Harvard & the Open Access movement

A colleague called the Harvard faculty’s decision on making all of their works available in an institutional repository a “bold step towards online scholarship and open access.” I thought about this for a bit, and I’m not so sure it’s the right step, depending on how this process is done. Initially, I thought the resolution called for depositing articles before they are published, which would be difficult to enforce and likely result in the non-publication of said articles. However, upon further reflection and investigation, it seems that the resolution simply limits the outlets for faculty publication to those journals that allow for pre- or post-publication versions to be deposited in institutional repositories. Many publishers are moving in that direction, but it’s still not universal, and is unlikely to be so in the near future.

I am concerned that the short-term consequences will be increased difficulty in junior faculty getting their work published, thus creating another unnecessary barrier to tenure. I like the idea of a system that retains the scholarship generated at an institution, but I’m not sure if this is the right way to do it. Don’t get me wrong — repositories are a great way to collect the knowledge of an institution’s researchers, but they aren’t the holy grail solution to the scholarly communication crisis. Unless faculty put more of a priority on making their scholarship readily available to the world than on the prestige of the journal in which it is published, there will be little incentive to exclusively submit articles to publishers that allow them to be deposited in institutional repositories beyond mandatory participation. There are enough hungry junior faculty in the world to keep the top-shelf journal publishers in the black for years to come.

3 thoughts on “Harvard & the Open Access movement”

  1. “There are enough hungry junior faculty in the world to keep the top-shelf journal publishers in the black for years to come.”

    Amen! Or at the very least, it is a factor that I rarely see discussed.

  2. But, this will increase pressure on publishers to implement such policies. Junior faculty at Harvard are still desirable contributors to publications. If a journal’s editors are concerned that Harvard’s policies will prevent them from receiving Harvard faculty submissions, and that has formed any part of their submissions diet, then they will certainly look hard at revising their licenses to not preclude Harvard faculty submissions. So whatever limitation on available journals currently exists, I predict that limitation will rapidly dissolve. Journals will either make Harvard exceptions, offer a variety of licensing options to their contributors, or move to a one-size-fits-all that permits open access archiving. Journals that do NOT are on the downside of a trend, and I think we can take it as read that they know it.

    I would also expect that faculty review committees at Harvard would be fully able to appreciate any difficulties caused by recalcitrant publishers in particular fields. And certainly this decision places all junior faculty in a given field on the same footing. At any rate, given the trends with journal publishers — which the Harvard OA decision will accelerate — I don’t see any serious concerns for junior faculty, who actually have the most to gain from wider access to their materials and the concomitant name recognition.

  3. I understand and respect your concerns, but I think the vision and potential of the open movement can reach far and will eventually find a healthy equation. The hungry junior faculty you mention may just find new types of collaborations across the world and new places to publish which may be quite beneficial to them.

    This will take some time to develop and take shape of course. Yesterday I took stock of the open movement elements in my life and blogged them. What lies ahead gives me huge hope for new solutions and inspires me to contribute. As a creative worker I look forward to an open workstyle.

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