Friday, December 09, 2011

Mandatory Academic Freedom?

From the Internet Freedom Conference in The Hague8-9 December 2011 (or from following on the internet) Dimitar Poposki (Twitter name @) sent the following tweet: "Q: Can Open Access to taxpayers scientific research be considered as a mandatory academic freedom?"

The answer is 'no'. 
First of all, what is 'academic freedom'? From J. Peter Byrne, "Academic Freedom", 99 Yale Law Journal 251, 252-253 (1989):
The First Amendment protects academic freedom. This simple proposition stands explicit or implicit in numerous judicial opinions, often proclaimed in fervid rhetoric. Attempts to understand the scope and foundation of a constitutional guarantee of academic freedom, however, generally result in paradox or confusion. The cases, shorn of panegyrics, are inconclusive, the promise of rhetoric reproached by the ambiguous realities of academic life.
The problems are fundamental: There has been no adequate analysis of what academic freedom the Constitution protects or of why it protects it. Lacking definition or guiding principle, the doctrine floats in law, picking up decisions as a hull does barnacles.
Einstein defined it rather pithily as:
"The right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true."
And added to it a duty:
"One must not conceal any part of what one has recognised to be true."
In that vein, I would think it easy to make the case that another duty is publishing with open access any research carried out with public money.

But 'mandatory freedom' is an oxymoron. That's why the answer is 'no'.


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