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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Roundup of commentary on Harvard OA policy

Peter wrote earlier about the policy adopted by Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Here are some reactions.

Stevan Harnad, Harvard Adopts 38th Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism blog, February 13, 2008.

Absent any new information (or amendments) to the contrary, Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday February 12 adopted the world's 38th Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate -- the 16th of the institutional or departmental mandates.

An OA mandate from Harvard is especially significant, timely and welcome for the worldwide Open Access movement, as Harvard will of course be widely emulated, and many other universities are now proposing to adopt OA mandates.

The objective of the Harvard (Faculty of Arts and Sciences) mandate is to provide Open Access (OA) to its own scholarly article output. This objective is accomplished by making those articles freely accessible on the web by depositing them in a Harvard OA Institutional Repository.

The means of attaining this objective is to mandate OA, which Harvard has now done. But Harvard has gone further, and mandated copyright retention as well. Copyright retention is highly desirable and welcome, but it is not necessary in order to provide OA, and mandating copyright retention has also necessitated the adoption of an opt-out clause because of potential author resistance to perceived or actual constraints on their choice of which journal to publish in.

In order to prevent the copyright-retention requirement from compromising the deposit requirement, I accordingly urge a few small but crucial changes in the wording of the mandate. ...

Chris Armbruster, Harvard Open Access and the significant move of Copyright Retention, A2k mailing list, February 13, 2008.

In a very interesting move, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University on 12 February 2008 not only to adopted an open access mandate (online dissemination of scholarly articles from an institutional repositories that is accessible freely) but also adopted the following

[COPYRIGHT RETENTION POLICY] Each Faculty member grants 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.

I am particularly interested to see the effects of this over the coming years. In an article written for the Yale A2K2 conference, I advocated that universities should take a more pro-active approach to copyright and that non-exclusive licensing was the optimal way to create a competitive market that is highly compatible with open access to scientific knowledge (OA2SK). For now, the Havard copyright retention policy enables opt-out on a case-by-case basis (in writing, to the Dean). The policy will be reviewed in three years. I consider this the optimal university policy.

Andy Guess, Harvard Opts In to 'Opt Out' Plan, Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2008. (Thanks to George Porter.)

... The decision, which only affects the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wonít necessarily disrupt exclusivity agreements with journals or upend the academic publishing industry, but it could send a signal that a standard bearer in higher education is seriously looking at alternative distribution models for its faculty's scholarship. Already, various open-access movements are pressing for reforms (from modest to radical) to the current economic model, which depends on journals' traditional gatekeeping function and their necessarily limited audiences but which has concerned many in the academic community worried about rising costs and the shift to digital media.

It isn't clear how or whether Harvard will ensure that professors who haven't opted out will submit finished papers, and even what "finished" means. Can academics submit non-peer-reviewed work? Can they selectively upload articles and withhold others for prestigious journals? Either way, most publishers don't seem overly fazed by the development; many contracts with scholars already allow authors to post their work independently of publication in a journal, and the Harvard plan both protects authors' own copyright to their works and avoids forcing a decision on its faculty. ...

"This is a large and very important step for scholars throughout the country. 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,"said Stuart M. Shieber, the James O. Welch Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science, who sponsored the bill before the faculty governance group.

In an op-ed published in The Harvard Crimson on Tuesday, the director of the university library, Robert Darnton, wrote: "In place of a closed, privileged, and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn ... ideas would flow freely in all directions."

At that sentiment, Allan R. Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers, scoffed: "To some people, that sounds like a description of Harvard itself."

Publishers don't oppose open-access plans per se, Adler said. It is mandates they take issue with, such as the requirement imposed by Congress last year that National Institutes of Health-funded research be published online at PubMed Central. With Harvardís opt-out provision, he said, there's still "some degree of choice." ...

Laura Brown, a senior adviser to the Ithaka project, which studies how information technologies can be applied to higher education, including electronic publishing, said she thinks the move could place Harvard in a leadership role on the issue. But she suggested that the effort was directed more at motivating faculty to fill the institution's electronic repository. At other colleges, she said, such repositories often languish because there is no mandate. And with more content in the repositories, she said, it would be easier to study which methods of digital delivery work and how scholars use such databases. ...

Gavin Baker, Harvard faculty say yes to OA, Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, February 13, 2008.

...I want to focus on the fact that the faculty, through their own governance process, themselves approved this mandate. Despite earlier evidence of the willingness of faculty to comply with OA mandates, and the support of researchers for public access legislation, this is the strongest indication yet: Yes, Virginia, scientists do want open access.

So when Allan Adler of the AAP says

Publishers donít oppose open-access plans per se, Adler said. It is mandates they take issue with ... With Harvard's opt-out provision, he said, there's still "some degree of choice."

Ė then he will be well-served to remember what dastardly external force imposed such an onerous requirement on the researchers. Oh, right: it was the researchers themselves.

David Weinberger, Harvard to vote on open access proposal, Joho the Blog, February 12th, 2008. (Thanks to Mathew Ingram.) Weinberger is a fellow at Harvard Law's Berkman Center (which is not part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences).

... I like this idea a lot. I only wish it went further. Faculty members will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement pretty much at will (as I understand it), which could vitiate it: If a prestigious journal accepts an article but only if itís not been made openly available, faculty members may well decide itís more important for their careers to be published in the journal. ...

Robert Mitchell, Harvard to collect, disseminate scholarly articles for faculty, Harvard University Gazette, February 13, 2008. (Thanks to George Porter.)

... "The goal of university research is the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge. At Harvard, where so much of our research is of global significance, we have an essential responsibility to distribute the fruits of our scholarship as widely as possible," said Provost Steven E. Hyman. "Today's action in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will promote free and open access to significant, ongoing research. It is a first step in the creation of an open-access environment for current research that may one day provide the widest possible dissemination of Harvard's distinguished Faculties' work." ...

"Today's vote in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences," said Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library, "addresses an issue that is of great concern to all of the Faculties of the University. All of us face the same problems and all of us can envision the public benefits of open access. Harvard Medical School, for example, is already working with its faculty to comply with a congressional mandate that articles based on funding from the National Institutes of Health be openly accessible through PubMed Central. By working, as individual faculties and together as a single University, we can all promote the free communication of knowledge."

See also the coverage at the Chronicle of Higher Education's News Blog and at Slashdot. There's plenty more to come.