Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Harvard Law School joins Harvard FAS in mandating OA

If you recall, the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted an OA mandate in February 2008 by a unanimous vote of the faculty.

Today the Harvard Law School followed suit, also by a unanimous vote of the faculty.  From the law school announcement, May 7, 2008:

In a move that will disseminate faculty research and scholarship as broadly as possible, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted last week to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free, making HLS the first law school to commit to open access.

"The Harvard Law School faculty produces some of the most exciting, groundbreaking scholarship in the world," said Dean Elena Kagan '86. "Our decision to embrace 'open access' means that people everywhere can benefit from the ideas generated here at the Law School."

Under the new policy, HLS will make articles authored by faculty members available in an online repository, whose contents would be searchable and available to other services such as Google Scholar. Authors can also legally distribute the articles on their own websites, and educators here and elsewhere can freely provide the articles to students, so long as the materials are not used for profit.

"This exciting development is something in which the whole Harvard Law School community can take great pride," said John Palfrey '01, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and newly appointed vice dean of library and information resources. "The acceptance of open access ensures that our faculty's world-class scholarship is accessible today and into the future. I look forward to the work of implementing this commitment."

The vote came after an open access proposal was made by a university-wide committee aimed at encouraging wider dissemination of scholarly work. Earlier this semester, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to adopt a policy similar to the Law School’s new initiative....

Harvard's Berkman Center has a few more details:

Stuart Shieber' and leadership, along with that of Harvard library director Robert Darnton, paved the way for Berkman's own Terry Fisher and John Palfrey to bring this open access proposal to the Law School.


  • This is not only another university OA mandate, and the first for a law school, but another unanimous faculty vote for an OA mandate.  The unanimous faculty support makes a very good development positively beautiful.  As I pointed out in my article on the Harvard FAS mandate:  "The publishing lobby has often argued that the call for OA mandates is a sign that researchers oppose OA and must be coerced.  This argument always flew in the face of the evidence, but the unanimous Harvard vote should be the last nail in the coffin in which we bury the idea.  For the same reason, the Harvard vote decisively confirms Alma Swan's finding that the overwhelming majority of researchers do not resent OA mandates and would willingly comply with one from their funder or university."
  • Kudos to all involved, especially Stuart Shieber, Robert Darnton, Terry Fisher, and John Palfrey.
  • I haven't seen the policy itself yet, but I assume it's the same as the policy adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (which I analyzed in detail in the March SOAN).  If there any differences, I'll report them as soon as I learn them.

Update.  The text of the motion approved by the law school faculty is now online (also on John Palfrey's blog).  It is essentially the same as the text approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in February.  The new policy is voluntary until September 1, 2008, when it will become mandatory.