Sunday, February 17, 2008

Harvard To Begin Publishing Research For Free

On Wednesday, I did a post on the business model of "free."

Coincidentally, on Thursday, Harvard announced it will begin posting some research on the Internet--for free.

On Tuesday, Harvard's arts and sciences faculty met to discuss the possibility. According to The New York Times, the faculty "voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that would commit Harvard to open access access--the movement to speed the exchange of knowledge by freely distributing research on the Web."

This decision applies only to the arts and sciences faculty.

An Office of Scholarly Communication will be created along with a website. It is expected that these will be ready by April 1. The authors of scholarly articles will retain their copyright and are free to publish their research elsewhere.

On Tuesday, the director of the university library was quoted by The New York Times, saying, "In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help opne up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn . . . 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."

A first crack in the dike?


Stephen Parrish said...

Interesting. Academic journals tend to be very expensive, and typically only the publisher makes money.

Laura Vivanco said...

I was involved in a discussion about this at Dear Author. My main concern with the precise way this will be implemented is that it doesn't appear to involve any mechanism for peer review. Publishing in open access journals, on the other hand, does involve peer review.

John Arkwright said...

I can see the academic journal business model crumbling. The editor works to build the resume (vita), as do the reviewers, and the authors.

As the previous poster said, only the publishing company gets paid. So what is to hold back a mad rush to cut out the publisher and make everything available free?

In the short run, the reputations of the venerable journals will keep the publishers in business for a while. But many journals (venerable and otherwise) are owned by professional organizations who do not profit greatly. For now, many print journals are probably supported by the fact that print has been higher quality than online. That seems like a flimsy line.

Once the tide turns, there will be a deluge, as authors flock to outlets that give them wider exposure.

Maya Reynolds said...

Laura: The fact that Harvard is creating an Office of Scholarly Communication makes me suspect they are trying to set up a peer review process. "Office of Scholarly Communication" is an odd term.

I work in a university where researchers frequently submit articles for publication and peer review. The reviews all come from other researchers at other universities. The journals have an editor who arranges for the reviews, but the bulk of the process is in the hands of other researchers.

Obviously there are questions of conflict-of-interest if Harvard hand selects the other researchers to provide peer review for its papers. However, this does not seem to me to be an insurmountable impediment--especially if it helps to make research more readily available across the globe.

This is, of course, the third open access breakthru in recent weeks--following NIH and the European Research Council.

I'll be in Bethesda at an NIH meeting in another week. I'm looking forward to hearing all the discussions on this.