Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, March 06, 2009

Update on the evolving OA mandate at Harvard Medical School

Carol Cruzan Morton, New Open-access Policy Under Discussion, Focus Online (News from the Harvard Medical, Dental, and Public Health Schools), March 6, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Many [NIH-funded] scientists are still learning what it takes to comply with the NIH public access policy. The key new tasks include negotiating conforming copyright-transfer agreements with the journals, depositing the accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed Central if the journal does not submit the published paper, and noting the public access citations in reports back to NIH. Some researchers also wonder how they can make their work publicly accessible even if it is not funded by the NIH.

These issues could be solved by a new open-access policy under discussion in the Harvard medical community. A team at the Countway Library [at Harvard Medical School] has developed a two-pronged strategy to help scientists smoothly manage the latest changes in scholarly publishing and further expand the open-access model at Harvard.

For the last year, librarian Scott Lapinski has been holding drop-in brown-bag information sessions and by-request department tutorials on the Quad and at affiliated institutions to walk through the steps of complying with the new public access publishing rules.

A longer-term solution is an HMS-wide open-access policy and repository to streamline NIH-funded article deposits and to showcase the range of scholarly contributions by medical, public health and dental faculties, said Alexa McCray, co-director of the HMS Center for Biomedical Informatics at the Countway and HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“The creation of new knowledge to benefit society is at the heart of a research university,” McCray said. “This is definitely true in biomedical research. The value lies in effective dissemination. Restricted access is at odds with that imperative.”

A voluntary online repository called HMScholar already exists at the Countway website for those authors who have retained the necessary copyright terms....

Under an open-access policy, the system would automatically make the NIH-required submissions to PubMed Central and enable the University to track NIH compliance better. “We would take care of everything,” McCray said.

The policy would simplify the copyright negotiations, allowing authors to retain copyright, granting nonexclusive publishing rights to the University and journal, and providing immediate full access to published papers. Open access facilitates scientific collaborations and enhances education, said McCray, who is in discussion about the policy with key HMS and affiliate groups. A waiver of open access would also be available.

The policy would be similar to those adopted last February by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and in June by the Harvard Law School. The online collection would be integrated with the new University-wide open-access institutional repository DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) in Cambridge, said Amy Brand at the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. Plans call for DASH to use the Countway mechanism for deposits to PubMed Central....

Comment.  We already knew that Harvard Medical School was developing an OA mandate.  But a couple of the details here are new and important.  I believe that HMS would be the first institution to blend a local OA mandate with an external funder mandate in order to minimize the burden on faculty obliged to comply with both.  I also believe it would be the first to arrange for local IR deposits to be redirected to PubMed Central and thereby satisfy the NIH policy.  Kudos to the Countway team for creative thinking, especially when it would have been easy to copy the first-rate policies already in effect at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.