Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More comments on the Harvard OA mandate

Here's another batch of comments on the new Harvard OA mandate.

From Paul Courant at Au Courant:

...What almost all faculty care about almost all of the time is the dissemination and use of their work, not its commercial consequences. We have always known this, of course, although organizations that purport to speak for the interests of authors frequently place inordinate emphasis on authors’ commercial interests. What the Harvard faculty has done is give us all a visible and powerful affirmation that what really matters is academic work itself, and not the profitability of particular industries that have grown up around it....

The problem of limited, over-priced access to scholarship is a big one, and the more different ways we try to fix it, the better our chances that a few of them will work. The declaration by Harvard’s faculty focuses on one strategy — mandated (or at least default) deposit into institutional repositories. But more important than the choice of strategy, the declaration reminds us of how much is at stake and why it matters.

It is somewhat troubling that some academic publishers and academic societies have expressed concern that the Harvard mandate will put them at mortal risk, while merely trimming the profits of the big commercial publishers. Plainly, we in the academy have an interest in robust nonprofit scholarly publishing, but we should not fall for the idea that the only way for nonprofit publishing to survive is through policies that assure huge profits to the big players. (There is an analogy to agricultural policy here. In the name of preserving the “family farm,” governments around the world provide billions in subsidy to agribusiness.)

For now, let me repeat that the big news in the Harvard vote is that it helps all of us to focus on the main point — which is that scholarly publishing, through a variety of mechanisms, is first and foremost about making scholarship public, not making money....

From Jonathan Eisen at Tree of Life:

Harvard is frequently criticized for being a bit conservative in responding to new ideas and initiatives. But it seems that recently Harvard is more like a oceangoing yacht than an oil tanker....[T]here is no doubt this is a smart move. Sure, there are some potential downsides to open access. Some [TA] journals do good things and they may have to reinvent themselves to continue to bring in revenue. But welcome to the 21st century....Now - I think we should use this as an example to get other institutions to do the same thing....Maybe collectively we can follow Harvard's lead on this and make Universities more about what they are supposed to be about - spreading knowledge.

From Peter Murray-Rust at The CML Blog:

...This could snowball very easily. The moral force is overwhelming and there is no case against the moral case. Academics [do] not publish to create profits for publishers. A publisher who provides a service - for a reasonable fee - will be valued. A publisher who resells academically created content increasingly will not.

So the message is clear. We should write to our own institutions and ask what they are doing in this area....