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.