Tuesday, February 12, 2008

At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on Web

Via The New York Times:

Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish — on the Web, at least — free.

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

Although the outcome of Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”

Under the proposal Harvard would deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. Authors would still retain their copyright and could publish anywhere they pleased — including at a high-priced journal, if the journal would have them...

The publishing industry, as well as some scholarly groups, have opposed some forms of open access, contending that free distribution of scholarly articles would ultimately eat away at journals’ value and wreck the existing business model. Such a development would in turn damage the quality of research, they argue, by allowing articles that have not gone through a rigorous process of peer review to be broadcast on the Internet as easily as a video clip of Britney Spears’s latest hairdo. It would also cut into subsidies that some journals provide for educational training and professional meetings, they say.

Click on above link to read more.


  1. Whether the journals want to admit it or not, there is already an open access model in place for scholarly papers. It's called Online posting of so-called pre-prints is gaining speed and there is already research showing that posting a pre=print will increase citations by as much as a factor of 4.

    I applaud the move for greater access to the official journals, but anyone who thinks you need a pricey subscription to keep up with physics research is living behind the times.

  2. I agree with you Nick. Things like are vital to research.

    If we only used published journals we would be 6 months behind in research. Important ideas being had today won't hit the journals for 6 months.

    One thing journals have that doesn't have are referees. That's fine for pre-prints, but somehow we need to organize referees for open content "official articles."

  3. Oh, I am signed in as my wife. :) Esther is really Joe.


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