Comparing the alignment of University Open Access Policies in Italy

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Discussion and recommendations.

1. Open Access policies: good and Italian practices

In the present subsection, we are going to highlight whether OA policies adopted by Italian universities apply those OA schemes which are generally depicted as the most effective in promoting Open Access. In order to do that, we will preliminarily investigate what OA policy schemes are mainly recommended in order to foster and increase Open Access.

The “iron law of default inertia” (Giglia 2011) has a power which should not be underestimated (Shieber 2013). It is for that reason that policies implementing an Open-Access-by-default regime are strongly recommended (Shieber 2013) (Swan 2015) (Frankel 2010) (Commission 2016). Please note, as a preliminary remark, that for an Open-Access-by-default scheme to be fruitful, a particular regime is required also for what concerns the deposit which precedes the Open Access: it should in fact be mandatory and non-waivable. However, as we are going to deal with deposit infra (§ …), we do not deepen that theme by now.

OA policies implementing Open-Access-by-default show to be effective even when accompanied by an opt-out option: “[T]he experience at every school with a waiver option is that the waiver rate is low. At both Harvard and MIT it’s below 5 percent”, state Shieber and Suber (Shieber 2013). Even the recommendations formulated for the ten years from the Budapest Open Access Initiative – whose motto, by the way, significantly was “setting the default to open” (Initiative 2012) – left to policy-makers the choice between granting or not an OA waiver to faculty1, as if it did not weigh on the goals of the Initiative. Again, a recent research enumerated the elements of Open Access policies mainly correlated with policy effectiveness (Swan 2015): “Open Access cannot be waived” was not present. On the other hand, the European Commission – in drawing up the OA regime to be adopted in Horizon2020 – has shown to be not so favourable to according an OA waiver: the Guidelines (Commission 2016) do not mention it; the General Model Grant Agreement (Commission 2015) seems to be a little more supporting, but only through really specific exceptions not related to an author’s independent decision – “the obligation to protect results in Article 27, the confidentiality obligations in Article 36, the security obligations in Article 37 or the obligations to protect personal data in Article 39” (Commission 2015) –, and through very generic statements about author’s will, like Unless it goes against their legitimate interests, each beneficiary must — as soon as possible — ‘disseminate’ its results by disclosing them to the public”2. Anyway, note that the negative correlation between “Open Access cannot be waived” element and deposit rate has been stated (Swan). In fact, omitting a waiver option – making by consequence an author unable to publish with the journals of her choice (Shieber 2013) when they implement publishing rules inconsistent with the OA policy applied by the university – may push faculty to avoid deposit: “If authors have to worry about rights when making the decision whether to deposit in the first place, the cognitive load may well lead them to just not deposit” (Kriegsman 2011). As OA policy provisions requiring deposit – though strongly recommended for their effectiveness in promoting OA (infra, §) – are not easy to materially enforce with regard to restive faculty (infra, §), clauses discouraging deposit should be avoided. Open-Access-by-default can therefore be partitioned in waivable OA and mandatory OA. Pay attention: sometimes a policy is described as “mandatory” or as a “mandate” even when it envisage an opt-out option. It may happen for two main reasons: i. the “mandatory” character actually refers to de