The Academic Senate of the University of California just approved a new system wide Open Access Policy, which will ensure free access to scholarly articles authored by all UC faculty. This policy will require more than 8,000 faculty members to grant a license to the University of California for all future scholarly articles. The UC then publishes all papers online to eScholarship, its open access publishing system. Unless a member opts out. Faculty on three campuses (UCLA, UCI and UCSF) will begin depositing articles in eScholarship on November 1, 2013. The remaining campuses will follow on November 1, 2014.
A few Voices on the new UC Open Access Policy:
The (University of California open access) policy is major win for those who want to see academic research made public, rather than behind the pricy paywalls of big publishers.
Gregory Ferenstein, “University Of California Approves Major Open Access Policy To Make Research Free“
So don’t get me wrong. I’m happy the faculty senate at UC did something, and I think the eScholarship repository will likely become an important source of scholarly papers in many fields, and the use of CC licenses is great. And maybe the opt out will be eliminated as the policy is reviewed (I doubt it). But, because of the opt out, this is a largely symbolic gesture – a minor event in the history of open access, not the watershed event that some people are making it out to be.
However, in designing a flexible policy that non-coercively pushes faculty towards an open access society, the University of California is indicating its dedication toward figuring out just how this conundrum can be solved. Even if this isn’t the ultimate answer to paywall woes, which it probably won’t be, it does show that it’s not just activists like Swartz that have been searching for alternatives to traditional methods of accessing knowledge. Now, the world’s biggest public research university is on the side of open access.
But the (University of California) policy may be even better news for the public than it is for threadbare academics. Institutional repositories like eScholarship, intended to preserve the full academic output of a research university, nurture second-order Tupperwares of scholarship, like Wikipedia.
Robinson Meyer, “How Open-Access Scholarship Improves the Internet”
The policy will provide OA to a very large body of significant research. It will increase the momentum for other universities to adopt their own OA policies. And it will prove that even the largest and most complex universities can still adopt OA policies by faculty vote.
Faculty are also able to opt-out of the policy on a per-article basis, which may limit the effectiveness of the policy overall if opt-outs become commonplace.
Timothy Vollmer, “University of California adopts system-wide open access policy“