Posts Tagged Harvard

Comments on the future of OA

An essay by Peter Suber about The Opening of Science and Scholarship provides a concise summary of the ongoing struggle over control of access to the outputs of research and scholarship. The essay is one contribution to the Publius Project, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. See also: Two contributions to the Publius Project on OA, Open Access News, June 6, 2008. Excerpts from the essay:

Authors control the rate of OA growth, for three reasons. They decide whether to submit their work to OA journals, they decide whether to deposit their work in OA repositories, and they decide whether to transfer rights to a publisher.

Two large trends are determining the future of access to research. First, scholarly authors are gradually coming to understand the benefits and opportunities of OA. Second, a titanic struggle is taking place among institutions in a position to influence author decisions: universities, funding agencies, and publishers.

In the age of print, publishers could control access to research they did not conduct, write up, sponsor, fund, or purchase. One reason is that publishers controlled the most effective channel of distribution; but that has changed. Another reason is that the other stakeholders had not aroused themselves to pursue their own interests; but that is changing.

Universities and funding agencies are upstream from publishers. When they want to guarantee OA for their research output, and require their faculty or grantees to retain the rights needed to authorize OA (even if they transfer all other rights to a publisher), they can do so and publishers must accommodate them.


Will those Universities and funding agencies that wish to guarantee OA for their research output succeed in their efforts to convince their faculty or grantees to retain the rights needed to authorize OA? Several crucial experiments are already under way.

Among funding agencies, the Wellcome Trust in the UK is carrying out one of the major pioneering experiments. It has a strong policy that became mandatory for grantholders in October 2006. Specifically, the Wellcome Trust:

  • expects authors of research papers to maximise the opportunities to make their results available for free
  • requires electronic copies of any research papers that have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and are supported in whole or in part by Wellcome Trust funding, to be made available through PubMed Central (PMC) and UK PubMed Central (UK PMC) as soon as possible and in any event within six months of the journal publisher’s official date of final publication
  • will provide grantholders with additional funding, through their institutions, to cover open access charges, where appropriate, in order to meet the Trust’s requirements
  • encourages – and where it pays an open access fee, requires – authors and publishers to license research papers such that they may be freely copied and re-used (for example for text and data-mining purposes), provided that such uses are fully attributed
  • affirms the principle that it is the intrinsic merit of the work, and not the title of the journal in which an author’s work is published, that should be considered in making funding decisions.

A key issue: will there be compliance with the policy of the Wellcome Trust (WT) by publishers, and by grantees? For a post, dated February 24, 2007, about publishers’ compliance, see: Compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy. Early in 2007, data provided by Robert Kiley of the WT indicated that 59% of biomedical publishers were compliant with the WT OA policy, 15% were in active discussion (with WT about the policy), 16% currently had no publicly-available policy, and 10% were non-compliant with the policy.

In a WT news item, Solid start for open access, dated February 21, 2008, there’s a summary of results of an initial study of compliance of grantees with the WT policy. Excerpts:

Just eight months after launching its new open access publishing policy, the Wellcome Trust has found that over a quarter of published, Trust-funded papers are freely available through the online repositories PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central.

The study, which focused on Trust-funded papers published in May 2007, showed that 27 per cent of papers published in this month complied with the Trust’s open access policy, by being made available through the online databases PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central within six months of publication. This is an increase on the 15 per cent figure for research published in December 2006.

Encouragingly, over 90 per cent of papers published in May 2007 were published in journals that comply with the Trust’s open access policy – a result of close cooperation between the Wellcome Trust and the major scientific, technical and medical publishers.

It’s noteworthy that, 8 months after the WT policy became mandatory in October 2006, over 90% of WT-funded papers were already being published in policy-compliant journals (even though only 27% of these papers could actually be accessed via the designated online repositories, PMC and UK PMC). More recent data aren’t yet available, but can be expected to show an increase in the proportion of WT-funded papers available via the designated repositories.

Among Universities, Harvard in the USA is at the early stages of an experiment that has attracted much attention. For some examples of comments about the policy (adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Science on February 12, 2008), see: Much ado about the Harvard OA policy. In early May of 2008, the Law School at Harvard adopted a similar policy. See: Harvard Law School joins Harvard FAS in mandating OA, Peter Suber, Open Access News, May 7, 2008.

This policy is currently being implemented. The office that will be responsible for implementing the policy is being set up. See: Stuart M. Shieber to lead new OSC, Harvard University Gazette, May 22, 2008. If the policy can be successfully implemented, it seems likely to be extremely influential.

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Much ado about the Harvard OA policy

The lyrics of one of Tom Lehrer’s most memorable songs come to mind: Fight Fiercely, Harvard!

Fight fiercely, Harvard, fight, fight, fight
Demonstrate to them our skill
Albeit they possess the might
Nonetheless we have the will …

During the two weeks since the vote on February 12 by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard to adopt an open access policy, there has been much comment and debate. Some examples:

Harvard Faculty Adopts Open-Access Requirement, The Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, February 12, 2008. Excerpt:

The new policy will allow faculty members to request a waiver, but otherwise they must provide an electronic form of each article to the provost’s office, which will place it in an online repository.

Harvard faculty votes on Internet-based open “publishing”. Hilary Spencer, Nature Network forum, February 13, 2008. Excerpt:

Universities have long been interested in retaining some of the fruits of their researchers’ work, whether it has been via institutional repositories, databases, or eprint servers. In addition to making the results of research openly available, and thus benefiting the community as a whole, this proposal seems in part to be an attempt by Harvard to also retain copyright and distribution/licensing rights for their researchers’ work.

Harvard first to force open access, Andrea Gawrylewski, The blog, February 13, 2008. Excerpt, quoting Joseph Esposito:

The implications of Harvard’s decision are broad, but one thing that is likely to happen as a direct result of the decision is that companies with Open Access services may get acquired by traditional publishers …

Harvard open-access policy – can you please be more specific? Noah Gray, Action Potential, February 14, 2008. Excerpt:

That brings us to the main point. Harvard is extremely vague about exactly what this proposal covers. A smart move, if you ask me, because now they can stress any position or interpretation that they want, based on the response they receive.

Blog-style annotation and in-depth criticism: New niche for academic journals, in wake of Harvard open-access move? David Rothman, TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home, February 17, 2008. Excerpt:

Will this kill off academic journals? Not all of them.

The smarter ones could adapt with better-than-ever peer review procedures and maybe even use a blog approach. They could link to the best research and also comment on the worst, while offering far, far more depth than a blog would.

Open access publishing: Harvard ups the ante, Elizabeth Pisani, The Wisdom of Whores, February 18, 2008. Excerpt:

The proposal, reproduced below, is a bit hazy on the timing of public posting. Does a piece of research only become a “scholarly article” once it has appeared in a journal?

Harvard adopts opt-out open-access policy, Nature 2008(20 Feb); 451: 879. (Subscription required). Excerpt:

Stuart Shieber, the computer scientist at Harvard who proposed the scheme, says that any request for an exemption will be granted. The university has not yet worked out how to define what constitutes a ‘final’ draft of a scholarly paper, nor come up with a time limit for submission.

Many comments have been compiled by Peter Suber and Gavin Baker in posts to Open Access News, and they provide a very useful guide through much of the labyrinth. In the list provided below, I’ve included a few excerpts that I thought were especially noteworthy.

Variations on the theme of the Harvard OA policy, February 22, 2008. About a post by Stevan Harnad, The Hybrid Copyright Retention and Deposit Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism, February 22, 2008.

More comments on the Harvard OA policy, February 22, 2008. One of the five comments is from John Mark Ockerbloom in Everybody’s Libraries. An excerpt:

This mandate is faculty-friendly as well as being open-access friendly, in that it minimizes the extra work faculty have to do and assures them the last word in access control, should they decide to exercise it. And that, I believe, is crucial to its having been adopted at all, and to its subsequent acceptance by faculty.

Stevan Harnad replies to Mike Carroll, February 21, 2008. Peter Suber adds some comments of his own. One of his comments is:

Because Harvard’s is the first university-level mandate to focus on permissions rather than deposits, it deserves a chance to show how well it can work.

More on the Harvard policy, February 21, 2008. Excerpts from an article by Lila Guterman in Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers). Example:

Mr. Thatcher and others also wonder whether Harvard faculty members will actually make the effort to comply with the policy. But open-access supporters observe that faculty members themselves were the ones who voted for it.

Mike Carroll on OA, copyright, and the NIH and Harvard policies, February 20, 2008. About a cluster of three related posts by Mike Carroll. Excerpt from the first, NIH and Harvard – It’s About Values:

The key point is that this really is not a technical conversation. It’s a conversation about values….

“Other schools should follow Harvard’s lead”, February 19, 2008. Provides excerpts from: Open access to brilliant insights, Boston Globe, February 19, 2008.

More comments on the Harvard OA mandate, February 17, 2008. Two of the three articles cited suggest that other institutions should follow Harvard’s lead.

More on the Harvard mandate, February 15, 2008. Excerpts from: Heidi Ledford, Harvard adopts open-access policy, Nature News, February 15, 2008. One of the two excerpts:

[T]he university has not yet established a time limit for submission, nor have they defined what constitutes a ‘final’ draft of the paper. Harvard intends to establish an ‘office of scholarly communication’ to define these issues….

More comments on the Harvard OA mandate, February 15, 2008. Five comments are cited. One is from Dorothea Salo at Caveat Lector: Pyrrhic Victories: Excerpt:

I have a feeling the deafening silence coming from publishers right now is deliberate. Their only realistic hope is that the Harvard policy sinks like a stone in a vast sea of institutional indifference, and the best way for them to create that outcome is to keep their mouths shut so that the initial flurry of coverage and interest fades quicker.

Three on the Harvard OA mandate, February 14, 2008. Three comments are cited. The third (see heading: Shieber: Librarians Very Involved with Harvard OA Motion) quotes Stuart Shieber:

Open access repositories are not a substitute for journals. They are a complement to them. It is important that those processes continue, and to the extent that they involve expenses, universities and funding agencies will have to continue to pay for them.

Stevan Harnad’s proposed revisions to the Harvard policy, February 14, 2008. See: Weaken the Harvard OA Mandate To Strengthen It, Open Access Archivangelism, February 14, 2008. Excerpt (quoting Terry Martin of Harvard Law School, to whom Stevan Harnad is responding):

Stevan, I’m sure your version is preferable to the one actually passed by FAS. Some of us urged a more forceful approach. However, those with a better political sense thought otherwise.

More on the Harvard OA mandate, February 14, 2008. The several articles cited include one from T. Scott Plutchak at T. Scott. Excerpt:

That it [the Harvard policy] is driven by the faculty rather than being imposed from the outside is a very positive sign. Most important, however, is that a major university is taking a significant step towards managing its own scholarly production.

Roundup of commentary on Harvard OA policy, February 13, 2008. The various articles cited include one by Gavin Baker, Harvard faculty say yes to OA, Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, February 13, 2008. Excerpt:

… I want to focus on the fact that the faculty, through their own governance process, themselves approved this mandate.

Text of the Harvard policy, February 12, 2008. Excerpt:

To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.

It’s obvious from all of these comments that the Harvard policy has been spectacularly successful at raising awareness about OA. But, to continue to be influential, the policy must be implemented successfully. Do faculty members at Harvard “have the will” to do this? Or, might they be apathetic (in the well-chosen words of Dorothea Salo, a “slumbering behemoth“) and, by ignoring the policy, thus defeat it?

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