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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2005

Freedom to Publish Campaign Launched

CAUT has launched a freedom to publish campaign to protect open scholarly communication.

"The freedom to publish is as an integral part of academic life," said Loretta Czernis, president of CAUT. "But with growing pressure to veil areas of university work in secrecy, this freedom is now threatened."

A desire for secrecy was at the heart of the widely-publicized Olivieri case at the University of Toronto, where a pharmaceutical company objected to the release of research that questioned the safety of a new drug therapy.

Not all cases of research suppression are as dramatic, but the long term results can be equally as damaging. University industrial liaison or technology transfer offices often exert varying degrees of pressure on researchers to delay or forgo publishing in favour of maintaining secrecy for the purposes of patent priority and commercialization. While this does not grab headlines in the way the Nancy Olivieri case did, it still represents a challenge to the tradition of open scholarly communication.

"The ability of scholars to engage in the rapid and unfettered dissemination of their research is vital to the advancement of knowledge," said James Turk, CAUT's executive director. "While most universities ostensibly support that freedom in policy statements, the majority allow funders to restrict publication for extended periods of time."

The campaign is directed at amending the policy and contractual arrangements at post-secondary institutions in order to strengthen the rights of academic staff to publish or otherwise disseminate the results of their work.

To assist academic staff associations, CAUT has assembled a campaign kit containing a briefing note and background information on the issue, a bargaining advisory suggesting new collective agreement language on the freedom to disseminate research results, and a draft motion for presentation to senates or academic councils to ensure that institutional policy protects the freedom to publish.

"Our hope is that associations will bring the matter before senates or academic councils and negotiate appropriate language in their next round of bargaining," Czernis said. "The freedom to publish initiative is an important effort to protect the very thing that makes universities and colleges such rare and important places."