Message from the ACM President Regarding Open Access
January 7, 2020
Over the past few weeks, ACM leadership has listened to the concerns of our members regarding a letter we signed on to that addressed a forthcoming US Presidential Executive Order regarding the embargo of US federally-funded research. Our members have raised many important issues about the content of that letter. In response, ACM is sending a follow up letter to Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to clarify ACM’s position on Open Access and its support for a sustainable approach to Open Access. It will make the points we outline below.
The letter was interpreted by some ACM members as indicating that ACM is against Open Access. This could not be further from our intention. ACM chose to take the first steps in support of Open Science ideals almost a decade ago—long before the existence of Plan S in Europe or the 2013 US OSTP Open Access Mandate. For years, ACM authors have had the right to post accepted versions of their works to non-commercial repositories (including arXiv and institutional repositories). ACM-sponsored conferences can choose to make their proceedings publicly available from their own websites, either for a limited time or permanently. ACM Special Interest Groups can choose to make the publications from all their conferences publicly available.
ACM is committed to a sustainable future where all peer-reviewed scholarly articles will be Open Access. The transition to this model will take time and needs to be done in a way that ensures sustainability. Full Open Access will benefit the field of computer science significantly by increasing the sharing and citation of research accomplishments. Some of you commented on the US-centric focus of the White House directive and ACM’s response. The Executive Order would only impact research supported by US federal funding. However, as a global organization ACM is also engaged with related efforts in Europe, Japan, China, and elsewhere.
We regret that co-signing the letter regarding the Executive Order created confusion and concern. Our publications policies and our focus on developing sustainable publication models for Open Access are both long-standing and forward-looking. Financially “sustainable” publications models are key to ACM’s future and its ability to reinvest in activities that promote the scientific foundations of computing. It is worth saying that ACM, too, had concerns about some language and the general tone of the letter, but ultimately decided that those concerns were outweighed by the risks associated with the White House issuing an Executive Order without proper consultation with stakeholders or consideration of the ramifications. In retrospect, we misgauged how our participation would be interpreted by the community. For this we are indeed sorry.
We will be scheduling webinars to give members of the community an opportunity to ask questions and share opinions, and to provide information about ACM’s Open Access policies, initiatives, and future directions. The schedule for these will be posted on https://www.acm.org over the coming days.
Again, we greatly appreciate the comments and perspectives of our members and will continue to incorporate their feedback into our thinking and decision processes going forward.