Table of Contents

Topic: Academic and Intellectual Freedom


Academic and intellectual freedom are integral to academia. As the Association of University Professors (AAUP) unequivocally state, “[a]cademic freedom is the indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education” (AAUP, n.d.). The position of academic libraries in higher education requires a commitment by the library to academic freedom. As such, academic library publishing programs must maintain a commitment to academic freedom which includes an understanding of the myriad of issues surrounding it.

Traditional, commercial academic publishers, to a greater or lesser degree, have attempted to establish their role within academic freedom. Publishing practices have long incorporated academic freedom. The COPE statement on censorship acknowledges that “COPE subscribes to and promotes the principles of academic freedom and editorial independence that underpin the pursuit of knowledge inherent in research and academic work” (COPE, n.d.). Library publishers must work with editors to document their commitment to academic freedom within the scope of publishing practices.


The scope of the Intellectual and Academic Freedom section includes information as a common good, intellectual freedom in industry-sponsored research and publishing, and hate speech. These sections contain resources to assist with creating a framework such as guidelines and suggestions. There are areas that are not covered in this section such as the integrity of the publishing record and commitments to defend authors legally or technically (ie. libel or hacking). These issues are important and are suggested for inclusion for the next version of the Ethical Framework.


This section introduces relevant resources on the topic, and provides context and guidance that will help library publishers to use them effectively.

Jump to: Academic Freedom | Information as a Common Good | Academic Freedom and Censorship | Intellectual Freedom in Industry-Sponsored Research and Publishing | Hate Speech

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is an underlying principle of academia. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) represents the largest and most important organization in the United States to address this issue. Below are resources provided but the AAUP. The American Library Association addresses academic freedom as it pertains to libraries and below is a page providing an overview of academic freedom with documents created by ALA (such as their resolutions supporting academic freedom), relevant publications and articles, and a webcast.

As library publishers it is important to understand the position of libraries within the context of academic freedom. In the Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians, the AAUP stated of Librarians, “Critically, they are trustees of knowledge with the responsibility of ensuring the intellectual freedom of the academic community through the availability of information and ideas, no matter how controversial, so that teachers may freely teach and students may freely learn” (p. 212). The list below also includes articles and other resources to help explain academic freedom, its history and how it relates to libraries.

Information as a Common Good

Academic and intellectual freedom is best realized when openness in distribution of knowledge is applied. Below is a paper by the then Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information of UNESCO that outlines ways that open knowledge is a public good. This idea is fundamental to the core principles of open access. The first line of the Budapest Open Access Initiative explicitly lays the historic background and ethical basis: “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good.”

As an ethical argument, the American Library Association in 1939 provided a basis for the ethical foundation of librarianship and a summary of core beliefs shared among American Library Association members. Item number II is of particular interest: “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.”

Henry Reichman’s review article, published in the Journal of Academic Freedom, provides an introductory look at academic freedom by pointing to key resources. Reichman addresses areas such as indoctrination: “To be sure, academic freedom should not protect indoctrination, nor should students—or for that matter faculty—ever be compelled to embrace political, ideological, or religious positions in the name of scholarship” (pg. 5).

Academic Freedom and Censorship

Academic freedom affects all areas of academia as well as the broader community. These articles and explicit value statements discuss recent issues in academic freedom. One article discusses Cambridge University Press’ removal of more than 300 articles from journals in China. This comes from the request of the Chinese government. In a statement, they claimed that “it had done so to safeguard its other publications.”

Intellectual Freedom is among the core values for the Association of American University Presses. The AAUP partners with other organizations to protect Intellectual Freedom. Some of these organizations include the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, National Coalition Against Censorship, AAP Freedom to Read, and International Freedom to Publish Committees.

The National Coalition Against Censorship was formed in 1973, with a mission “to promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms.” This alliance of more than 50 national non-profit organizations provides support to local communities facing censorship issues. Their mission, values, and current issues are available on the website.

The International Publishers Association defends the freedom to publish, and sees publishers in a unique position to enable freedom of expression by disseminating and distributing the works of others.

Intellectual Freedom in Industry-Sponsored Research and Publishing

The connection between academia and industry-sponsored research is not new. The resources below address some examples of academic freedom and industry-sponsored research or provide resources to proceed with industry-sponsored research. As library publishers, librarians are within the societal construct of the academy. It is worth looking at, and thinking about, the principles behind the relations of the academy and industry in order to help make informed decisions to their publishing practices.

  • Axelson, O., Balbus, J.M., Cohen, G., et al. (2003). Correspondence about publication ethics and regulatory toxicology and pharmacology. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 9(4), 386–391.
  • Bailar, J. C., Cicolella, A., Harrison, R., et al. (2007). IBM, Elsevier Science, and academic freedom. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 13(3), 312–317.

This article provides an example of the complications stemming from corporate sponsored research. In this case, IBM sponsored research looking into a large portion of employees dying of cancer. The research, which affirmed that there was a likely link between the causes of cancer and working at IBM, was not published by Elsevier. Though Elsevier claimed that the reason for not publishing the article was due to the journal only publishing review articles, Bailar et. al assert that it was not published because of pressure from industry.

  • Stone, V. J., & American Association of University Professors. (2014). Recommended principles to guide academy-industry relationships. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

This monograph looks into the principles guiding academic and industry relationships. Of particular interest is the Summary of Recommendations which provide a shorter listing of the recommendations made through the rest of the document.

Hate Speech

Intellectual freedom is a core value of the American Library Association and the Association of American University Presses. However, hate speech is a special class of expression that is not always protected by the First Amendment.

This report by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Program gives a very brief overview of the arguments in support and opposition of depriving hate speech from the protections of the First Amendment. It includes a curated list of selected readings, as well as a list of important cases—the legal history—relevant to Hate Speech and the First Amendment.


The recommendations in this section draw on the resources above to provide guidance to library publishers looking for concrete, actionable steps they can take in this area. They are by no means the only place to start, and they may not be feasible or appropriate in all situations, but they may provide a good a starting point for many libraries.

  • Library publishing programs should develop a policy or statement fully supporting academic freedom. The use of the American Association of University Professors definition of academic freedom is encouraged.
  • Be prepared to work with editors of library supported open access publications regarding academic and intellectual freedom by having regular conversations with library staff, faculty, and administrators. These conversations should cover topics discussed above.


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