The University is engaged in a debate that could make it a leader in free academic publication.
On Tuesday, the committee on copyright began a preliminary discussion about changing how faculty members publish their work.
Currently, many faculty are published in academic journals that then charge the University for access, even though the research came from UNC.
Members of the committee are debating whether UNC should move to a policy that requires faculty to only publish in free journals.
The concept is part a movement called open access, in which journals publish their content for free, said Carol Jenkins, director of the Health Sciences Library.
“Open access means that publications are available to anyone, no matter where they are, most often from the moment that they are published,” she said.
If UNC moved completely to open access, it would be one of the first universities to do so, following in the footsteps of Princeton University and Harvard University.
“If you aspire to do what the University mission says and spread a wealth of knowledge to the citizens of North Carolina and as much as possible the world, then you should consider open access and make it a top priority,” said Paul Jones, a committee member.
But despite the benefits of open access publishing, Jenkins said there are also drawbacks, such as the smaller number of journals that would be available.
Publishing articles in open access journals has become increasingly popular among academics, Jenkins said, because more people are able to read and review the material because it’s free.
UNC has paid subscriptions to most major academic journals, which makes access free for community members.
But an individual without an institution would have to pay for that access.
“We know there’s something wrong with it. We know it costs us too much money. We know that it does not spread the knowledge effectively,” Jones said.
Members of the committee said they will research open access options and continue the debate at their next meeting in April.
Members said they might then request that the Faculty Council create a task force to review the issue.
Sarah Michalak, associate provost and University librarian, said other institutions made the change only after university administrators led the discussion and faculty voted on the issue, like at Princeton.
“It seems to me that when everybody in a university community learns about it, then the university wants to support it in some formal way,” she said.
This is not the first time UNC has considered open access.
Since 2005, the Health Sciences Library has hosted a fund that helps all UNC faculty members publish in open access journals, and has run multiple educational open access weeks.
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