UC System Discusses Open Access Policy

This Summer, the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) of the University of California Academic Senate put forward a proposed Open Access Policy for the UC System. The Senate is requesting input and comments on the policy will be accepted up to January 11, 2013.

The Chair of UCOLASC is Chris Kelty, frequent Savage Minds author and Associate Professor at UCLA in Anthropology and Information Studies. In his cover letter to the proposed policy, Prof. Kelty notes that the policy is part of a larger UC effort “to transform the scholarly publishing industry and improve the accessibility and visibility of our scholarly research.” There are already a number of options for scholars who wish to make their research available online – options like SSRN, ArXiv, and many institutions already have institutional repositories – so why this policy? Kelty continues:

The key function of this policy is to change the default relationship that faculty have with scholarly publishers. Currently, each faculty member must individually negotiate open access rights with each individual publisher for each publication. The proposed policy would invert that relationship. It would make open access the default right of faculty and instead force publishers to request exclusive rights (by asking authors to opt-out). By making this a collective policy, individual faculty benefit from their membership in the policy-making group. Moreover, under this policy faculty members both retain ownership of their copyright and have an unobstructed right to opt out of the license for any reason.

What I particularly like about Kelty’s language is the focus on inverting the relationship between faculty and publishers. In the author/publisher relationship, publishers typically have the upper hand: publishers produce a contract requiring transfer of author rights and authors sign away their rights with little bargaining power if they want to get published. Open access policies such as the one proposed for the UC System provide faculty with greater support when negotiating a publishing contract, not just by requiring open access to scholarship, but also by helping faculty understand all of their rights and how to assert those rights.

If the UC System adopts this Open Access Policy, it will be a big deal. Yes, there are other U.S. institutions that have adopted similar policies (including MIT, Harvard, Kansas, and Princeton), but having probably the largest system of public universities in the U.S. support, as a whole, open access to the scholarly output of their faculty will make waves.

If you are faculty at one of the UC schools, please take a look at the policy draft and at Chris Kelty’s excellent presentation on the proposed policy, and talk to your peers, especially in your department and in your campus Senate.

If you are faculty at other institutions and don’t yet have a campus open access policy, take a look at the UC policy and presentation linked to in the previous paragraph and start asking questions at your own institution (if you’re not sure who to talk to, your library is probably a good place to start).

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