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Addendum: Stanford University School of Education passes open access policy in wake of Harvard’s action

Open Access

Addendum to the SPARC Innovator Profile, June 2008

Faculty in the School of Education at Stanford University capitalized on the momentum of Harvard’s new open access policies and, in June, unanimously adopted a policy requiring all their scholarly work be made available free to the public.

“We were inspired by the example at Harvard,” says John Willinsky, a professor of education at Stanford who introduced the motion at a faculty retreat.  For about a week prior to the vote, a proposed open access policy and question-and-answer document addressing faculty concerns were circulated in the School of Education.

Willinsky, who joined the faculty at Stanford in September, was prepared for a heated debate, but instead encountered enthusiasm to move ahead. After a one-hour discussion, the motion was approved unanimously at the retreat attended by most of the 50-member faculty.

“It really does signal a change in people’s understanding, awareness, and sensitivity to the issue because it was such an easy sell,” says Willinsky, a long-time advocate of open access. “It went forward with greater ease than I had imagined it would.”

The Internet has ushered in a new climate of openness that, combined with educators’ sense of responsibility to share their research with professionals in the field, helped the Stanford policy pass easily, says Willinsky.  Faculty members were also convinced by the growing body of research that demonstrate open access increases readership and the likelihood a paper will be cited.

At the same time, the public’s expectations are growing. Just as patients now go into a doctor’s appointment armed with information, Willinsky anticipates parents will go into the schools empowered with sources and documentation to advocate for their children’s education. Therefore, it’s incumbent on education scholars to get their work out to the public and teaching community to help them make the best decisions for the nation’s schools.

Once the Stanford University School of Education faculty approved the policy, it was then sent to the university’s general counsel for review. Willinsky consulted closely with the Harvard Law School to craft the policy, author’s addendum and assemble a packet of supporting documents for the university.  The general counsel gave the go ahead for the policy in late June. The repository is now in place and Willinsky is helping work out the details to implement the open access policy.

The move by the School of Education has triggered interest elsewhere on campus. The School of Humanities and Sciences has expressed an interest in pursuing an open access policy and Willinsky hopes there will be others at Stanford.

Written for SPARC by Caralee Adams.

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