Open access advocates, myself included, often talk about public scholarship for the public good. Open access advances the pace of scientific progress, promotes interdisciplinary research and collaborations, and allows researchers to share their work with those who don’t otherwise have access to it. We’ve all had the experience of hitting a paywall, and it’s not hard to believe that members of our local and global communities do too.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative, regarded as one of three declarations that defined and shaped the movement, establishes the public good as the foundation for open access:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will . . . lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.

But who is the Public? How do open access repositories like CUNY Academic Works benefit them? We want to know!

The Office of Library Services at the CUNY Central Office recently set-up a new feature in Academic Works: a feedback form. PDF cover pages in select series now include a question: How does access to this work benefit you? Let us know!Readers that click the hyperlink are directed to a feedback form that asks for some basic information as well as permission to publicly share their comments.

Before rolling it out across the repository, this feature was tested on a collection of dissertations at the Graduate Center. Monthly usage reports let us know this content gets a lot of attention, but who is downloading and reading it? How does it contribute to the public good? I can’t tell you about each download, but I can now tell you how open, public access to “The Contributions of Earl “Bud” Powell to the Modern Jazz Style” benefit one person:

I am a 52 year old engineer who has been playing jazz piano since the age of 10. I am delighted to find this thesis about one of the most important jazz pianists of the 20th century. It includes the *incredible* transcription of “Strictly Confidential,” an amazing piano piece by legendary jazz pianist Bud Powell. I have been looking for a transcription for this piece my entire life, as it is far too complicated for me to hear with my basic ears…

This is the first of what I expect to be many stories that demonstrate the benefits of open access to the public. Future feedback will be posted to this blog when permissions allow.