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Research Openness Rules at U California

The University of California's (UC) Academic Senate has passed a policy that strongly encourages faculty to make their published research publicly available online. Rather than signing away all of their rights to publishers of academic journals, the new policy gives academic people a stronger case for making their articles freely available to the public as they see fit.

The new Open Access Policy, adopted in July 2013, has been under discussion for six years. Two of those years consisted of "formal review and revision," according to Robert Powell, chair of the Academic Council.

"For faculty it means their work will be more available; it might be more widely cited. For the university, there's more attention to the research we fund and produce. And, of course, for the public, there's much wider availability to the research UC faculty produce," said Chris Kelty, associate professor in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and chair of the UC University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication. "This policy will cover more faculty and more research than ever before, and it sends a powerful message that faculty want open access and they want it on terms that benefit the public and the future of research."

The articles will be maintained in eScholarship, UC California Digital Library's longtime open access repository. That database already maintains 61,460 publications. Deposits into eScholarship under the new policy will formally begin on November 1, 2013 at three universities, UC San Francisco, UCLA, and UC Irvine.

In May 2014, the Academic Senate will do a six-month review. During that time the Digital Library will work with faculty in creating a "streamlined deposit system" and an automated "harvesting" tool to simplify the process of depositing articles. By November 2014, based on the results of subsequent reviews, the new faculty deposit system will be rolled out at all remaining UC campuses. By June 2015, the new harvesting tool will be implemented across the system.

The open approach to research publishing isn't new. According to the university system, 175 other institutions have already adopted "so-called 'green' open access policies." However, by virtue of the size of the UC System, the announcement takes on greater effect.

Richard Schneider, a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and chair of the Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication at UC San Francisco, reports that UC's 8,000 faculty at all of its 10 campuses "generate around two to three percent of all the peer-reviewed articles published in the world every year."

Research done by the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), estimated journal publishing to be a $9 billion a year global business with between 1.7 million to 1.8 million articles published every year. So that would put the number of journal articles produced annually by UC faculty between 34,000 and 54,000.

However, long-time researchers may need to be persuaded about the benefits of consolidating research into an open source. According to research cited in the STM Association report, senior authors and researchers "had little knowledge of institutional repositories and there was also evidence that a significant minority (38%) were unwilling to use IRs."

By putting in place a system-wide policy, individual researchers should have an easier time negotiating open access rights with journal publishers. "By making a blanket policy, individual faculty benefit from membership in the policy-making group, without suffering negative consequences," stated the UC System on a frequently-asked-questions page. "Faculty retain both the individual right to determine the fate of their work, and the benefit of making a collective commitment to open access."

The expectation is that individual faculty members will first grant a license to the UC System prior to any contractual arrangement with publishers. Previously, publishers maintained all control over distribution of the articles they accepted for publication.

Faculty will also be able to opt out of the new policy on a per-article basis. That includes waiving the open access license for each article permanently or delaying publication in the open repository for a specified period. Opt-outs are being handled through a waiver form process.

The Academic Senate made a point in its announcement that all research publications covered by the policy "will continue to be subjected to rigorous peer review."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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