Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, April 24, 2009

Maryland faculty votes against OA policy

The University of Maryland University Senate just voted down a mixed green/gold OA policy. 

From the defeated resolution:

...[B]e it resolved that...

  1. The University Senate urges the President to work collectively with other universities, research institutions, and other appropriate entities to establish and advocate for nationwide open access policies, such as those recently adopted by the National Institutes of Health, that would apply to all disciplines.
  2. The University Senate urges the Libraries to continue to inform the faculty about the pricing and open access policies of the journals in its collection and, where possible, to assist faculty in negotiating reasonable copyright and open access arrangements.
  3. The University Senate encourages faculty, students, and other researchers, where practical and not detrimental to their careers, to (a) publish in open access journals or journals that make their contents openly accessible shortly after publication, (b) negotiate with the journals in which they publish for the right to deposit articles in an open access repository, and (c) consider the price of the journal as one factor in the decision on where to publish.
  4. The University Senate encourages faculty, students, and other researchers to deposit all preprints and reprints of articles, when permitted, in an open access repository such as the DRUM archive or, where appropriate, in discipline-specific repositories such as PubMed Central.

From Tizra Austin's story in today's Diamondback Online on the debate in the Senate:

An unforeseen debate erupted at the University Senate meeting yesterday about where faculty members should be encouraged to publish their research.

After more than half an hour of debate, the senate voted against a resolution that called for faculty members to publish their work in free online databases. Despite the potential savings open-access journals could bring to the university, the senate voted the resolution down in a 37-24 decision, due to perceived impositions on academic freedom.

"[The cost of scholarly journals] has to be one of the most challenging issues we have at this university," Senate Chair Ken Holum said.

The defeated resolution, proposed by the senate's faculty affairs committee, laid out four specific suggestions: for university President Dan Mote to advocate for open-access journals on a national level, to urge the libraries to educate faculty on the cost of journals and to encourage faculty to publish their research in open-access journals and deposit findings in open-access databases whenever possible.

Because so many faculty members are published in research journals that require subscriptions, the university has to pay for access to numerous journals every year. Dan Falvey, the chairman of the committee that authored the resolution, emphasized the proposal was not a university policy and didn't mandate any changes, but was rather intended to spark discussion about other options for journal access. But, Holum said, the discussion it sparked was largely "gloom and doom."

"Open access will kill the journals you need during your career," women's studies professor and university senator Claire Moses said. "It's as simple as that."

While everyone acknowledged that the high cost of scholarly journals and slimming library budgets needed to be addressed, many felt it was too soon to instate anything resembling university policy....

Senators criticized the proposal for its language, which they said did not accurately characterize the variations that exist between departments. Throughout the debate, science professors faced off against humanities professors - a rift caused by the vast differences between scientific journals and humanities journals....

Both Moses and [history professor Gay Gullickson] argued the resolution's language was too strong to count as a mere suggestion and would eventually lead to university policy.  "This does not call for discussion - it urges the president to take action," Gullickson said....


  • The resolution didn't focus more on gold OA (OA through journals) than green OA (OA through repositories), but the controversy focused more on gold OA than green OA.  It's a pity, because it didn't have to be that way.  The policy could and should have made the green OA recommendation (#4) primary.  It could and should even have made #4 even stronger.  The Harvard policy, for example, goes beyond encouraging green OA to requiring it, and offers an opt-out on request, decisively answering the fear that faculty would not be able to submit work to the journals of their choice. We've known for several years now that, with good drafting and good campus education, strong green OA policies, even green OA mandates, can win wide faculty support.  In the past year and half they have been adopted by unanimous faculty votes at Harvard, Stanford, Macquarie, Boston U, Oregon State, and MIT. 
  • To supplement a green OA policy, it makes sense to encourage gold OA but not to require it.  The Maryland resolution wouldn't have required gold OA (#3), but I can see why some faculty wondered whether it was stronger than mere encouragement.  A strong green OA policy is compatible with the freedom of faculty to submit their work to the journals of their choice but a strong gold OA policy is not.  The freedom of faculty to submit their work where they like is important, but needn't stand in the way of a well-crafted OA policy.