Institutional Repositories and the Principle of Open Access: Changing the Way We Think About Legal Scholarship
46 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2006 Last revised: 4 Dec 2012
Date Written: June 2, 2010
Open access to scholarship, that is, making scholarship freely available to the public via the Internet without subscription or access fees, is a natural fit for legal scholarship given our tradition of making government and legal information available to citizens, and the many benefits that flow from freely disseminating information for its own sake. Law schools, journals and scholars should espouse the principle of open access to legal scholarship, not only for the public good, but also for the enhanced visibility it provides journals and authors. Open access can be accomplished by archiving digital works in online institutional repositories. Legal scholars have enjoyed the benefits of open access to working paper repositories such as SSRN for more than ten years - even if they have not thought of this practice as 'open access.' It is a natural progression for legal scholars to now self-archive published works as well, and they are beginning to do so as awareness grows of the benefits of providing open access to published legal scholarship. Institutional repositories provide new ways to publish student scholarship, empirical data, teaching materials, and original historical documents uncovered during the research process. Author self-archiving does not threaten the existence of law school-subsidized journals, and institutional repositories generate new audiences for legal scholarship, including international and multidisciplinary audiences. Not insignificantly, repositories also help preserve digital work. Law schools are discovering that the publicity and download counts generated by repositories provide new ways to measure scholarly impact and reputation. Approximately 40% of U.S. law schools now have some form of institutional repository, all of which are indexed by Internet search engines. Law schools seeking to establish institutional repositories enjoy a variety of options to choose from, ranging from proprietary applications like Digital Commons, SSRN's Legal Scholarship Network, the Berkeley Electronic Press' Legal Repository, and NELLCO's Legal Scholarship Repository, to open source applications like EPrints and DSpace.
This article was the recipient of the Outstanding Article Award for 2008 from the Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries.
Keywords: open access to legal scholarship, institutional repositories, SSRN, bepress, EPrints, DSpace
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation