Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Harvard's Moving To Open Access - Let's Use this to Push for OA at other places

Well, Harvard is frequently criticized for being a bit conservtive in responding to new ideas and initiatives. But it seems that recently Harvard is more like a oceangoing yacht than an oil tanker. And yesterday, the New York Times reported on a proposed new initiative that could make Harvard a leader in the movement towards "Open Access" publishing.

The Times reports
"Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs."
"Under the proposal Harvard would deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. Authors would still retain their copyright and could publish anywhere they pleased — including at a high-priced journal, if the journal would have them."
In my opinion, there is no doubt this is a smart move. Sure, there are some potential downsides to open access. Some journals do good things and they may have to reinvent themselves to continue to bring in revenue. But welcome to the 21st century. It is not like other industries - like music and TV and movies and electronics and so on - have not had to reinvent themselves.

And the result are in --- Harvard approved the initiative (see here for example). Now - I think we should use this as an example to get other institutions to do the same thing. As reported in the Boston Globe, Harry Lewis a CS Professor at Harvard said:
"Harvard is in a unique position to do the right thing in the academic world," he said. "In this case, I think others will be emboldened by Harvard to follow its lead, and the course of collective action will be greater than the course any individual school will take."
I will do my best to get UC Davis to do the same thing, but given the animosity towards open access exhibited by our acting provost Barbara Horwitz, it may be a tough ride here. Fortunately, they are interviewing candidates for provost now and hopefully whomever they pick will be more supportive.

So - here is a call to others out there. Push for the same type of thing at your institution. I will be posting more on this in the coming days/weeks. Maybe collectively we can follow Harvard's lead on this and make Universities more about what they are supposed to be about - spreading knowledge.


  1. Optimizing Harvard's OA Mandate

    Here are some small but crucial changes that will immunize the deposit requirement against any opt-outs from the copyright-retention requirement. It will increase the probability that the mandate will succeed and that it will be taken up by other universities (note the re-ordering of the clauses, and the addition of the italicized passages):

    Motion on behalf of the Provost’s Committee on Scholarly Publishing:

    The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy:

    [DEPOSIT MANDATE] To assist the University in providing Open Access to all scholarly articles published by its Faculty members, each Faculty member is required to provide, immediately upon acceptance for publication, an electronic copy of the final version of each article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. This can be done either by depositing it directly in Harvard's Institutional Repository or by emailing it to the Provost’s Office to be deposited on the author's behalf.

    [COPYRIGHT RETENTION POLICY] Each Faculty member is also encouraged to grant to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

    [POLICY OPT-OUT CLAUSE] The copyright retention and licence-granting policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

    The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

    Stevan Harnad
    American Scientist Open Access Forum

  2. Harvard should use some of its endowment to buy Elsevier and make all current and future content open access.

  3. Stevan

    Thanks for the info. We are going to be pushing for a mandate at my institution and we will try to make ours broader and more firm than the Harvard one so your changes are helpful.

  4. George

    Nice idea. The past issues should be freed up omehow. But for the future I think it would be better to ditch most of those journals entirely and start anew.


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