Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, November 23, 2009

U. Virginia continues debating OA mandate

Prateek Vasireddy, Faculty approves MESALC master’s, The Cavalier Daily, November 23, 2009.

... [D]ebate still continued about the scholarly copyright resolution [in the University of Virginia Faculty Senate].

If the proposal is adopted, all faculty members would have to ask their publishers to agree to release unmodified versions of their articles to be placed in a public University repository. Faculty members unable or unwilling to do so could e-mail a University official to ask for a waiver.

Though many faculty members support the resolution, there is enough disagreement across departments that the Senate may in fact modify the resolution to reach a stronger consensus among Senate members, Chair Ann Hamric said.

“A simple majority vote would not provide the legitimacy that transformative legislation requires,” Task Force Chair Brian Pusser said. “We hope to keep up [the dialogue] and bring another resolution to the Senate.”

One common concern among faculty members is that the waiver process will pose another bureaucratic obstacle that could interfere with faculty’s ability to pursue teaching and research, Task Force Member Ed Kitch said.

The resolution also highlights the larger issue of allowing open access to scholarly work. Many professors disagree about the extent to which open access should be implemented.

Specifically, History Prof. Allan Megill said he believes that small journals in the humanities should still require readers to pay small fees to download articles to compensate for the journals’ publishing costs.

“We do not have people that could pay to subsidize us, not like the [National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation],” he said. “Forty-two percent of revenue comes from electronic access, so those pennies that are paid … fund the journal.”

While these concerns address all fields and research areas, other concerns have been more discipline-specific.

For example, the physics department already has access to open repositories but has encountered publishers who are reluctant to release article copyrights.

Meanwhile, professors from departments such as art history and architecture — where figures and drawings are often critical to their work — are worried that the repository versions of articles may not be useful, because they may not include graphics or formatting found in journal versions.

Spanish, Italian & Portuguese department members, meanwhile, are skeptical about how the resolution requires that participation be mandatory, though it includes an option to sign a waiver. Some faculty members noted that it would be more useful to simply have a resolution whereby participation is optional.

“Opt-in or opt-out is something we need to talk about,” Pusser said. “But the reason we chose opt-out was to build that critical mass [of faculty support], to make it routine.”

Pusser said the currently proposed waiver process should easily allow faculty to opt out, and their lack of participation should not endanger any individual publications. ...