Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences Considering Open Access For Their Work

Stuart Shieber, Harvard professor of computer science, introduced a motion to the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences on October 16 that would have the faculty uniformly grant a non-exclusive, limited license to Harvard to post their scholarly and research articles openly on the web.

The final version of the motion has not been completed, but if passed, research articles authored by members of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences would be made freely available on the web, without permission or payment barriers to the reader, effectively making Harvard faculty work “open access.”

While this proposal is not university-wide (it does not, for example, cover the professional schools such as the medical, law, or business schools), it would apply to the entire Harvard College faculty, including every discipline studied by undergraduates, as well as the graduate school of arts & sciences, and the school of engineering and applied sciences.

Professor Shieber has been working on this issue for at least two years.  He’s convinced that university-level action is needed to enhance open access to research, for while individual faculty can make a difference in negotiating their own publication contracts, institutional policies will simplify the copyright and pragmatic issues faced when each individual is responsible for making his or her work openly accessible.

To take effect, the motion will need to be discussed further by the faculty and voted upon by the full faculty.  Final details of the policy are not yet available, since it is still under discussion.

Related Efforts at MIT

Here at MIT, Professor of Geophysics Brian Evans has drafted a resolution under the auspices of the Faculty Committee on the Library System that addresses the same desire for open access to research that underlies the Harvard motion.  The draft resolution states that “Broad dissemination and rapid, free flow of information is essential to insuring vigorous intellectual debate and efficient progress in any academic field, humanistic, engineering or scientific; is a key ingredient in providing for informed public debate of critical social problems; and is an obligation for researchers receiving public funding” and it calls for MIT faculty to “support the general concept of open access, especially for publicly funded research, and recommend the use of the least restrictive copyright agreements, consistent with the academic and commercial intent under which the research was undertaken.”

Professor Evans spoke about the resolution at an IAP event in January 2007.   More information on open access is available on the scholarly publishing web site or by contacting copyright-lib@mit.edu.