Academic Senate Passes ‘Open Access’ Resolution


The Academic Senate recently approved an “open access” initiative that acknowledges the detrimental effects of rising journal subscription costs and supports alternatives to commercial ownership of scholarly publishing.


The Academic Information Services Advisory Committee submitted the resolution. Chair Sandra Burr (English) said it was two years in the making.


“This is a huge issue nationwide because the costs of journals, particularly in the sciences, have gone through the roof,” she added. “Libraries are forced to make really hard choices about which journals to support financially and which to cancel. This can have adverse effects on the kinds of activities, reports, assignments and cutting-edge news that faculty can incorporate into the curriculum. We need to do what we can to support better access with less money.”


Another problem with commercial ownership, according to Joanna Mitchell (AIS-Library), is that faculty often sacrifice control of their research results and scholarship when they transfer copyright to their publishers. Universities then pay a high price to essentially buy back the published form of the research and scholarship they subsidize.


“The idea is to let faculty know they’re entitled to retain some of their rights to their own publications and show them how to proceed in that direction,” Mitchell said. “They should be able to post a copy of the final article on their own Web site or distribute copies in their classes, but these things are prohibited under many publishing agreements.”


In addition to encouraging faculty authors to negotiate key rights, the resolution encourages the university to explore an infrastructure that will sustain digital open access to scholarship. This might include an institutional repository or archive that will ensure wider dissemination of research and information.


Other measures identified in the resolution are: expect the library, in consultation with relevant departments, to cancel high-priced journals with minimal readership, negotiate aggressively with publishers, take collective action and refuse to pay unsustainable prices; and encourage faculty to support open access journals and journals published by nonprofit professional associations, university presses and commercial publishers with fair pricing.


Open access journals are online, peer-reviewed publications that are free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Mitchell said they are gaining momentum because the pricing structure of commercial publishing has forced universities to cancel subscriptions and investigate other alternatives.


Olson Library has created a Web site on the threat to scholarly information.


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Updated: March 29, 2007

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