Princeton Tells Its Academics Not to Hand Over Copyright When Publishing In Scholarly Journals

from the we-paid-for-it dept

Open access (OA) starts from the premise that the results of academic research conducted with public funds should be freely available to the public. In practice that means that scholarly articles arising from such research are made accessible online in some way – nobody expects physical journals to be given away for free.

Open access comes in two main forms:

“Green OA” is provided by authors publishing in any journal and then self-archiving their postprints in their institutional repository or on some other OA website. Green OA journal publishers endorse immediate OA self-archiving by their authors.

“Gold OA” is provided by authors publishing in an open access journal that provides immediate OA to all of its articles on the publisher’s website.

Since it is hard for the publishers of academic papers to argue with the idea that the public has a right to access research it has paid for, the key issue has been the control of the copyright. Even when preprints or postprints can be posted online by authors, publishing houses often demand that copyright of the final article be assigned exclusively to them.

Against that background, this is significant move:

Prestigious US academic institution Princeton University will prevent researchers from giving the copyright of scholarly articles to journal publishers, except in certain cases where a waiver may be granted.

The new rule is part of an Open Access policy aimed at broadening the reach of their scholarly work and encouraging publishers to adjust standard contracts that commonly require exclusive copyright as a condition of publication.

Universities pay millions of dollars a year for academic journal subscriptions. People without subscriptions, which can cost up to $25,000 a year for some journals or hundreds of dollars for a single issue, are often prevented from reading taxpayer funded research. Individual articles are also commonly locked behind pay walls.

This essentially gives back to researchers control over the articles they have written – something they have lost in the past few decades. It by no means prevents publishers from accepting such articles for their paid-for journals, but it does make it easier for the final version of the papers to be made freely available without restrictions, something that Princeton specifically wants to see become more common:

Academics will also be encouraged to place their work in open access data stores such as Arxiv or campus-run data repositories.

Princeton is just the latest in a line of top US universities mandating open access:

Princeton will be the sixth Ivy League school to adopt an open-access scholarship policy, joining Harvard, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Dartmouth. Other institutions with developed open-access policies include MIT, Duke, University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan.

Similar moves in Europe and elsewhere have led to the situation where open access is no longer on the fringes of academic publishing:

DOAJ [Directory of Open Access Journals] is now over 7,000 journals, and still adding more than 4 titles per day. The Electronic Journals Library now lists more than 30,000 titles that are freely available. OpenDOAR [Directory of Open Access Repositories] now lists more than 2,000 repositories, and the BASE search engine searches more than 31 million documents in repositories. ROARMAP now lists a total of 300 open access mandate policies.

Princeton’s high-profile move may well be a tipping point for others, and lead to scholars retaining copyright over their work as a matter of course.

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Comments on “Princeton Tells Its Academics Not to Hand Over Copyright When Publishing In Scholarly Journals”

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Jose_X (profile) says:

MIT openaccess

MIT has been providing online for free their lecture notes, tests, problem assignments, and many solutions to many of their courses.

For example, if you want a taste of electrical engineering and computer science courses see

At the bottom of that page is this:

“Your use of the MIT OpenCourseWare site and course materials is subject to our Creative Commons License and other terms of use.”

Stevan Harnad (profile) says:

Like its Harvard model, Princeton Open Access Policy needs to add immediate-deposit requirement, with no waiver option

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

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