New UC open access policy allows faculty to opt out

Arya Aliabadi/Staff

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Although a new UC policy allowing for open access of research passed Friday and was largely celebrated, some are concerned about an exception that allows some professors to opt out.

When the policy takes effect in November, UC faculty members will be required to deposit manuscripts of their articles in the university’s open access publication repository, eScholarship, licensing their work to the university and making their work available to the public.

The policy will undergo a trial period beginning November 2013, when the UC Academic Senate will implement and monitor progress at UCLA, UC Irvine and UCSF. By November 2014, the policy will be implemented systemwide, including at UC Berkeley, contingent on any changes made after the trial period.

“I think it’s a great step forward for UC,” said Academic Senate chair Robert Powell. “It helps put into perspective that UC faculty are working for the state of California, and many of us have research funded by the state of California. We want to put out work into the public domain so that people can access it without having to pay.”

But some say the policy will be ineffective because it allows faculty members to opt out of the requirement. Faculty members can submit waivers on a per-article basis if they want to submit their research to some academic journals that might wish to retain licensing of the work.

UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cellular biology Michael Eisen said he believes that having the choice to opt out will render the open access policy ineffective.

“As more and more universities have policies like this, more publishers will see these archives as a threat to their business,” Eisen said. “My prediction is that over time, publishers will demand that authors opt out.”

Rodrigo Ochigame, co-founder of The Open Access Initiative at Berkeley — a student group that advocates making scholarly work public — said that he was pleased that the new policy has shifted the default setting of UC research to public access, but he also sees the opt-out option as an issue.

“As the policy is reviewed, we will push for a policy without such a major loophole,” Ochigame said. “If not the elimination of opt-out, at least some mechanism to protect authors from uncooperative publishers.”

But Christopher Kelty, a UCLA professor and member of the Academic Senate committee that drafted the open access policy, said that the opt-out clause was included in the policy from the beginning because it was desired by faculty members.

“When you have a large university like the UC, it’s just impossible to not allow faculty to make decisions about what they do with their work,” Kelty said.

Publishers such as Nature Publishing Group, — which publishes various scientific journals, such as Nature — have been making changes to align themselves with open access policies.

NPG marketing director David Hoole said that NPG has offered open access options to scholars since 2005 — these exclusively include open access journals as well as special licensing agreements that are restricted but open after a period of time.

“NPG shares UC’s objectives to make articles as accessible and reusable as possible within appropriate sustainable business models,” Hoole said.

Contact Elise Lagana-Aliotti at [email protected]