Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

10 university presses endorse OA

The directors of 10 US and Canadian university presses released this statement today:

Position Statement From University Press Directors on Free Access to Scholarly Journal Articles:

  1. The undersigned university press directors support the dissemination of scholarly research as broadly as possible.
  2. We support the free access to scientific, technical, and medical journal articles no later than 12 months after publication.  We understand that the length of time before free release of journal articles will by necessity vary for other disciplines.
  3. We support the principle that scholarly research fully funded by governmental entities is a public good and should be treated as such.  We support legislation that strengthens this principle and oppose legislation designed to weaken it.
  4. We support the archiving and free release of the final, published version of scholarly journal articles to ensure accuracy and citation reliability.
  5. We will work directly with academic libraries, governmental entities, scholarly societies, and faculty to determine appropriate strategies concerning dissemination options, including institutional repositories and national scholarly archives.

The statement is signed by the directors of the University Press of Florida, University of Akron Press, University Press of New England, Athabasca University Press, Wayne State University Press, University of Calgary Press, University of Michigan Press, Rockefeller University Press, Penn State University Press, and University of Massachusetts Press. 

The organizers welcome signatures from additional university presses.  Those interested should contact Mike Rossner, Executive Director of the Rockefeller University Press.

Comment.  This is significant.  It's the first statement in support of OA from a group of mostly-TA publishers and the first from a group of mostly-book publishers.  It's also an important reproach to the American Association of University Presses, which publicly supported the Conyers bill last September without consulting its members.  (See all our past posts on the AAUP and the Conyers bill.)

Update (6/4/09).  Also see Scott Jaschik's article in today's Inside Higher Ed.  Excerpt:

...Rossner of Rockefeller University said that the press directors issued the statement as they wanted "to align ourselves with the stances taken by many universities -- by faculties and administrators -- on scholarly communication."

He said that many academics feel "excitement" about the open access movement, seeing it as advancing the mission of scholarly communication and helping to keep research available at a time when many libraries and scholars don't have enough money.

Policy positions from the AAUP opposing open access -- such as this statement backing the legislation (commonly called the "Conyers bill" after its sponsor, Rep. John Conyers) that would revoke the current NIH requirements -- generally express support for the concept of open access, but fears about its financial impact.

"The members of AAUP strongly support open access to scholarly literature by whatever means, so long as those means include a funding or business model that will maintain the investment required to keep older work available and continue to publish new work," said the statement. "However, trying to expand access by diminishing copyright protection in works arising from federally-funded research is going entirely in the wrong direction, and will badly erode the capacity of AAUP members to publish such work in their books and journals."

The problem with that argument, Rossner said, is that there is nothing inconsistent with backing open access and having a business plan that works for university presses. He noted that Rockefeller University Press went open access in 2001 for material that has been published at least six months. Revenue from journal subscriptions has gone up during that time, with funds shifting from print to online, but flowing in nonetheless....

Peter Givler, executive director of the AAUP, said that while members of the association had the right to express their views, "we took this position [supporting the Conyers bill] believing that it reflected the views of a strong majority of our membership."

Givler said he was frustrated that "there's a lot of misunderstanding about the real issues here." He said that presses are very much in the business of "dissemination of knowledge -- the issue is how to pay for it." While there is "a lot of experimentation going on," he said it was not clear that models broadly exist to help university presses in an open access system...."

To those who think university presses should be able to endorse open access now, he said, "look at what's going on right now. Look at the enormous financial pressure universities and university presses are under." Even if the government is paying for the research covered by the current requirements, "the publishing process is not paid for by the taxpayers."

Update (6/4/09). Also see Jennifer Howard's article on the Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog.