The resolution was defeated in a 37-24 decision after half an hour of debate, summarized as “gloom and doom.” One of the chief complaints of the resolution was its potential effect on academic freedom: Faculty should decide where they publish their work.
The resolution was milquetoast at best, offering timid and qualified suggestions instead of unequivocal mandates. For instance, Resolution #3 reads:
The University Senate encourages faculty, students, and other researchers, where practical and not detrimental to their careers, to (a) publish in open access journals or journals that make their contents openly accessible shortly after publication, (b) negotiate with the journals in which they publish for the right to deposit articles in an open access repository, and (c) consider the price of the journal as one factor in the decision on where to publish.
Unlike the Harvard and MIT resolutions, which discusses only self-archiving of final manuscripts, the Maryland resolution combines self-archiving with open access publishing, along with several related issues. Its lack of focus is undoubtedly the cause of its failure.
The assumptions that open access publishing is both cheaper and more sustainable than the traditional subscription model are featured in many of these mandates. But they remain just that — assumptions. In reality, the data show just the opposite. Institutions like the University of Maryland would pay much more under an author-pays model, as would most research-intensive universities, and the rise in author processing charges (APCs) rivals the inflation felt at any time under the subscription model.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to mandates based on moral claims. I view healthcare as a moral right and something that should not be reduced entirely to the discourse of economics. But many of the mandates for open access are based on economic claims — claims that are either baseless or contradicted by evidence.
If there is any moral responsibility, it is for the crafters of these mandates to stop disguising moral mandates in economic clothing. The data simply do not support this, and I hope that at least some faculty will see through the disguise.