Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Access to scholarly work

Members of Princeton University's faculty have unanimously voted for a policy guaranteeing open access to their scholarship (blogged with quotation of the key passage here).

Contrast with that the capital campaign of the American Philological Association (a professional organization purporting to represent the discipline of Classics). The APA's "Campaign for Classics" plans to offer access to digital resources, but in many cases that access will be restricted to APA members.

If the contrast is not pointed enough, think of it this way: as of September, 2011, Princeton faculty members risk violating their university's policy if they contribute scholarly work to the APA project.

If you believe that consistent principles should guide our behavior, then Princeton faculty members who are dues-paying members of the APA face a real ethical dilemma: how can they support the work of an organization that directly conflicts with the policies unanimously adopted by their university?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Druids in Oxford?

A colleague recently pointed me to the "Ancient Lives" project allowing members of the general public to view and transcribe papyri from the vast Oxyrhynchus collection that remains largely unpublished more than a century after its discovery.

I imagined something like the ground-breaking Suda Online (or, SOL) -- an astonishingly successful project that has now translated for the first time ever more than 29,000 of the 30,000-odd articles in a Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient world.

Instead, when I followed the link on copyright on the "Ancient Lives" website, I read:

Images may not be copied or offloaded, and the images and their texts may not be published.

This reminded me not of the forward-looking SOL, but of Julius Caesar's description of Gallic Druids. From Caesar, Gallic Wars, 6.14:
Neque fas esse existimant ea litteris mandare ... Id mihi ... instituisse videntur, quod neque in vulgum disciplinam efferri velint ..

"They consider it wrong to commit these [sacred texts] to writing. I believe that they have established this practice because they do not want their professional knowledge to be published to the common people."