OISE/University of Toronto gets an Open Access policy!

April 24, 2012, [MD]

On February 15, 2012, the Faculty Council at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto formally (and I believe unanimously) passed an Open Access Policy. I believe this is the first faculty at the University of Toronto to pass an Open Access policy.

The policy refers to both idealistic reasons, such as the institute's commitment to increasing access to its research, as well as pragmatic reasons, with more and more funders requiring Open Access (such as CIHR). The key part of the policy, after the pre-amble and before some explanations, is this:

For any scholarly article accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, faculty members are encouraged to retain or obtain the right to deposit and to deposit the article electronically into T- Space, the University of Toronto’s research repository, along with non-exclusive permission to preserve and freely disseminate it. Support is available for this process; faculty members are encouraged to provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the OISE/UT Library, who will make the article available to the public in T-Space, the open access repository operated by the University of Toronto Libraries. 

This policy is the result of more than three years of work led by a group of people in the "Research Standing Committee Open Access sub-committee", which included discussions in the Research Standing Committee and Faculty Council, as well as an open Town Hall meeting (see recording of the entire meeting, or just my 5 minute appeal). Originally it began life as a "mandate", modeled on, and inspired by the mandates at Harvard, MIT and Stanford School of Education. This work got a boost by a very spirited presentation by John Willinsky during Open Access Week 2009.

In the end, however, this turned out to be very difficult, with the mandate being challenged by university lawyers, the faculty union, questions about whether the Faculty Council had the authority to approve it, etc. Finally, we decided to go for a much-watered down "policy" to at least get some movement.

Because of the way academia works in North America, any mandate would anyway be quite toothless given the required opt-out clauses. Thus, no matter what the actual policy says, much of the work is in creating a culture of Open Access, providing technical support for submitting, coming up with guidelines and workflows, and changing mindsets.

There have been a wide range of events during the past few years to popularize Open Access at University of Toronto and at OISE, including Open Access Week in 20092010 and 2011.


There has also been much practical work done with making T-Space easier to use (although we have a long way to go there), exposing statistics, etc. The library, with support from the Open Access sub-committee has created guidelines for OISE faculty to deposit in T-Space, and hired work-for-study students to help faculty deposit their publications.

So much has been done, but much more remains to be done. It's interesting to contrast the relative inertia of the field of education, with other fields such as the hard sciences, computer science or medicine. Despite a great interest in knowledge mobilization at OISE, not many see the connections between this and Open Access.

It's especially funny for such a "radical" institution, where many professors are feminists and activists writing about popular education movements in Latin America, the Occupy Wall-Street movements, etc. Yet, how many of them have even heard about the growing movement of over 10,000 scientists who have vowed to boycott Springer Elsevier? And what are we doing about Taylor and Francis, which in many cases give us fewer rights to self-archive than Springer Elsevier does? (T&F are behind 70% of the journals that OISE faculty publish in).

One policy down, lot's of work left to do! :)


Stian Håklev April 24, 2012 Toronto, Canada
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