Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Boston Globe Editorial on Harvard and Open Access

An editorial in the Boston Globe (19 Feb., 2008), "Open Access to Brilliant Insights", praises the recent vote by Harvard's A & S faculty to place their scholarly journal articles in a digital repository so that they will be accessible by anyone with internet access.

. . . . The policy is a bold move to boost the unrestricted, global use of research articles. This open access policy fulfills the great promise of the Internet: Someone in Finland, Japan or Kenya will be able to browse faculty members' articles on literature, science or history. It should mean fewer treks to academic libraries and fewer roadblocks on journal websites that now deny access to nonsubscribers unless they're willing to pay.

Proposed by computer science professor Stuart M. Shieber, the open access policy presumes that the mission of academic publishing is not to make money but to create, preserve, and share knowledge. As envisioned by Shieber, once a faculty member publishes an article - after it has been peer-reviewed, revised, and edited - a copy will go in Harvard's repository. Faculty members will have the right to opt out, publishing the article exclusively with professional journals and not putting it in the repository. But the hope is that most scholars will want their work to be read and cited as widely as possible.

Other schools should follow Harvard's lead. The move will also let arts and sciences faculty reclaim the right to use their published work from journals that have traditionally restricted the use of such work. . . .

Other schools such as the University of Oregon have digital repositories. But unlike Harvard, they don't require faculty to participate or deliberately opt out.

The Internet offers the means to free knowledge. The world's knowledge-brokers have to provide the will and the ways.

Full Editorial

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