Bringing IWU Scholarship to the World

As we have become ever more dependent on access to digital scholarship during the coronavirus pandemic, it is worth celebrating the long-time commitment that the Ames Library has shown to promoting open access to the scholarly and creative work completed by Illinois Wesleyan’s students and faculty, especially through our institutional repository, Digital Commons.

Launched in 2008, Digital Commons provides open access to scholarly and creative work produced by members of the IWU community, including journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations, undergraduate honors research, undergraduate research journals, and records of the university.  On May 27, 2020, we recorded the 4,000,000th download of IWU content from Digital Commons, for an average of more than 333,000 downloads by users around the world each year. This is an extraordinary achievement for a small liberal arts college, and evidence of the global impact of the research conducted each year by members of the IWU community.

The 4,000,000th download, Adnan Filipovic’s “Impact of Privatization on Economic Growth” (2006), is a study of “the relationship between growth and privatization from an incentives perspective,” and has been downloaded more than 7,000 times since 2008. The article was originally published in IWU’s Undergraduate Economic Review, an open-access, peer-reviewed, undergraduate research journal. While many IWU undergraduate research journals feature the work of our own students, the UER features the work of students from around the world, and is peer-reviewed and edited by IWU students under the faculty mentorship of Professor Michael Seeborg (Economics) and Professor Stephanie Davis-Kahl (The Ames Library). IWU students also have the opportunity to publish their own research through the Park Place Economist, another open-access undergraduate research journal available through Digital Commons. On the role that publishing opportunities such as these play in undergraduate education at IWU, Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee Chair Todd Fuist (Sociology) said: “We pride ourselves on providing the kind of innovative and transformative research experiences for students that help them grow their skills and build their credentials. This milestone is illustrative of the caliber of work we help to guide students through as they conduct research at IWU.”

The 4,000,000th download was to a Digital Commons user from the University of Cambridge in England. On the importance of open access to scholarly work in Economics, Professor Seeborg said: “Open access publishing is a significant part of the economics program. We incentivize quality undergraduate research by allowing students to participate in the editorial process and submit their papers for publication …. I firmly believe that the best way to learn economics is to do economics. Our partnership with the Ames Library, and Digital Commons, promotes an active learning environment and is very important to the economics program.”

The Undergraduate Economic Review, and other undergraduate research journals, are available through Digital Commons. If you would like to learn more about open-access initiatives or library publishing, please contact Stephanie Davis-Kahl, Collections and Scholarly Communications Librarian.

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