Harvard University Unanimously Votes ‘Yes’ for Open Access

(Cross posted from the Berkman Center Blog)

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences has unanimously approved a motion for finished academic papers to be posted for free online, in an open access repository, on an opt-out basis.

The New York Times reported on the measure before the vote, where Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science and who spearheaded the initiative, commented “As far as I know, everyone I’ve ever talked to is supportive of the underlying principle.”

Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library, expressed his enthusiasm in an op-ed to the Harvard Crimson, and stated “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available through our own university repository. Instead of being the passive victims of the system, we can seize the initiative and take charge of it.”

Open Access leader Professor Peter Suber has an excellent roundup of links and resources related to the initiative, which you can check out on his blog. Professor Suber will be visiting the Berkman Center to give a talk on Open Access next month as part of our Berkman @ 10 Celebration. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed both cover the historic passage of the motion.

The Berkman Center has extensively discussed open access issues in the past, including at the 2007 Internet & Society Conference, where Stuart Shieber lead a working group session on “How Universities Can Support Open Access.” In addition, Gavin Yamey, senior editor of the PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed open-access journal , spoke at Harvard on “Opening Up to Open Access.” Harvard students Gregory Price and Elizabeth Stark also called on the University last spring to foster the development of open access to academic knowledge through a mandated repository. Berkman Fellow Melanie Dulong is also working on an Open Access Data Protocol with Science Commons, a project of Creative Commons.  Fellow Gene Koo has since the vote followed up with thoughts on the vote and what law schools can do, as well.

Congratulations to Professor Shieber and all those who helped work on the initiative!