harvard faculty cast vote on open access 02.12.2008, 10:45 AM
posted by ben vershbow
The U.S. presidential primaries in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. are not the only votes to watch today. The New York Times reports that arts and sciences faculty at Harvard are weighing in today on a proposed measure that would make all scholarly articles available in a free open access repository run by the library immediately following publication.
"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 distinguishes this plan from current practice, said Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science who is sponsoring the faculty motion, is that it would create an "opt-out" system: an article would be included unless the author specifically requested it not be. Mr. Shieber was the chairman of a committee set up by Harvard's provost to investigate scholarly publishing; this proposal grew out of one of the recommendations, he said.
My fingers are crossed that this vote will go the way of openness. A vote for open access from Harvard would be a huge boost for the movement. Change is more likely to come if people at the top of the heap, whose personal incentive for reform is far less obvious, start making the move on principle -? saying, essentially, that it's not the job of scholars to prop up the journal business.
Stevan Harnad on February 12, 2008 12:53 PM:
Optimizing Harvard's Proposed Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate
It is a great (and widespread) mistake to treat the problems of (1) journal overpricing, (2) publishing reform, and (3) copyright reform as if they were all the same thing as the problem of (4) research access. They are not. Open Access (OA) to research can be provided, quickly, easily, and directly, without first having to solve (1)-(3). And, once provided, OA can help pave the way toward solving (1)-(3). But conflate OA with (1)-(3) from the outset, and all you do is delay and handicap OA.
Let me try to say why I think this is the wrong strategy, whereas something not so different from it would not only have much greater probability of success, but would serve as a model that would generalize much more readily to the worldwide academic community.
(1) Articles vs. Books. The objective is to make peer-reviewed research journal articles OA. That is OA's primary target content. The policy has to make a clear distinction between journal articles and books, otherwise it is doomed to fuzziness and failure. The time is ripe for making journal articles -- which are all, without exception, author give-aways, written only for scholarly usage and impact, not for sales royalty income -- Open Access, but it is not yet ripe for books in general (although there are already some exceptions, ready to do the same). Hence it would be a great and gratuitous handicap to try to apply OA policy today in a blanket way to articles and books alike, covering exceptions with an "opt-out" option instead of directly targeting the exception-free journal article literature exclusively.
(2) Unrefereed Preprints vs. Peer-Reviewed Postprints. Again, the objective is to make published, peer-reviewed research journal articles ("postprints") OA. Papers are only peer-reviewed publications after they have been submitted, refereed, revised, and accepted for publication. Yet Harvard's proposed copyright retention policy targets the draft that has not yet been accepted for publication (the "preprint"): That means the unrefereed raw manuscript. Not only does this risk enshrining unrefereed, unpublished results in Harvard's OA IR, but it risks missing OA's target altogether, which is refereed postprints, not unrefereed preprints.
(3) Copyright Retention is Unnecessary for OA and Needlessly Handicaps Both the Probability of Adoption of the Policy and the Probability of Success If Adopted. Copyright retention is always welcome wherever it is desired and successfully negotiated by the author. But there is no need to require retention of copyright in order to provide OA.
Sixty-two percent of journals already officially endorse authors making their postprints OA immediately upon acceptance for publication by depositing them in their Institutional Repository, and a further 30% already endorse making preprints OA. That already covers 92% of Harvard's intended target. For the remaining 8% (and indeed for 38%, because OA's primary target is postprints, not just preprints), they too can be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication, with access set as "Closed Access" instead of Open Access. To provide for worldwide research usage needs for such embargoed papers, both the EPrints and the DSpace IR software now have an "email eprint request" button that allows any would-be user who reaches a Closed Access postprint to paste in his email address and click, which sends an immediate automatized email request to the author, containing a URL, on which the author need merely click to have an eprint automatically emailed to the requester. (Mailing article reprints to requesters has been standard academic practice for decades and is merely made more powerful, immediate, ubiquitous and effective with the help of email, an IR, and the semi-automatic button; it likewise does not require permission or copyright retention.)
This means that it is already possible to adopt a universal, exception-free mandate to deposit all postprints immediately upon acceptance for publication, without the author's having to decide whether or not to deposit the unrefereed preprint and whether or not to retain copyright (hence whether or not to opt out).
This blanket mandate provides immediate OA to at least 62% of OA's target content, and almost-immediate, almost-OA to the rest. This not only provides for all immediate usage needs for 100% of research output, worldwide, but it will soon usher in the natural and well-deserved death of the remaining minority of access embargoes under the growing global pressure from OA's and almost-OA's increasingly palpable benefits to research and researchers. (With it will come copyright retention too, as a matter of course.) It is also a policy with no legal problems, no author risk, and hence no need for loopholes and opt-outs.
Needlessly requiring authors instead to deposit their unrefereed preprints and to commit themselves to retaining copyright today puts both the consensus for adoption and, if adopted, the efficacy of the Harvard policy itself at risk, because of author resistance either to exposing unrefereed work publicly or to putting their work's acceptance and publication by their journal of choice at risk. It also opens up an opt-out loophole that is likely to reduce the policy compliance rate to minority levels for years, just as did NIH's initial, unsuccessful non-mandate (since upgraded to an immediate deposit mandate), with the needless loss of 3 more years of research usage and impact.
I strongly urge Harvard to reconsider, and to adopt the Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access mandate (ID/OA) that is now being adopted by a growing number of universities and research funders worldwide, instead of the copyright-retention policy now being contemplated.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Sam J. Miller on February 12, 2008 1:48 PM:
My favorite quote from the article:
concerns that open access would "wreck the existing business model."
Which strikes me as funny for two reasons.
First, the existing business model has already been wrecked. Many journals have become so expensive to produce and distribute that their original function, of disseminating ideas and contributing to the development of discourse, is now better served by the internet.
Second, it almost seems beneath the reporter's notice that the current model is a "business model." It's not a scholarly model. It's concerned about vanishing revenue and vanishing jobs, both of which are important, but separate from the question of research and dialogue and discourse.
People who voice concern about the declining quality of research strike me as disingenuous - do they really think that all of a sudden they won't be able to tell the difference between good research and bad? Shoddy referencing and absurd claims? That's absurd. I can't really figure out why anyone who genuinely cares about knowledge, creativity, culture, plurality, etc, would not be excited about the unfettered exchange of scholarship and discourse. Canons crumbling is a good thing.
dan visel on February 12, 2008 2:42 PM:
Worth noting is this Robert Darnton editorial about the vote from the Harvard Crimson; it's quoted by the Times, but the whole thing is worth reading.
Also worth considering might be Fark Yalar?, which Mark Thwaite pointed out at Ready Steady Book last week; it's an Istanbul-based blog which seems to be posting electronic versions of philosophy & critical theory texts at a furious rate. It's almost certainly illegal (I don't know how Turkish copyright law works, so I can't say), but the argument could be made that it's also about open access. If scholarly work can be commodified, it can also be pirated.
fark yaralari on February 13, 2008 5:36 AM:
I'm the owner of the above mentioned fark yaralari blog in the 3rd comment. I want to put my reasons to start such a blog:
0. none of the books are my own productions. I just colected what is around. they were already in the web, but they are served to such small groups that they were not available. I just made them widely public
1. so called 3rd world (as its 3rd worldliness is because there is a 1st world who syphons the surplus up) is never able to pass threshold of subsistence. for ex. I now need Peter zima's "what is theory?" there is not even 1copy available in istanbul libraries. what should I do? pay 126.6 dolars? it is impossible.
2. libraries are insufficient. more than half of the books are not available in Istanbul libraries. my pdf collection is richer than most of the provincial university libraries. and istanbul is very rich if you compare with "middle east". for ex I was at joran university there was sth like 2000 english books. think of you trying to do sth; Dostoyevski's students are not history they still haunt 3rd world. we want to claim that our being is worth living through 'denken', that is the only way and the way is closed by fat belly academia.
3. academia should not be in a relation of exchange in front of the demand for knowledge. total sophistry rules now.
4. brit publishers put pound prices where 1pound is equal to 2.3 turkish liras. they may be normal in brit-standards but for me it is un-available: for example Marx's capital is 22 pounds here: 50 turkish liras, it is 1/8 of my monthly budget. 3capitals and grundrisse is half of it. then what should I do?
5. print capitalism monopolizes the availability of knowledge, and claims this as natural. from a Bourdieuan point of view, homo academicus is totally blind to the symbolic violence structures s/he is contributing to.
6. I wouldn't steal. yet I deon't think that what I'm doing is an act of stealing. this is not piracy.
same problem is also with music for example a site which is anti-pirate writes as follows:
The world is far from perfect. Life is not fair. Most of us on this planet wish it was differently. But it can not be right that the record companies should be the one's
responsible for changing the future of this planet. The arguments for "giving something back to the artists for enjoying the music" can in this case be applied as: Even if you live in a country with a bad economy, please at least do what you can, after all, you're paying for your internet connection so it can't be that bad. Buy at least a couple of downloads and take the music that is put up legally. These two things together should give you many hours of music pleasure. The
artists would very much appreciate if you do what you can to support them. And perhaps you would feel good about it yourself, knowing that you are a true fan. Artists and fans should work together.>>>
is this a joke? or too much gentle western humour?
K M Lawson on February 13, 2008 12:19 PM:
I'm delighted to hear about this motion at Harvard and also report that I believe it passed "easily" according to Harvard crimson:
This is also being reported at several other locations.
bowerbird on February 14, 2008 1:25 PM:
well, this is a big step forward, to be sure.
but let's not fool ourselves that _institutional_
repositories are the way to go. they're not...
_all_journals_ need to be digitized as such;
that is, as _discipline-based_ serial-runs,
with strong, flexible interlinking throughout.
when you go to look for an article from the
"journal of the american medical association",
you want to find it next to the articles that
preceded and followed it in the actual issue,
you don't want to have to learn the institution
of the author and trot off to their repository.
and you want to have all its references linked
right in, and housed in the very same system...
oh yeah, and even from a comfortable distance,
it should be obvious that systems like dspace
are awful, and need _significant_improvement_
-- as in, rethinking from the very beginning --
if we're really gonna put our wisdom into them.