Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences votes to adopt mandatory open access policy


As discussed in the New York Times and the Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences has just considered, and approved, the adoption of a new policy designed to ensure that the results of work published by members of the Faculty remain openly accessible. The policy is the first of its kind in the US, though similar institutional open access mandates are becoming increasingly common around the world.

A new Office for Scholarly Communication will be responsible for implementing the policy, and for addressing the broader issues to ensure that the results of research carried out at Harvard are made universally accessible.

Harvard University’s strong move to encourage open access is not an isolated instance. It is hugely encouraging to note the rapid pace of change in the United States on open access issues since the passing of the bill late last year, which made mandatory the National Institutes of Health’s Public Access Policy.

For example, the University of Berkeley recently announced the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative, which sets up a central open access fund to assist Berkeley researchers who wish to publish in open access journals. Later this month, Berkeley will also play host to the inaugural US meeting in relation to the SCOAP3 initiative in particle physics. SCOAP3 is a consortium of the world’s major particle physics laboratories which has set itself the ambitious yet achievable aim of switching the whole particle physics literature to an open access model, en masse.

What is clear is that the need for open access, and the failure of the traditional model of scientific publishing to make full use of the internet’s potential in this respect, are no longer issues of interest only to librarians or to activists These issues are now recognized to be important ones that all serious research institutions need to consider. The recent steps taken by Harvard and Berkeley show that universities are just as willing as research funders to take a stand on this issue. Open access is no longer just a nice idea, but is a concrete objective and over the course of 2008, the key focus will be not on rhetoric, but on the practical issues necessary to make wide-scale open access a reality.

Update: Here is the official announcement from Harvard 

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stevan harnad

Optimizing Harvard’s OA Mandate

Here are a few small but crucial changes to the current wording of the Harvard OA Mandate that will immunize the deposit requirement against any opt-outs from the copyright-retention requirement. They will increase the probability that Harvard’s mandate will succeed and that it will be taken up by other universities (note the re-ordering of the clauses, and the addition of the italicized passages):

Motion on behalf of the Provost’s Committee on Scholarly Publishing:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy:

[DEPOSIT MANDATE] To assist the University in providing Open Access to all scholarly articles published by its Faculty members, each Faculty member is required to provide, immediately upon acceptance for publication, an electronic copy of the final version of each 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. This can be done either by depositing it directly in Harvard’s Institutional Repository or by emailing it to the Provost’s Office to be deposited on the author’s behalf.

[COPYRIGHT RETENTION POLICY] Each Faculty member is also encouraged to grant to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

[POLICY OPT-OUT CLAUSE] The copyright retention and licence-granting policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

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