The pandemic made us realise that access should not be restricted to only within the library premises. Our users still need to attend classes, do their course readings and assignments even when they could not visit the library physically. To do so, they need to be able to access information remotely and digitally.

Q: What is your perspective on the library’s role in OA? Do you see any opportunity for the librarian’s role to change because of OA, and in what ways?

The library has traditionally a been great custodian of its collections, mostly purchased or subscribed. I see our role as the custodian of the research done by our institution. We can “catalogue” them and describe them accurately using appropriate standards and schemas. We can make them discoverable via our catalogues and more importantly now, make them discoverable via internet search engines. We can preserve and provide consistent access to content.

We are in the workflow for the submission of research publications to my institution’s current research information system (CRIS). We check the submissions and ensure they are accurate. This way, we can contribute our expertise in the organisation of research publications for the institution. From the CRIS, we ensure the records and full text are publicly available through the repository.

We have also launched a data repository, and are learning new skills so that our librarians are equipped to engage faculty about data to support research data management and data retention. This is an area that we will be focusing on.

Lastly, we track Plan S and are keenly following the progress of institutions that are part of cOAlition S and the transformative agreements entered by these institutions.