After seemingly endless debates and multiple committees, I was very pleased to see Athabasca University‘s Academic Council approve a new policy on Open Access to scholarly publications produced by AU faculty and professional staff. The new policy is as follows:

Athabasca University requests that academic and professional staff deposit an electronic copy of any published research articles (as elsewhere accepted for publication) in an Athabasca University repository. The contract with the publisher determines whether the article is restricted (lives in the repository as a record of the University’s research but is not accessible online by searchers) or open access (accessible online by searchers).

We argued that this policy was consistent with Athabasca’s commitments to access as “Canada’s Open University”. We had originally hoped that the verb “request” could be strengthened to “requires” but the fears of curtailment of so-called “academic freedom” scared some away and we compromised on the weaker “requests”. To support self-archiving, the AU library has installed a version of MIT’s DSpace known locally as AUSpace This database software provides a nice interface for inputting not only links but also uploading copies of research works and of course provides search and retrieval access for scholars and the general public anywhere on the net.

I was somewhat surprised at the lack of understanding of Open Access publishing and of the need for action on the part of individual scholars to insure that works funded by public funds are made available to the public. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent annually by even small Universities like Athabasca on database services that provide full text of many (most) proprietary publications has lulled many academics into a sense that such services are available to all scholars. This is obviously not the case and especially not in areas of the 3rd world.

We also hope that this policy will inspire AU and other academics to wean themselves from commercial publishers who limit access to our work, through publication in open access journals such as the 2477 journals listed in Directory of Open Access Journals .