Summer tends to be slow at universities, but not this summer at the University of California! UC’s academic senate just passed an open access policy that covers over 8,000 faculty at the 10 UC campuses and could make as many as 40,000 publications per year open access in eScholarship, UC’s institutional repository.
Like many other “green” open access policies (that is, policies that say nothing about where faculty should publish but require that copies of journal articles be made open access in a repository), the UC policy says that faculty automatically grant a non-exclusive license to their articles before entering any contractual arrangements with journal publishers.
The “before” is key: it means that journal publishers can’t take the copyright away from the authors, since the university will already have a license. (And step back for a second: how crazy is it that publishers have ever been able to take full copyright away from authors?!)
And, like other green open access policies, the UC policy allows faculty to request a waiver for any article they would like not to fall under the policy. These waivers are also key: they ensure that faculty whose works (or beliefs) are not compatible with the policy for some reason or another do not have to relinquish any control or choice.
As many around CUNY know, I (and many others) very much want CUNY to adopt a similar policy. We’ve been agitating for a university-wide institutional repository, but a repository is only so useful in the absence of a strong policy. Harvard has created a guide to good practices for university open access policies and has released a model policy, carefully worded and helpfully annotated.
Let’s daydream for a minute, shall we? Imagine a CUNY version of the Harvard policy:
The Faculty of the City University of New York (CUNY) is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to CUNY permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. More speciﬁcally, each Faculty member grants to CUNY 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, provided that the articles are not sold for a proﬁt, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy applies to all scholarly articles authored or co-authored while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost’s designate will waive application of the license for a particular article or delay access for a speciﬁed period of time upon express direction by a Faculty member.
Ah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? That combined with a CUNY repository would lead to thousands upon thousands of open access articles every year. For the benefit of our students and all students. For the benefit of our faculty and all faculty. For the benefit of the taxpayers who fund CUNY and all people everywhere. (And remember, these are articles that faculty were never going to earn any money for anyway, so no faculty would lose income!)