Education faculty to make articles available to all
In a move designed to broaden access to faculty research and scholarship, the School of Education at Stanford recently adopted a policy requiring its faculty members to make their scholarly articles available for free to the public.
The school's faculty unanimously approved the new "open access" policy in June, becoming the first education school in the nation to enact a mandatory policy.
An estimated 30 universities around the world have adopted similar plans.
Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford's School of Education, said its faculty acted out of a sense of duty to the students, teachers and schools that could benefit from their research.
"Educational researchers have a responsibility to ensure that their findings are accessible to anyone who can use the new knowledge to improve student learning," Stipek said. "This policy is more than a symbolic stand. It will have the tangible effect of making the most recent findings related to effective education available to the people who can use them the most—policy makers, administrators and teachers."
Under the new policy, faculty members in the School of Education will give Stanford University a worldwide, nonexclusive license to post their articles online at no cost to readers, as long as the articles are properly attributed to the authors and are not sold for a profit.
Faculty members may request waivers from the policy.
John Willinsky, a professor of education at Stanford who presented the proposal to faculty, said the people who will benefit the most from the new policy are those who lack access to university libraries, which make journals available to students, faculty and staff.
Willinsky, the Khosla Family Professor of Education at Stanford, said the vast majority of scholarly journals—80 percent—are available online, but only to subscribers in most cases. A small percentage of those journals will sell articles to individuals.
Willinsky said the School of Education's new website will have a search page, which will allow visitors to look for articles by topic, keyword and author. In addition, articles will be available using search engines such as Google Scholar.
"The repository will be a public site, a place people can turn to, knowing they can read the latest research and scholarship published by Stanford's education faculty, without having to have a credit card in hand," he said.
Citing industry statistics, Willinsky said the public has free access to only about 15 percent of the 1,600 education journals published worldwide.
Earlier this year, Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Law School adopted open access policies in separate, unanimous votes. Willinsky said he based Stanford's policy on the one approved by Harvard Law School.
Such open access policies have been the subject of heated debate in recent years.
"Discussions of the concept of open access to scholarly information are increasingly marked by highly charged rhetoric and an unfortunate polarization of opinion," the Association of American University Presses said in a 2007 statement.
The group, which represents 130 nonprofit academic publishers in the United States and abroad, said open access policies entail risks and benefits to the "entire system of scholarly communications" that are not yet fully understood.
"Knowledge carries costs for its production, and requires—in addition to the scholar's own work—knowledgeable editorial selection and careful vetting, and—regardless of a final digital or print format—quality in copyediting, design, production and distribution," the statement said.
The group said that nonprofit scholarly publishers have an obligation to confront the economic, legal, technological and philosophical challenges to the existing system, but warned that the costs of changing the system must be taken into account.
Willinsky said the School of Education's new policy recognizes the valuable contribution publishers make to the system by granting publishers rights to the final, published version of the article as it appears in journals, while giving Stanford the right to post the author's final, peer-reviewed version of the article on a university website.