University of California System Goes Open-Access on Faculty Scholarship

The University of California System issued a directive near the end of October that require faculty to place their scholarly works in open access sources:

Each Faculty member grants to the University of California a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, for the purpose of making their articles widely and freely available in an open access repository. Any other systematic uses of the licensed articles by the University of California must be approved by the Academic Senate. This policy does not transfer copyright ownership, which remains with Faculty authors under existing University of California policy.

* * *

To assist the University in disseminating and archiving the articles, Faculty commit to helping the University obtain copies of the articles. Specifically, each Faculty member who does not permanently waive the license above will provide an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article to the University of California by the date of its publication, for inclusion in an open access repository. When appropriate, a Faculty member may instead notify the University of California if the article will be freely available in another repository or as an open-access publication. Faculty members who have permanently waived the license may nonetheless deposit a copy with the University of California or elsewhere for archival purposes.

Notwithstanding the above, this policy does not in any way prescribe or limit the venue of publication. This policy neither requires nor prohibits the payment of fees or publication costs by authors.

That last line is interesting.  There are two articles at the Chronicle of Higher Education worth reading that relate to the issue of fees.  One is What Open-Access Publishing Actually Costs by Ellen Wexler, and the other is What a Mass Exodus at a Linguistics Journal Means for Scholarly Publishing, also by Wexler.  Both are pretty good examinations of issues surrounding the hidden costs of open-access publishing.  The first article (later in date) points out that placement of scholarly articles even for open access can require a publication fee.  Comments there point out that someone is paying for the time to peer review (usually the university or college employing the reviewer through salary), or providing the server space, or other elements that go between the publication and its editorial and distribution network.

The other article tells of the mass resignation of the editorial staff for the journal Linqua, published by Elsevier.  The staff had asked that the journal become open-access and given to them to pursue that goal.  Elsevier unsurprisingly said no.  The company has said that it continue publishing the title under a new team.  The article states that authors currently must pay some $1,800 per article to make it free to readers among other costs.

This isn’t necessarily the model for law reviews.  They are edited by students and usually not peer-reviewed.  The trend is to make content available for free via the law journal’s web site.  Even still, the University or Law School has underlying costs to make this happen by paying for the underlying technical equipment and/or subsidizing the loss of subscriptions.  The takeaway from Wexler’s articles is that free really isn’t really free.  Costs shift to someone else.  Whether that model is sustainable remains to be seen.

Mark

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