I assume that readers of the open access discussions on this blog are familiar with the state of play in the area, but just in case, here’s some background.

Peter Suber defines open access in his A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access as follows: “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.” Suber’s Introduction also describes the two primary approaches to achieving open access:

  • “Green” OA, in which articles are provided by their authors via posting on a personal website or in an institutional or subject-based repository. Under the green OA approach, open access is provided as a supplement to access in a peer-reviewed venue.
  • “Gold” OA, in which articles are provided as part of the normal operation of the journal in which they are published. Under the gold OA approach, open access is provided directly by a peer-reviewed venue itself.

Suber’s Open Access Overview provides more detailed background, and I recommend it highly. Why don’t you read it now?  I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

Access to the knowledge generated at universities is a good. It is what universities are about. Open access is therefore deserving of support, and to that end, a number of universities have promoted it through exhortations or policies of various sorts.It is important, however, that open access to scholarly writings be generated in appropriate and sustainable ways, consistent with the principles of academic freedom and the laws of economics.

At Harvard, we have taken a particular approach by voting open-access policies composed of three aspects:

  1. Permission: Faculty give permission (technically, grant a license) to the university to make their articles available via open access.
  2. Waiver: Faculty can waive the license for any article at their sole discretion.
  3. Deposit: Faculty provide a copy of their articles to the university for storage, preservation, and distribution in an institutional repository.

To date, three of Harvard’s ten or so faculties have passed such policies, the texts of which are provided here. In addition, other schools, including Stanford’s School of Education and MIT, have enacted similar policies, and others are considering them.

I plan on addressing some of the motivations for the policy and concerns that are commonly raised in future posts. If there are particular topics that you think should be considered, please let me know in the comments or by email.

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