Here’s a little article I just wrote for Speaking of Computers, “an e-newsletter for the Stanford academic community.” This has been covered here before, but I think it’s a message worth repeating, especially as we brace for budget cuts and some hard decisions. And besides, now I have a really nice photo to share!
In November, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the so-called Gang of 10 law library directors (directors from some of the nation’s top law schools) held at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina. One of the activities of this meeting was the drafting and signing of the “Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship,” which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their law journals in print format and to rely instead upon electronic publication, coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.
Why Open Access?
Each of the nation’s 200+ law schools produce at least one student-edited law journal, containing scholarship and important policy pieces from law professors, judges, distinguished practitioners, and students. The bulk of legal scholarship is published in such law journals. Here at Stanford Law School we produce nine such journals. Right now the only way to access all of this significant content electronically is through expensive databases such as HeinOnline, LexisNexis and Westlaw.
It would be a better legal information world if researchers could reliably turn to the host law school for any law journal from that school and find all of its articles, available for free in open and stable electronic formats.
Open Access Leaders
It was especially fitting that this inspirational document was drafted and signed by us while at Duke. Duke is a leader in the open online repository movement, with the Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository created in 2005, and all Duke law journals made accessible online since 1997. The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository is a full-text electronic archive of scholarly works written by the Duke Law faculty, as well as other scholarship produced at the law school. A scholarship repository and open access law journals go hand-in-hand.
The chief architect of the Durham Statement was John Palfrey, the new library director at Harvard Law School, who is also a leader and visionary in the open access movement. In May 2008, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free.
The Durham Statement is our exercise in aspiration, with the hopes of getting more – eventually all – law schools on the open access bandwagon.
There are issues yet to be resolved. For one thing, especially during these difficult economic times, financial analysis is needed. Law schools receive royalties from the online databases that provide law journal access – some schools far more than others – so the cost-savings to the schools from ceasing print and to the schools’ libraries from no longer having to buy, bind and shelve issues needs to be carefully weighed against any potential loss of revenue income. And there are additionally important archival and standards issues to be debated and decided.
The Durham Statement seeks to move the analysis, debate, and discussion forward.
For More Information
Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship