Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More on the new Harvard OA mandate

Niha S. Jain, HKS Allows Article Access, Harvard Crimson, March 18, 2009.  Excerpt:

In part of a University-wide trend to share intellectual property, Harvard Kennedy School faculty voted overwhelmingly last week to allow open access for all scholarly articles written by faculty.

The change—which took effect immediately after a vote at a faculty meeting last Tuesday—means that all faculty will permit the Kennedy School to distribute their articles through DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) repository, which is an online database currently being developed by the Office for Scholarly Communication.

This makes the Kennedy School the third Harvard school to allow open access for its journals, following the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Law School.

According to Doug L. Gavel, media relations manager at the Kennedy School, approximately 98 percent of faculty members who attended the meeting voted in favor of the new policy.

“As an academic, I’m very excited to be able to publish my articles broadly,” said Erich J. Muehlegger, an assistant professor at the Kennedy School....

“I understand the economic pressures the publishing houses are under. They have been losing money for a long time,” said Professor Matthew A. Baum. “But I think it’s unfortunate when intellectual property gets put under lock and key.”

Similarly, Professor Stuart M. Shieber said that while there was a worry that allowing open access might affect the business model of subscription-based journals, he personally felt there are no drawbacks to an open access program. He added that faculty members who would prefer that their articles not be accessed by the general public can opt out of the program for any article.

Professor and Director of the University Library Robert C. Darnton said he saw no immediate threat to scholarly journals. He said support for open access has been overwhelming because many faculty members believe that they have a responsibility to the larger public.

Associate Dean for Research Matthew L. Alper added that faculty are focused on the issue of the public good, with a desire to share their research quickly and cheaply, particularly in the developing world where library access is limited.

While many students were not aware of the policy change, they said they thought it was a positive development. Kennedy School students Daniel C.I. Bjorkegren and Dan M. Rakove said they thought making academic information available to the public was an important part of the school’s mission.

Darnton said he expects that more Harvard schools will adopt open access. “I feel that the momentum is building up so that Harvard’s example will spread far and wide,” he said.

Also see John Lauerman, Harvard Government School to Offer Access to Faculty Papers, Bloomberg News, March 17, 2009.  Excerpt:

...The John F. Kennedy School of Government voted March 10 to become the latest unit at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university to approve posting faculty papers online, the school said yesterday in an e-mail. The only exemptions will be articles covered by exclusive contracts with publishers, the school said....

“[I]t’s the best policy anywhere,” said Peter Suber....“It shifts the default so Harvard faculty must make their work openly available unless they opt out. The default at most universities is the other way around: you have to choose open access and arrange for all the [permissions].” ...

The U.S. National Institutes of Health requires scientists who accept funding from the agency to allow open access to their research. The NIH mandate helps university scientists who want their works to be made public when they negotiate with publishers who may prefer to have exclusive rights to the work they print, Suber said.

“I’ve been scanning the horizon and haven’t seen a publisher flatly refuse” to publish work that NIH requires to be made public, Suber said in a telephone interview. “A lot of publishers are unhappy with the policy, but as far as I know they’re still publishing work by NIH-funded authors when it meets their standards.”

Open access to research and new ideas is vital to the development of poor countries, said Calestous Juma, a Kennedy School professor of the practice of international development. His main concern is that people be credited and compensated for ideas that lead to inventions, he said. Developing countries that gain free access to research must continue to respect intellectual property rights, he said.

“For society to be creative you need as much information as possible in the public domain,” he said. “At the same time, you have to provide incentive for innovation by allowing people to own what they create. The two are complementary rather than contradictory.”

More writers are insisting on free access to their own research, according to Juma, who said he is an editor at two journals.

“There have been times when authors have said they would like to publish with us but the want to make sure the articles are publicly available,” he said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We have made them available, and that hasn’t prevented libraries from buying the journals.”