Princeton Will Make All Research Available

One of the benefits of the Internet is, at least in theory, that it makes a large amount of accumulated knowledge available to a much wider audience, analogous to the “democratization” of books due to the invention of the printing press.   There are obvious examples of this, like Wikipedia; I’ve written  here about a few others, like the decision of the National Academies Press to make PDF editions of its books available at no cost, and Yale University’s effort to put all of the public-domain works from its collections online.

Today, the Freedom to Tinker blog from Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy has an announcement, from Professor Andrew Appel, reporting that future scholarly publications by members of the faculty will be made openly available to the public.

In its September 2011 meeting, the Faculty of Princeton University voted unanimously for a policy of open access to scholarly publications:

In essence, this means that faculty members who publish scholarly papers will no longer enter into publication agreements that prevent the author or the University from making the papers available to the public, either on the faculty member’s Web site, or on the University’s public access site.

As Prof. Appel notes, many publishers already have agreements that are compatible with open access.  There are still some holdouts, though.

…  some publishers in the sciences, in engineering, and in the humanities have more restrictive policies. Action like this by Princeton’s faculty (and by the faculties at more than a dozen other universities in 2009-10) will help push those publishers into the 21st century.

At one time, not so very long ago, the economic rents extracted by the publishers of academic journals could be justified, at least partially, on the grounds that assembling, editing, and printing the journals involved a non-trivial expense, which the publishers could not hope to recoup via mass-market sales.  Today, though, while the refereeing and editing process still has value, the cost of publication in digital form is dramatically lower.  The entertainment companies are still in the process of learning that the economic realities of their business have changed; it’s now school time for the academic publishers.

5 Responses to Princeton Will Make All Research Available

  1. […] after I finished writing the post about Princeton’s new policy of making all scholarly papers available to the public, I came […]


    1. First, congratulations to Princeton University (my graduate alma mater!) for adopting an open access mandate: a copyright-reservation policy, adopted by unanimous faculty vote.

    2. Princeton is following in the footsteps of Harvard in adopting the copyright-reservation policy pioneered by Stuart Shieber and Peter Suber.

    4. I hope that Princeton will now also follow in the footsteps of Harvard by adding an immediate-deposit requirement with no waiver option to its copyright-reservation mandate, as Harvard has done.

    5. The Princeton copyright-reservation policy, like the Harvard copyright-reservation policy, can be waived if the author wishes: This is to allow authors to retain the freedom to choose where to publish, even if the journal does not agree to the copyright-reservation.

    6. Adding an immediate-deposit clause, with no opt-out waiver option, retains all the properties and benefits of the copyright-reservation policy while ensuring that all articles are nevertheless deposited in the institutional repository upon publication, with no exceptions: Access to the deposited article can be embargoed, but deposit itself cannot; access is a copyright matter, deposit is not.

    7. Depositing all articles upon publication, without exception, is crucial to reaching 100% open access with certainty, and as soon as possible; hence it is the right example to set for the many other universities worldwide that are now contemplating emulating Harvard and Princeton by adopting open access policies of their own; copyright reservation alone, with opt-out, is not.

    8. The reason it is imperative that the deposit clause must be immediate and without a waiver option is that, without that, both when and whether articles are deposited at all is indeterminate: With the added deposit requirement the policy is a mandate; without it, it is just a gentleman/scholar’s agreement.

    [Footnote: Princeton’s open access policy is also unusual in having been adopted before Princeton has created an open access repository for its authors to deposit in: It might be a good idea to create the repository as soon as possible so Princeton authors can get into the habit of practising what they pledge from the outset…]

    Stevan Harnad

  3. […] One obvious example is the continuing development of Wikipedia, the open source encyclopedia.  Princeton and Yale have taken steps to make more information available on line, and the National Academies […]

  4. […] on the Internet.  I’ve mentioned several of these here, including The Royal Society, Princeton, Yale, and the National Academies […]

  5. […] available on the Internet.  I’ve mentioned several of these here, including The Royal Society, Princeton, Yale, and the National Academies Press.  Now, according to a report at New Scientist, the UK […]

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