Committee on Open Access

Part of Johns Hopkins University’s mission is “to bring the benefits of discovery to the world,” and modern Internet-connected publication platforms are allowing us to share those benefits of discovery more widely than ever before.  Yet older business models for academic publishing, and related policies, have not caught up with technology, and are preventing our academic research from reaching wider audiences, including audiences in underserved communities that may benefit from our research.  In addition, the culture of the academy privileges publication in prestigious subscription journals that put research articles behind paywalls. 

Many members of the academic community are seeking to reduce barriers to accessing academic research, communicated via research articles, by changing the business models, policies, and ultimately culture around academic publishing, advancing a principle known as Open Access (or “OA”).  Several institutions have launched Open Access journals or started Open Access repositories for preprints, which enable free access to pre-publication versions of research articles.  Some – like the National Institutes of Health – now require Open Access for grant funding.  And over 500 universities and research organizations have now adopted an Open Access policy or statement that makes the research articles of their faculty freely available to all. 

Johns Hopkins has taken several laudable steps toward Open Access.  The Johns Hopkins Libraries host an online repository for non-article scholarly research materials called JScholarship, as well as an Electronic Theses and Dissertations (“ETD”) initiative, which makes PhD dissertations available in an online repository in order to give them greater visibility and help young scholars make immediate impacts in their fields.  The Libraries also have experimented with reimbursing faculty for article processing charges at Open Access journals through an Open Access Promotion Fund, which was oversubscribed every year it was funded.  And of course many individual faculty members have published in Open Access journals and/or posted preprints to repositories.  Still, the university lacks an Open Access policy or statement, or any consistent process for managing copyrights over scholarly articles in ways that facilitate Open Access.

Given the university’s mission to share the fruits of its research, and the evolving impacts of different academic publishing models on that mission, we are convening a Committee on Open Access, and are inviting you to serve on the Committee.  The Committee will comprise university faculty in a range of disciplines and career stages, as well as key staff in the Libraries, Johns Hopkins University Press, and Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.  It is being co-chaired by Denis Wirtz, Vice Provost for Research, and Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums, and staffed by members of the President’s Office and General Counsel’s Office. 

The Committee’s mandate is to determine the unique Open Access needs and challenges at Johns Hopkins, including countervailing considerations for faculty (e.g., the relationship between Open Access publishing and tenure considerations), and – if the Committee decides an Open Access statement or policy is beneficial – to propose a draft statement or policy.  Questions for the Committee to consider include: whether to adopt a statement or policy; how to obtain copyright over scholarly articles for purposes of Open Access sharing; whether and how to allow copyright waivers and/or embargoed publication dates for particular articles; how to achieve deposit of articles in an online repository; whether and how to fund Open Access to publications; how to ensure publishing in Open Access journals does not interfere with promotion and tenure considerations; and of course whether to adopt a statement or policy.  Its work will be informed by meetings with Johns Hopkins faculty and peers at universities with Open Access policies.  We expect the Committee to conclude its work no later than December 12, 2016.