Friday, February 24, 2012

"Values and Scholarship" by 11 Research University Provosts

The provosts of 11 major research universities issue a letter in which they strongly support open access to research and criticize the recently introduced legislation The Research Works Act. The letter is published in Inside Higher Education:

We are the provosts of 11 large research universities that engage in over $5.6 billion of funded research each year. That research is directed at serving the public good through medical advances, improved defense systems, enhanced agricultural and industrial productivity, technological innovation, and reasoned social policy. In the aggregate, the outcomes of this research fuel America’s global leadership, improve the quality of life in our communities, and enrich the educational experience of our students.

While the collective portfolio of federally funded research undertaken by our universities incontrovertibly strengthens our country, the research process itself is strengthened by an academic culture that encourages the free and open exchange of ideas among scholars. Scholarship finds meaning through — and is continuously improved by — open sharing, critical assessment of peers, and incorporation into subsequent work. . . .

Because of our profound belief in the significance of the work being carried out by our nation’s research universities, we are deeply committed to upholding and reinforcing long-cherished academic values of open communication, transparency, and collaboration. Through our university policies, the investments we make in infrastructure and outreach, and the partnerships we form — partnerships with each other, government agencies, corporate enterprises, and civic entities — our universities grow stronger by sharing knowledge. . . .

Because of our strong belief in open sharing of information, we were disturbed to see that recently introduced legislation (The Research Works Act, H.R. 3699) called for a rollback of the progress being made toward opening communication channels for sharing publicly funded research findings with the American people. Were this bill to pass, it would reverse a 2008 administrative mandate by the National Institutes of Health that grantees deposit the results of their funded research in a publicly accessible archive, and prohibit other agencies from issuing similar mandates going forward. We believe that this legislation would significantly undermine access to the new ideas that result from government-funded research, access that we encourage to the public at-large, to a worldwide network of leading scholars, and to future generations of scholars who are today’s undergraduate and graduate students. In our view, ratification of the proposed legislation would represent a step backward in the ongoing enlightenment of society through research and education. . . .

In addition to our concern about the impact external entities have in shaping the research and communication agenda of our universities, we are cognizant that senior campus administrators and faculty leaders could be working more effectively to ensure that their own campus policies are aligned with professed campus norms. Some examples of how we might do more to influence campus behaviors include:

* Encouraging faculty members to retain enough rights in their published intellectual property that they can share it with colleagues and students, deposit it in open access repositories, and repurpose it for future research.
* Ensuring that promotion and tenure review are flexible enough to recognize and reward new modes of communicating research outcomes.
* Ensuring that our own university presses and scholarly societies are creating models of scholarly publishing that unequivocally serve the research and educational goals of our universities, and/or the social goals of our communities.
* Encouraging libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content, and the appropriate terms governing its use. . . .
The complete letter is available here.

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