Some jottings on academic freedom and Plan S/open access | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing
peter.suber's bookmarks 2018-10-23
"1. Academic freedom is actually very hard to define and varies between jurisdictions. In the UK, the 1988 Education Reform Act is the most explicit that the commissioners should work “to ensure that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions”. There is also a more recent paragraph in the recent Higher Education and Research Act. None of the legal codings of academic freedom in the UK, however, give the right to select publication venue as part of academic freedom so far as I am aware. In the US, this is very different, where longstanding and prominent statements have affirmed the right to the choice of publication venue for the dissemination of work. Specifically, American Association of University Professors, ‘Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure’, 1940 <http://www.aaup.org/report/1940-statement-principles-academic-freedom-and-tenure> states that “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results”.
2. But this “full freedom […] in the publication of the results” is a slippery argument. There are many factors that already limit my full freedom to choose to publish in a selected venue. For instance, if an editor at an academic press doesn’t think that my book will fit within their list, s/he may reject it on those grounds. Similarly, if a press doesn’t think that there is a market for a book, it may be rejected outright. Does this curtail my academic freedom? What about when peer reviewers reject an article on any grounds? This also limits my choice to publish in a specific venue, restricting my “full freedom”. What about when I cannot afford the colour page charges, the illustration reprint rights, or other associated fees for publishing, even in non-OA venues? A core hypocrisy, in my view, is that researchers accept many limitations already on their full freedom to publish wheresoever they would like, but the second that a new limitation comes in – even one that could provide a massive public good in the dissemination of scholarship and research – we fall back upon cries of the violation of academic freedom...."