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October 13, 2011

Open-access proposal outlined at Faculty Assembly

Open-access (OA) scholarship at Pitt — a system to make Pitt-published research available to a global audience —  got a nudge toward becoming official policy last week at Faculty Assembly.

Rush Miller, director of the University Library System (ULS) and Hillman University Librarian, reported on the recommendations of the open access task force, a group appointed by the provost in 2010 spurred by presentations at the University Senate 2009 spring plenary session on open-access scholarship issues. The task force was charged with reviewing those issues and making policy recommendations related to open access at Pitt. (See University Times April 15 and 29, 2010, and March 19, 2009.)

Miller said the task force recommended that faculty in all Pitt units adopt a statement granting to the University a nonexclusive license to make all articles that faculty members publish in scholarly journals freely available, allowing Pitt to exercise the copyright for the purpose of open-access dissemination, unless permission to opt out is granted by the provost.

Miller provided two main caveats to his report:

• The task force prepared a draft of a sample OA policy and procedure, but does not have any role in their ratification, which must go through approvals by Faculty Assembly, Senate Council and the Provost’s office.

• A final decision has not been made on whether the policy, once approved, should be common to all University units, or whether units will be allowed to “opt out” or adopt modifications at the unit head’s discretion. “It is not the purview of the task force to determine that,” Miller told the Oct. 4 Assembly.

Several Assembly members recommended that any policy apply University-wide, but there was no quorum available at the meeting to pass a resolution to that effect.

In his report, Miller explained that OA describes a family of copyright licensing policies under which copyright owners make their works available publicly — typically in online databases — without limiting access to subscribers or purchasers of the material. Materials in open-access archives and databases remain covered by copyright law, but OA terms and conditions can apply that specifically permit nonprofit and scholarly uses of the work and that permit the copyright owner to include a limited number of other conditions, such as attribution of the work to the original author.

“Open-access literature is digital, online, free, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions,” Miller said.

“But open access also is a movement in higher education to increase access to scholarly research and communication, and a response to the current crisis in the scholarly publishing industry,” which in recent years has seen skyrocketing prices and declining subscriptions across almost all academic disciplines, he said.

The main goals for Pitt’s OA scholarly publishing, Miller said, are to increase the visibility and discovery of the University’s research output; to support Pitt’s mission of service by disseminating research results to the global academic community, and to demonstrate the high level of research conducted here to colleagues worldwide and to ratings agencies with an eye toward improving international ratings.

The task force recommended adopting the following process:

• Every Pitt author of a scholarly work covered by the policy would grant the University a license to make the work available and to exercise the copyright in the work, for the purpose of open-access dissemination.

• The dissemination would be accomplished through the University’s institutional repository (D-Scholarship@Pitt).

ULS personnel would perform the actual depositing in the repository on behalf of the author, if the author so chooses, Miller said.

• ULS would gather bibliographic information about each work, record this information in the repository and, if necessary, seek permission from the publisher to deposit the author’s pre-publication manuscript, final pre-print copy or the published version (post-print) work in the institutional repository. Authors would have the option to deposit their own works or designate others to do so on their behalf.

• In cases where the publisher imposes restrictions on depositing works in the repository, ULS could pursue additional measures to satisfy the publisher’s requirements. These measures could include permanently restricting access to Pitt users or embargoing access to Pitt users for a specified period.

If the publisher does not grant permission to deposit a work, then the requirement to deposit a work would be waived. Instead, ULS would create a citation-only record for the work in the repository and, where possible, provide a link to the published version on the publisher’s web site.

• For those works for which permission to deposit is given, the author would grant to the University a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual license to archive and make accessible the scholarly works, in whole or in part, in all forms of media and in all languages.

• Under this policy, scholarly works for which copyright is owned by the author would be disseminated under Creative Commons licensing terms, indicating how the work could be used by others.

These terms could be specified by the author at the time of deposit. The terms of acceptable use would be stored with each record in the repository, and the University would advise others accessing these scholarly works to abide by these terms.

• The license granted to the University by the Pitt-employed author would not be intended to impede the author’s ability to publish scholarly works in any traditional forms of scholarly communication; instead, University authors could continue to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of their scholarly works.

One complication with the suggested policy, Miller said, is that a large number of journal articles result from research conducted through grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and are required by law to be placed into PubMed Central, a federally maintained open-access repository.

“To require faculty with NIH grants to also place these articles into D-Scholarship@Pitt would be unreasonable in our view,” Miller said. Therefore, the task force recommends that placement in PubMed Central would suffice to meet requirements of the Pitt policy because that material is as enduring and discoverable as that in Pitt’s institutional repository, he said.

Miller’s report also covered a brief history of OA-related efforts nationally and at Pitt, as well as publishers’ responses to OA and statistics on the state of scholarly publishing. The complete PowerPoint presentation is posted on the University Senate web site under the library committee’s documents link (

Miller requested that questions about the task force’s recommendations or about OA be directed to the ULS Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing at

Faculty Assembly members will continue discussing the task force’s proposals at the Nov. 1 meeting.

In other Assembly business:

• The president’s report was delivered by Senate Vice President Patricia Weiss on behalf of Michael Pinsky, who was unable to attend the meeting.

According to Pinsky’s report, the chancellor is expected to convene an ad hoc committee “to identify specific areas and activities in which faculty can promote statewide awareness of the worth of higher education in general and the University … in particular.” The committee will include Renny Clark, vice chancellor for community initiatives; Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Governmental Relations; the co-chairs of the Senate commonwealth relations and community relations committees, and Pinsky.

Pinsky’s report also stated that the tenure and academic freedom committee is expected to present its 2010-11 report on tenured, tenure-stream and non-tenured faculty trends at the Assembly’s Nov. 1 meeting.

• Faculty input is being requested by Nov. 7 on the renovations to The Book Center. A survey has been posted online at the University Senate web site, The Book Center renovations tentatively are scheduled to begin in the spring term and last for nine months. The renovations now are in the design stage. The Book Center will be relocated to an as yet undetermined location during the renovations, Weiss said.

• In response to an Assembly member’s question, Andrew Blair, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, said his office still is examining policies that govern the rights of employees who also are enrolled as students. The issue arose at the September Assembly meeting. (See Sept. 15 University Times.)

• The next Faculty Assembly meeting is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 1 in 2700 Posvar Hall.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 4

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