Excerpted from the February 14, 2008 issue of the Library Journal Academic Newswire:
In a historic measure, the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Tuesday unanimously approved a motion that compels Harvard researchers to deposit their "scholarly articles" in an open access (OA) repository to be managed within the library and to be made freely available to anyone via the Internet. Faculty members, however, can opt-out of compliance by obtaining a waiver, a point some OA advocates say could potentially undermine the policy's effectiveness. Nevertheless, the Harvard vote provided a resonant "shot heard 'round the world" for the open access movement.
"This is a large and very important step," said Stuart Shieber, professor of computer science at Harvard, who put forth the motion. "It should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated." In a statement released following the vote, Shieber cited serials costs that have "risen to such astronomical levels," forcing cancellations and "reducing the circulation of scholars' works."
Excerpts from LJ's interview with Professor Schieber:
LJ: Usually, it seems faculty become aware of the cost of serials after a cancellation exercise. What was the key driver of the policy at Harvard?
SS: I think that different people have different motivations for support of the policy. My own interests are in seeing that our writings have the broadest distribution feasible. We've also gone through stringent serials reviews with large levels of cancellations, even at Harvard, whose library is the largest academic library in the world. If we can't afford a sufficiently broad set of journals here, you can imagine the constraints that other research institutions are in. The open access policy just voted is intended to make sure that our writings are widely available in the face of these widespread cancellations.
LJ: With tenure and advancement very much tied to publication, any thoughts on how this motion might affect publication issues?
SS: It is important to keep in mind that the kind of open access distribution through repositories is completely separate from the process of reviewing, vetting, editing, and imprimatur in the journal system. Open access repositories are not a substitute for journals. They are a complement to them. It is important that those processes continue, and to the extent that they involve expenses, universities and funding agencies will have to continue to pay for them.
Coverage of the new mandate from the Harvard University Gazette: