Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm waiting on pins and needles

It seems as though talk about open-access journal publishing is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Preserving the integrity of scholarly communication and its ability to circulate are both pressing issues--the latter, especially, given the emergence of digitally rights managed academic journal content and other types of strictures.  These are changing times indeed.

Apropos, I was heartened to discover this article in today's New York Times.  Apparently, the faculty of Harvard University is voting today to decide whether or not to move toward a system that more fully embraces open-access.  Here's an excerpt:
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.


“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.

What's exciting (or maybe nerve-wracking) to me is the degree to which Harvard is such a trend-setter.  How the faculty there goes, others are likely to follow.  So, for those of you at Harvard who may be voting today, please support the cause of open-access.  And for those of you who may know folks at Harvard, please tell them to lend their support.

If you need convincing about the merits of open-access, or if you want to learn all there is to learn about the issue, be sure to check out Peter Suber's excellent website.  He also has some extended commentary there about today's vote at Harvard and its implications.  And if you want to read the complete story from the Times, you can access it here.

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