Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

5 major American universities commit to support OA journals

A Compact for Open-Access Publication, press release, September 14, 2009.

Five of the nation's premier institutions of higher learning—Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley—today announced their joint commitment to a compact for open-access publication. ...

Since open-access journals do not charge subscription or other access fees, they must cover their operating expenses through other sources, including subventions, in-kind support, or, in a sizable minority of cases, processing fees paid by or on behalf of authors for submission to or publication in the journal. While academic research institutions support traditional journals by paying their subscription fees, no analogous means of support has existed to underwrite the growing roster of fee-based open-access journals.

Stuart Shieber, Harvard's James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science and Director of the University's Office for Scholarly Communication, is the author of the five-member compact. According to Shieber, "Universities and funding agencies ought to provide equitable support for open-access publishing by subsidizing the processing fees that faculty incur when contributing to open-access publications. Right now, these fees are relatively rare. But if the research community supports open-access publishing and it gains in importance as we believe that it will, those fees could aggregate substantially over time. The compact ensures that support is available to eliminate these processing fees as a disincentive to open-access publishing."

The compact supports equity of the business models by committing each university to the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication fees for open-access journal articles written by its faculty for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.

Additional universities are encouraged to visit the compact web site and sign on. ...

See also coverage by Library Journal, The Wired Campus, and Inside Higher Ed. More information:

  • Of the initial compact signatories, only Berkeley previously had an OA fund. Berkeley's existing fund, though, was established as a pilot; at least three-quarters of the initial funding already have been obligated. The compact FAQ says that "the mechanisms developed by compact institutions would not be short-term, experimental deployments but programs with an expectation of continuity for multiple years."
  • Of the initial compact signatories, only Harvard and MIT have mandatory self-archiving policies; only MIT's is university-wide. Stevan Harnad criticizes this as putting the cart before the horse. The compact FAQ notes that signatories may choose to place conditions on implementing the compact, such as "prior establishment of an open-access policy at the institution".
  • According to the compact FAQ, the goal is to support journals that provide OA to all of their research: "hybrid open access journals ... would not be expected to be eligible". (Update. Note that the Berkeley fund currently includes hybrid journals.)
  • In addition, the compact FAQ establishes a loophole for grant-funded research: "a compact institution may reasonably expect that ... the funding agency should be responsible for payment of the publication charge, and the article would not be eligible for underwriting by the institution whether or not the funding agency actually covers the particular charge."

See also our past post on this proposal.

Update. Harvard has launched an OA fund to implement its commitments under the compact.

Update. See also my comments:

... I don’t see why the compact couldn’t have been a commitment to fund OA journals in general rather than to fund publication charges at OA journals.

Update. Cornell launched an OA fund.

Update. See also further comments by Stevan Harnad (1, 2).

Update. Also see comments by Jason Baird Jackson and Philip Davis.

Update. Also see comments on Law Librarian Blog.