IT Infrastructure

Stanford to Offer Scholarly Articles on Education for Free

By Debra Viadero — July 18, 2008 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

Faculty members at Stanford University’s school of education have voted to make scholarly articles available to the public for free, a policy change that the university says makes Stanford’s education school the first such school in the nation to join the growing “open access” movement in academia.

“We think it’s a huge gain in terms of public access, professional access, policymaker access, and lawmaker access,” said John M. Willinsky, the education professor who proposed the idea to his colleagues at the California university. “This is a body of work that is now available to schools that hasn’t been available before.”

Only 15 percent of the 1,600 education journals published around the world provide free access to their content, according to Mr. Willinsky. The rest require readers and libraries to pay to read the journals, which often carry pricey subscription fees.

In recent years, though, a growing number of universities and publishers have begun to put more of that academic content online so that the public can read it for free.

With its unanimous vote on June 10, Stanford’s education school faculty joins a still relatively small club of academic institutions. According to Mr. Willinsky, schools or departments at only about 30 other universities across the globe require scholars to make their work publicly available, and most of those institutions are located outside the United States.

“We think this will become commonplace before too long,” said Mr. Willinsky, who has been active for years in efforts to create software and other tools to support the “open access” movement.

Pressure on Publishers

Some publishers of academic journals, however, have raised concerns about the movement, which they fear could undermine their operations.

One problem, according to the New York City-based American Association of University Presses, which represents 130 nonprofit academic publishers, is that current debates on the issue often don’t take into account the substantial costs involved in copy-editing, designing, producing, and distributing the journals, even for those journals that publish primarily online.

If the contents of those journals were freely available, they reason, librarians and other subscribers would have little incentive to continue to buy their journals. Those sales underwrite an estimated 90 percent of journals’ production costs, and profits are often plowed back into publishing research monographs, which tend to draw even smaller audiences than the regular journals.

The university presses’ association, in a 2007 statement on the issue , said declining sales could force universities to look for other ways to cover costs or get out of the publishing business altogether.

“My own view, in a way, is entirely pragmatic,” said Sanford G. Thatcher, the director of the Penn State University Press and the group’s current president, writing in an e-mail to Mr. Willinsky a few days after the Stanford faculty vote. “If our parent universities would fund all our costs up front for publishing what we do, I am as much in favor of open access as anyone else. But the reality is that they have shown no such inclination.”

Under Stanford’s new policy, only the author’s final, peer-reviewed copy of the article would be posted online—in some cases, potentially months before the printed version becomes available.

“It comes into effect when the author signs the publication agreement, which is as soon as the paper is accepted by the publisher,” Mr. Willinsky said.

Opt-Out Policy

By early fall, the education school plans to have a Web site in place where the articles will be posted and archived in a searchable database. With approximately 50 scholars on Stanford’s education school faculty, the site could accumulate as many as 100 articles a year, by Mr. Willinsky’s estimate.

Publishers, however, would retain the rights to the published version of the articles, which are essentially edited, more-polished versions of the author’s final copy.

Mr. Willinsky said the policy also includes a waiver so that nontenured faculty, who face the most pressure to “publish or perish,” could ask to opt out of posting their articles online if a potential publisher insists on exclusive publishing rights.

Stanford’s new policy was preceded earlier this year by a similar change at Harvard University, where the faculties of the school of arts and sciences and the law school also voted to share their academic work with the public.

“I think it’s important for Harvard and Stanford to do this, to use our weight to take the stand and give publishers pause before saying, ‘We’re not accepting any articles from Harvard or Stanford,’ ” Mr. Willinsky said.

The “open access” movement originated at an international conference held in Bulgaria in 2002. Until recently, though, the movement has largely focused on research in fields such medicine and technology, rather than the social sciences.

Pressure to share research findings with the public is also coming from a 2006 federal law, known as the Federal Research Public Access Act, which requires 11 federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, to make the studies they finance more widely available.

A version of this article appeared in the July 30, 2008 edition of Education Week as Stanford to Offer Scholarly Articles on Education for Free


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

IT Infrastructure School Districts Seek Billions in New Federal Money for Connectivity, FCC Announces
The Federal Communications Commission received $5.1 billion in requests for new funding to purchase devices and improve internet access.
2 min read
Image shows two children ages 5 to 7 years old and a teacher, an African-American woman, holding a digital tablet up, showing it to the girl sitting next to her. They are all wearing masks, back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
IT Infrastructure School District Data Systems Are Messed Up. A New Coalition Wants to Help
Organizations representing states and school districts have teamed up with ISTE to help make data systems more user-friendly and secure.
3 min read
Conceptual collage of arrows, icon figures, and locks
Sean Gladwell/Moment/Getty
IT Infrastructure More Families Have Internet Access. So Why Hasn't the Digital Divide Begun to Close?
A new study says low-income families’ access to the internet has soared in the past six years. But there are other barriers to connectivity.
3 min read
Glowing neon Loading icon isolated on brick wall background. Progress bar icon.
Mingirov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
IT Infrastructure Remote and Hybrid Learning Are Declining. But the 'Homework Gap' Will Still Be a Problem
Schools are returning to in-person instruction, but students' connections to the internet at home remain spotty.
2 min read
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas on April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an Advanced Placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas, displays one of the Wi-Fi hotspots that were given to district students during the pandemic.
Tony Gutierrez/AP