Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More background on the Harvard OA mandate

Robin Peek, Harvard Faculty Mandates OA, a preprint of her Focus on Publishing column for the April 2008 issue of Information Today, February 27, 2008. NB:  "The preprint will be removed on March 31st and the postprint will be posted 3 months after publication."  Excerpt:

...I admit to being surprised that a unit of the Harvard faculty would be the first body in the United States to impose an institutional mandate upon themselves, even if it is by definition a partial mandate of Harvard as a whole. I expected that the more OA friendly havens such as MIT, Cornell, Stanford, Michigan, or even the University of California system would have been first in line. To its credit, the University of California faculty are considering a similar proposal and, if voted in, could grant them the first institutional wide mandate.

According to Stuart Shieber, James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, “Harvard's historically strong collections budget, including serials collection, may have insulated faculty from the realities of the serials crisis a bit longer than some institutions.” He noted, “At Harvard, serials duplication has been all but eliminated and serious cancellation efforts have been initiated. Monograph collecting has been substantially affected as well. In total, our faculty have seen qualitative reductions in access to the literature.”

Shieber, who is credited with leading the FAS to its vote, also observes that, “There actually has been a great deal of interest among some faculty in OA for principled reasons for quite some time. The conflation of these two factors - principled interest in opening access to scholarly articles and increased appreciation for the real affect of pricing on access - led to the current actions by Harvard faculty." ...

Shieber explains [the opt-out provision in the policy]. “There was legitimate concern that there could be particular cases in which the license granted by the motion could work against the interest of a particular faculty member. The provision was certainly important in assuaging some faculty members' worries that they could be held hostage by the policy in cases where it wasn't serving their best interests. In keeping with the underlying philosophy, the opt-out was designed for these specific cases....