Open Access and Academic Freedom: Teasing Out Some Important Nuances

Author : Rick Anderson

Discussion of the ways in which open access (OA) and academic freedom interact is fraught for a number of reasons, not least of which is the unwillingness of some participants in the discussion to acknowledge that OA might have any implications for academic freedom at all. Thus, any treatment of such implications must begin with foundational questions.

Most basic among them are: first, what do we mean by ‘open access’; second, what do we mean by ‘academic freedom’? The answers to these questions are not as obvious as one might expect (or hope), but when they are answered it becomes much easier to address a third, also very important, question: in what ways might OA and academic freedom interact?

With every new OA mandate imposed by a government agency, institution of higher education, or funding organization, careful analysis of this issue becomes more urgent. This article attempts to sort out some of these issues, controversies and confusions.