What does signing the pledge accomplish?

The reputation of conferences and journals rests on the reputations of the researchers who serve on their program committees and editorial boards. Restricted-access publications cannot survive without the reputation and volunteer labor provided by the research community. By signing the pledge you will:

  1. prevent conferences and journals from perpetuating a restricted-access system built on your labor and reputation, and
  2. show your support for a community norm of open-access publishing.
Does the pledge restrict me from submitting work to restricted-access venues?

The pledge does not require you to withhold submissions from any venue. Many signatories will be faculty members who are ethically bound to ensure their students submit to the venues most likely to benefit the students' careers. Instead, faculty can make open-access venues more attractive by shifting their choice of program committees and boards to serve on.

Committing not to submit to a conference or journal is far less likely to create change than declining to peer review . There will always be a long line of authors who want to get papers accepted into conferences and journals that are on their institutions' (often dated) lists of prestigious publications. Whereas withholding submissions will have little impact on conferences and journals, the departure of even a few prestigious program committee members or editorial board members can make a venue signficantly less attractive to both potential authors and readers. The same social pressures that make a program committee or editorial board attractive to join can be used to shift researchers to favor open-access publication venues.

We do hope that signatories will make extra efforts to find open-access publications to submit their papers to and encourage others to do so. If you are early in your career and rely on publishing at prestigious venues to build your reputation, you may feel you have less choice in where to submit your work than you would like. Consider talking to those who will be evaluating your academic contributions to see if they will expand their list of desirable publications to include more open-access options.

Can a publication meet the requirements of the pledge by allowing authors to post their own copies of a paper?

No. Many authors are students, many students do not carry on research careers after they graduate, and many of these students' web pages will disappear when they leave the research community. Even when authors have the option to post their own copies of a paper, many do not know that they are allowed to or are afraid that if they do it wrong they will face legal action. The end result is that volunteer reviewers will still be required to pay to access the very research they reviewed, and that aspiring researchers who cannot afford access will be locked away from research that was paid for with public money.

Does ACM’s new Author-Izer linking service make it open access?

What is Author-Izer? In ACM’s words:

ACM Author-Izer enables you to provide a free access to the definitive versions of your ACM articles permanently maintained by ACM in its Digital Library by embedding the links generated by this service in your personally maintained home-page bibliographies.

Author-Izer is actually a step backward for open-access. Today, authors are allowed to post copies of their paper to a personal website. ACM benefits when authors to use the new linking service instead, as the papers will appear only in the digital library. When students graduate, and their homepages disappear, the Author-Izer links that were on the students' homepages stop working. Even if the students' sites are archived elsewhere, their work will now only be available via ACM's pay wall. We recommend that authors continue to post copies of their work on a personal website, and create tech reports of their work before it is accepted at ACM so that they can retain copyright on the tech report.

I've signed the pledge. Any suggestions for how I should respond to invitations to review for restricted-access publications?

Requests to review papers may come from those you owe favors to or those in positions to benefit your academic career. It can be hard to turn such requests down. Be polite and express a desire to help out in the future for open-access peer-reviewing requests, while explaining that you've made a commitment to other members of the research community to adhere to this pledge to support open access. Offer to help out with any future peer-reviewing requests for open-access publications. Explain that you've made this commitment publicly via this website and that your commitment has been witnessed by members of the community whose opinions are also important to you.

Is this some form of 'strike'?

No. You are not being asked to shirk any work that you have already committed to do. You are not seeking increased compensation for your volunteer work. Rather, you are making a decision to take on more meaningful work in the future by accepting peer-reviewing of works you know will be available to the public. You are creating a public good.

We allow you to choose a date on which your pledge becomes effective so that you can meet commitments you've already made. If taking the pledge means you will be performing fewer reviews, do your best to find open-access publications that may benefit from your services.

Why a pledge? Why a website?

A pledge wouldn't be necessary if an organization that represents the research community could successfully advocate for the community's best interests. Whereas researchers almost universally support open access, some of the very institutions that we rely on to represent our best interests are those that receive income by charging for access to research. This situation persists because, as individuals, researchers have felt powerless against the organizations that perpetuate restricted-access publishing.

With the power of the web and social media, the power of individuals can be harnessed together to overcome these hurdles. We need no longer be unwilling accomplices of publications that restrict access to research.

Haven't people made pledges like this before?

There is ample prior work in this field. In the Computer Security community alone, there have been individual pledges via blog postings by Matt Blaze and Ben Adida. We created this site to make it easier for individuals to make a pledge, publicize their stance, and get others to follow.

Who created/runs ResearchWithoutWalls?

The site was built by (and the hosting bills go to) Signatory 0, with significant help from Signatories -1 and 1, and advice from many.