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Harvard to vote on open access proposal

The NY Times reports that Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will vote next week on a proposal that would require faculty to deposit a copy of their articles in an open access Harvard repository even as they submit those articles to academic journals.

I like this idea a lot. I only wish it went further. Faculty members will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement pretty much at will (as I understand it), which could vitiate it: If a prestigious journal accepts an article but only if it’s not been made openly available, faculty members may well decide it’s more important for their careers to be published in the journal. I would prefer to see the Harvard proposal paired with some form of official encouragement to tenure committees to look favorably upon faculty members who make their work widely and freely available.

Nothing is without drawbacks. A well-run, reliable, thorough peer-review system costs money. But there’s also an expense to funding peer review by limiting access to the work that makes it through the process. Likewise, while the current publication system directs our attention efficiently, but there’s a price to the very efficiency of such a system: innovation can arise from what looked liked inefficiencies. There’s value in the long tail of research.

If we were today building a system for evaluating scholarly research and for making it maximally available, we would not build anything like the current paper-based system. Well, we are building such a system. The Harvard proposal will, in my opinion, help.

Disclosure: I’m a fellow at the Berkman Center which is part of the Law School, not the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and I’m not a faculty member in any case. Stuart Shieber, one of the sponsors of the proposal, is a director of the Center.) [Tags: ]

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