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Open Access

This seems like a great idea.

In a move designed to broaden access to faculty research and scholarship, Williams College 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 liberal arts college in the nation to enact a mandatory policy.

An estimated 30 universities around the world have adopted similar plans.

President Morton Owen Schapiro said its faculty acted out of a sense of duty to the students, teachers and schools that could benefit from their research.

Great stuff! The more that the world knows about the research done at Williams, the better. I have been beating this drum for a long time. Much of the research being done at Williams would be interesting to current students and alumni. By making it all public, Williams will improve the intellectual life of Ephs everywhere. Give me an RSS feed and a place to write, and I will change the culture of greater Williams. Eight years ago, the Record reported:

He [(former) Dean of the Faculty Tom Kohut] added that the public intellectual life of the college concerns him, and could be improved by encouraging faculty to expose their students and the wider community to their research and scholarship.

My efforts to reach out to Kohut and others were total failures. But progress is possible! You just have to be patient. It is a long game that we are playing at EphBlog. Please play it with us.

Oh, wait. This didn’t happen at Williams. It was Stanford. My mistake. Previous similar “mistakes” here and here.

Is there no one in the Administration with the knowledge of where elite education is going and the power to put Williams in the lead?

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#1 Comment By frank uible On August 18, 2008 @ 8:46 am

Behind the curve again, eh?

#2 Comment By Soph Mom On August 18, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

If ‘what is being taught’, is such a mystery, then it does somewhat beg the question of how school ‘ratings’ are arrived at.

All answers are welcome, as this ‘enquiring mind’ wants to know.

#3 Comment By m. On August 18, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

I have to echo a sentiment that was brought up one of the last times you used this technique to make a point about Williams… it’s terrible and misleading.

People read the whole thing and at the bottom, there is a small comment saying oops this wasn’t at Williams! The whole point of summarizing an article in a blog is to convey its message to those who who don’t have the time (or the impetus to search out) the article one is commenting on. This requires more work for the reader and the “oops!” payoff is irksome.

#4 Comment By Ronit On August 18, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

Economists are ahead of the curve on this, what with the widespread posting of working papers on repec and personal web pages.

As for other fields… I’m sure Williams will follow the lead of the big institutions, eventually. When we discussed this exact idea a couple of years ago with a panel of faculty as well as staff from OIT and the libraries, everyone agreed it would be a great idea, would benefit students, and enhance the institutional memory of the college by preserving the life work of retiring professors.

However, no one at the time would dare to suggest alienating any of the journals. Once the big names start doing this, I’m sure the journals will learn to live with it.

#5 Comment By Derek On August 18, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

Also, I am not certain this is even a professor’s (or administration’s) prerogative. I know of very few professors who do not want their work to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. The problem is that in most cases the journals own the copyright to the articles they publish. They tend to be very generous with the authors, but a professor cannot just unilaterally grant open permission without themselves first getting permission to do so. Copyright law sort of matters, as does the idea of who owns the permissions to reproduce articles. I am sure that there is a way around this if so many schools have done it, but they may well also be circumventing laws and ethics in so doing.


#6 Comment By Suz On August 18, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

Ronit: You’re right, the creation of institutional repositories, as these are called, at big institution does have large journal companies like Evil Empire Elsivere afraid, so they have dropped the prices some. But it’s hard getting these things up and running because it takes a lot of momentum and a lot of trust. A lot of professors have more loyalty to their discipline than to their institution, which makes them reluctant to place thingd in the repository. Also there’s a critical threshold that has to be reached before they become useful, a problem Cornell is struggling with.

And David, don’t make me get out the jargon-filled library science articles on you. Really, we read this stuff so you don’t have to.

#7 Comment By frank uible On August 19, 2008 @ 12:57 am

Suz: God bless you.