The Senate Source

August 2013

Senate Approves Open Access Policy

After an extensive Senate review, the Academic Council has approved an open access policy for faculty publications that will be implemented on a pilot basis at three UC campuses beginning this November.

Christopher Kelty
UCLA Professor of Information Studies and 2012-13 UCOLASC Chair Christopher Kelty

The policy was originally proposed by University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) in August 2012, and underwent two rounds of review during the 2012-13 academic year. It will give UC a limited, non-exclusive right to make published UC faculty scholarship freely available in an existing open-access online repository maintained by the California Digital Library (CDL).

The operational aspects of the policy will be phased in on the UCLA and UCI campuses when the repository becomes available beginning on November 1. UCSF will also retain its current open access policy, which it implemented in 2012.

Faculty may opt-out of the open access license, or request a temporary embargo on the application of the open access policy, for any publication and for any reason, through a simple online mechanism.

Academic Senate Chair Robert Powell says the Academic Council decided that a trial program was the best way to resolve some of the questions that arose during Senate review about the impact the policy could have on library and faculty research budgets. UCOLASC and the CDL will report to the Senate on the results of the implementation in May 2014, and again in fall of 2014. If any of the concerns expressed by faculty during the review come to pass and cannot be satisfactorily resolved, the Senate will determine by November 2014 whether to expand implementation to the remaining seven campuses, alter the policy, or revoke it.

“There is no command that faculty must publish in open access journals,” said Chair Powell. “The opt-out clause is generous and makes it easy for faculty to choose not to participate for any reason. If the policy is having any ill effects, it will be revised as necessary.”

The Senate anticipates that announcement of the policy will lead some publishers to immediately ask UC faculty authors to waive or embargo their open access rights. Provost Dorr has also assured the Senate that the administration will be a partner in implementing the policy and will provide support and resources to the CDL to expand and improve the repository. One area of concern that will be addressed on a case by case basis is the possibility that some journals may ask faculty to pay publication fees. Over 150 universities have already adopted open access policies, and UC faculty whose research funds come from the National Institutes of Health and some other federal agencies have been required to deposit copies of their articles in open access libraries for several years.

UCOLASC Chair and UCLA Professor Christopher Kelty says the policy sends a powerful message that UC faculty want open access on terms that benefit the public and the future of research. 

“The policy will make UC faculty research more easily and widely available to the public, as well as to other researchers both close to home and internationally who can't always afford subscriptions to all journals,” he said. “It also sends a strong message to policymakers that the UC faculty are committed to research in the public interest, and investments in UC will be returned in the form of research publications available to the people.”

Kelty says the new policy will not solve all of the questions and issues related to the shifting business models for scholarly publishing, but it may help clarify the nature of the problem. He says open access will require changing publication models, but not everywhere or overnight.

“For a lot of researchers—most obviously those with large research budgets—paying to publish in open access journals will be an obvious choice. But for others, some mix of models will be necessary. Hopefully reasonable open access fees will also start to appear if we can convince publishers to play by the rules and respect the interests of universities and the public. But making scholarly publication sustainable isn't going to happen by fiat, and publishers will define it on their own terms if faculty don't take the initiative and make clear statements on the subject.”