SAMUELSON CLINIC HELPS AUTHORS NAVIGATE THE TRICKY WATERS OF OPEN ACCESS
For some authors, especially academics, sharing their writing and research with the world is critical. Deciding how best to do so, however, can overwhelm even the most seasoned scribes.
Fortunately, the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic has harnessed its expertise to serve the public good yet again, this time by providing cogent information about when, why, and how to make one’s work openly accessible. The guidebook Understanding Open Access, which the clinic produced for the nonprofit Authors Alliance, helps writers determine whether open access is right for their work—and, if so, how to go about placing it.
“We wanted to debunk myths about open access and provide balanced information about its benefits and limitations,” says Samuelson Clinic teaching fellow Brianna Schofield ’12, who co-wrote the guide with Lexi Rubow ’15 and Rachael Shen ’16.
Until recently, authors who wanted to make their writings widely available had to submit them to publishers and relinquish copyright control through a proprietary “all rights reserved” model—which directly offered the works only to paying customers. With the surge in global digital networks, however, authors now have other options for broadly communicating their ideas.
While some authors find that open access increases their works’ visibility and ability to benefit the public, others are skeptical about its impact on other publication goals—including rigorous peer review, prestige, or monetary compensation.
The trend toward open access is clearly gaining steam, though. In 2013, responding to pressure to make available scholarly articles and other materials produced at taxpayer expense, the White House began requiring that the results of all federally funded research be offered to the public for free.
“Many employers and funders are also adopting open-access policies because they recognize the public interest benefits of making works more widely available,” says Schofield. “Yet even authors who are not bound by these policies need information to weigh whether open access is right for them, and how to evaluate different publishing options.”
The guidebook explains the two basic types of open-access publishing: gratis (work available online at no cost) and libre (work available online free of charge and with additional reuse rights through a Creative Commons license). In doing so, it describes how to comply with open-access policies, set the terms for availability, choose a suitable publisher, and submit work through an open-access repository.
This marks the second in Authors Alliance’s series of educational guidebooks for writers, building on the success of Understanding Rights Reversion. “We wanted to provide timely, useful tools for authors, researchers, and anyone who wishes to share knowledge for the public good,” Schofield says.
The guide can be accessed—you guessed it—for free on the Samuelson Clinic’s website.