Our Far-Flung Alumni: Peter Suber ’73

April 9, 2011

We’ve learned that Peter Suber, class of 1973, has been named by the American Library Association as the recipient of the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award.  From 1982 to 2003, Peter taught Philosophy (and a great deal more) at Earlham.  Since 2003, while maintaining an appointment as Research Professor at Earlham, Peter has actively encouraged in efforts to encourage and promote open access scholarship.  He publishes a monthly SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Below is the announcement from the American Library Association.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and its Copyright Advisory Subcommittee have named Peter Suber, JD, PhD., this year’s winner of the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award.

The annual award recognizes contributions of an individual or group that pursues and supports the Constitutional purpose of the U.S. Copyright Law, fair use and the public domain. The award is named after L. Ray Patterson, a key legal figure who explained and justified the importance of the public domain and fair use. Fair use is a key exception of the copyright law that allows for the use of a copyright without prior authorization and helps to promote learning, new creativity, scholarship and criticism.

Professor Suber is being recognized for his work in the open access movement that began in academia in response to increasing costs of scholarly journals.  His goal is to provide free, public access to scientific information for the public good as well as provide an alternative venue for scientific publishing, one outside of the price-inflated research journal marketplace. Suber is a professor of philosophy at Earlham College, a senior researcher at Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and a Fellow at Harvard University Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication. He also is member of the Board of Enabling Open Scholarship and serves as Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge.

Among his colleagues in our nation’s capital, Suber is regarded as a leader in the quest to protect open access.

“There is no greater champion for open access than Peter Suber,” Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said.

“The open access concept – that the public should have access to research that is paid for with tax dollars – may seem to be common sense, but it is not widely accepted in Washington.  Peter has led a multi-year crusade to implement the idea, often in the face of determined corporate opposition.  The American Library Association chose well in selecting Peter for this splendid award.”

Barbara DeFelice, director of the Digital Resources Program at Dartmouth College, said Suber’s writings help librarians be effective participants in discussions of institutional policies and the personal choices of scholars regarding copyright.

“Peter is generous with his time, speaking in many settings, and so has influenced and inspired many librarians to work towards open access to scholarship, sensible applications of fair use in copyright law, and the growth of the public domain,” DeFelice said.

Central to Suber’s work is his commitment to improving scholarly communication, which he believes will bring better access to information and increase readership.  “[Open access] helps scholars both as readers and as authors,” Suber said in the April 2008 issues of Virginia Libraries.

“It removes price as an access barrier to what readers want to read. It’s like transplanting them from a small library to a large library. It connects authors to readers who can apply, extend, or build on what they’ve written. For readers, it enlarges the library and increases access. For authors, it enlarges the audience and increases impact.”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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