The largest public research university in the world recently committed all of its 10 campuses to open access (OA). The facility system receives about 8% of all research funding in the U.S. for its more than 8,000 faculty members, who issue as much as 40,000 publications a year, an output that represents 2% to 3% of all peer-reviewed articles.
The Academic Senate of the University of California (UC) passed an Open Access Policy to make future research articles authored by faculty available to the public at no charge through its eScholarship repository. The process to make this decision has taken 6 years. It still comes with an opt-out feature that allows individual faculty members to waive OA, a situation that has left some OA advocates doubting the full effectiveness of the policy. However, the California Digital Library (CDL), which manages the program, already has a long list of publishers willing to go “green” and negotiations underway with others.
The policy extends beyond publicly funded research, but it does fit in with the recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directive requiring “each Federal Agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to results of the research funded by the Federal Government.”
A bill is now before the California state legislature to require OA to state-sponsored research as well. The new UC Policy also follows a similar policy passed in 2012 by the Academic Senate at UC San Francisco, which is a health sciences campus well-acquainted with the OA leadership of the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine. Scholarly articles are the only content controlled by the policy, though the eScholarship repository has a broader array of content and serves the campus with more than 50 OA journals and publishing platform tools. The UC OA policy is not meant to address other written products, such as books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, lecture videos, or other copyrighted works.
Key Points in Policy
Under the new policy, faculty members on the tenure-track ladder automatically grant a license to the UC prior to any contractual arrangements with publishers. Considerations for expanding the policy to cover clinical faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates, for example, are already underway. The license allows faculty to make research publicly available, re-use it, or modify it for future research publications.
Though UC will have the license automatically, it will not post into the eScholarship repository until an author deposits the article or confirms its availability in another OA repository, such as PubMed Central, ArXiv, or SSRN (Social Science Research Network), or an OA journal. UC expects the publications covered by the policy to continue to receive peer review and appear in the most prestigious journals.
The policy is expected to include articles co-authored with non-UC researchers. The rights to images remain difficult; faculty who do not have the rights can negotiate for them, opt out of the policy for that article, or deposit a version of the article that does not include the image(s). The announcement follows more than 175 other universities who have adopted “green” OA policies. [For a list of the universities, see the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR). For a highly detailed and informative description of the UC program, including a massive, annotated bibliography of studies showing the citation impact of OA, see this website.]
The 6-year process probably was due to earlier attempts “just not happening at the right moment or the right mechanism,” according to Laine Farley, executive director of the CDL. “This time the faculty did it all,” she says. “They led.” She points out that there were a lot of issues and different angles (e.g., clarifying the difference between “green” and “gold” OA, image licensing problems, funding differences, and distinctions between different elements (e.g., the humanities).
“Most interesting to me throughout the journey, where the faculty learned a lot more, their motivation always went back to the wide availability of research, especially from a public institution,” says Farley, who also pointed out that eScholarship was fully aligned with the leading web search engines (“We’re Google-compatible.”).
The complete implementation of the policy will proceed without undue haste. The schedule of changes extends 2 years into the future. Faculty members on three campuses—UCLA (Los Angeles), UCI (Irvine), and UCSF (San Francisco)—will begin depositing articles in eScholarship on Nov. 1, 2013. Any faculty member can deposit an article, regardless of campus, of course. Then, progress on deposit implementation will be reviewed in May 2014. The CDL expects to complete the creation and implementation of its new user-friendly harvesting tool by June 2014 for the initial three campuses. Farley reports that they will be issuing the RFP (request for proposal) for the harvesting tool very soon. Deposit of articles by faculty on the remaining campuses is expected to begin on Nov. 1, 2014 with full implementation of the new harvesting tool scheduled for June 2015.
As for the publishers and their existing contracts, the UC libraries have liaison personnel ready to handle any negotiations. Authors are supplied with a standard UC OA Policy Addendum to send to publishers with any publication agreements as a courtesy, but licensing to the UC stands firm. (Well, almost firm.) Faculty can opt out on a per-article basis through a waiver for each article covering the item permanently or delaying the appearance of the article (embargoing) in OA for a specified period. Authors must submit the “final version” of articles (i.e., the manuscript copy post-peer review but before publisher typesetting and finalization).
Michael Eisen, associate professor of molecular and cell biology and an ardent OA advocate on campus, wrote a discouraging reaction on his blog titled, “Let’s not get too excited about the new UC open access policy.” To quote:
I’m already seeing lots of people celebrating this step as a great advance for open access. But color me skeptical. This policy has a major, major hole – an optional faculty opt-out. This is there because enough faculty wanted the right to publish their works in ways that were incompatible with the policy that the policy would not have passed without the provision.
Unfortunately, this means that the policy is completely toothless. It provides a ready means for people to make their works available – which is great. And having the default be open is great. But nobody is compelled to do it in any meaningful way – therefore it is little more than a voluntary system.
More importantly, the opt-out provision offers journals a way of ensuring that works published in their journals are not subject to the policy. At UCSF and MIT and other places, many large publishers, especially those in biomedicine, require that authors at institutions with policies such as the policy at UC opt-out of the system as a condition of publishing. At MIT, these publishers include AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), Nature Publishing Group, PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Elsevier, and many others.
The Need to Preserve Choice
Farley admits that the opt-out option was “not the way many of us preferred, but the faculty found it necessary to preserve choice. It was much debated. One advocate wanted deposits in a ‘dark archive’ like the UCSF policy.” She estimates that waivers may affect some 4%–5% of publications.
Pressure can work both ways. As more and more researchers and their institutions push for OA and as studies continue to affirm the high citation impact of same, publishers relying on OPM (Other People’s Money in the academic case; read tenure, promotions, etc.) to motivate authors may continue to adapt to OA.
Abby Clobridge, director of Clobridge Consulting and an OA expert, considered UC’s policy move as probably the largest group to set an OA policy. She agreed that the opt-out option could “water down everything,” but she says that “most schools have these clauses, but they don’t get used that often.” She also points out that there was a “noticeable shift over the last two years for open access. The big change is that more organizations outside libraries and the publishing world are becoming aware, especially funding agencies.”