Open Access Week event at Harvard Law 10/19/09

On Monday, October 19, in recognition of Open Access Week, a Question and Answer forum on Harvard’s involvement in OA was held at Harvard Law School. Stuart Shieber (professor of computer science and Director of Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication) and Peter Suber (Berkman fellow and author of “Open Access News”) hosted. Michelle Pearse, HLS Librarian for Scholarly Communication and Open Access Initiatives, moderated.

A question concerned the full impact of OA on library budgets. Prof. Shieber asked rhetorically what is the full cost of not implementing OA. He noted serial cost hyperinflation and dryly noted Stein’s Law (“If something can’t go on forever it will stop” – e.g. serials prices.) “Something … more sustainable” than the current scholarly publishing system is needed, Prof. Shieber continued, to avoid “meltdown.” The Harvard OA mandate aims to “solve the symptom,” that few can access scholarly literature, and enable “broad dissemination.” The cost of OA at Harvard, Prof. Shieber went on, is “relatively low” because the Office of Scholarly Communication pays it. (Prof. Shieber introduced the new program manager for OSC, Sue Kriegsman.) “The cost of Green OA,” where scholars post final version of a work as opposed to the publisher’s version, “is relatively inexpensive.” Fully implementing OA would require a new business model, the professor remarked. He noted that there are more than 4,000 OA journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, but that relatively few of these are indexed by database vendors such as Thomson/ISI.

David Osterbur from the Countway Library of Medicine asked about situations where publishers charge authors for open access to their articles, but libraries see no reduction in cost for their subscriptions. Prof. Shieber reminded the audience that Harvard Open-Access Publication Equity (HOPE) Fund monies cannot be used to pay for non-OA or hybrid-OA journals (seeOSC’s page on HOPE.) Prof. Suber commented that some publishers such as Oxford University Press reduced subscription prices “in proportion” to use of the “author-pays” model. (Note: evidently fees will change.) He also pointed out that the Wellcome Trust asked for transparency in open access fees.

There was a question about economics and authors’ rights. A discussion followed on the role of scholarly societies. Professor Shieber noted, traditionally, scholarly societies support their activities through publishing fees. Are they getting less money from vendors? Prof. Suber noted that there are societies against OA and at the same time there are ~400 societies with ~450 journals.

In response to a question concerning encouraging scholars to publish in OA journals, Prof. Suber remarked “authors will always publish in the most prestigious journals.” Some of these will be OA or green OA, some no OA.
Prof. Shieber stated that OA initiatives at Harvard “multiply Harvard’s bargaining power.” He cited one partnership with the American Physical Society where Harvard authors (and the university) may republish works from APS publications provided that they link back to the original APS publication and APS retains the copyright. Prof. Suber added that Harvard’s OA policy is “inspiring similar university policies.”

Gosia Stergios, Knowledge and Systems Analyst at Harvard Business School Library, asked how depository outcomes can be measured. Prof. Sheiber replied that downloads are not a big concern at this point, but rather getting as much content and as many faculty participating as possible. He continued to say “Authors often conflate submiiting to the repository to distribution from the repository,” noted that the Office of Scholarly Communication can figure out rights for authors, and encouraged faculty to “just deposit,” and that works will at least be archived if not openly distributed.

Experience with OA issues at Harvard schools other than FAS were discussed. Michelle Pearse talked about her experience working with faculty from HLS and emphasized relationship-building and establishing the library as the go-to place for faculty to negotiate OA questions and issues.

Jody Blackwell of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government told the audience they were putting procedures in place for OA, and that the school publishes an annual faculty publications report. Mark Shelton, collection development librarian at Harvard’s Gutman Library, reported that he tracks faculty publications at HUGSE and there is an average of 75-80 per month. David Osterbur of HMS informed us that the medical school does not yet have an OA policy but they do have a publications repository. With 10,000 faculty at HMS, some 300 papers appear per week. Osterbur noted that the library is helping people meet the NIH depository requirements, and yet he said that only about 45% of HMS affiliates are depositing papers into PubMedCentral. Michelle Pearse added that she tracks faculty publications in HLS, and that many faculty are familiar with OA-type publishing because of the Social Sciences Research Network. She said that it is difficult to attract retrospective content to the repository because usually faculty do not have access to the published version or a preprint.

Gosia Stergios asked the panel about bibliometrics and studies that might show the impact of OA and non-OA work.
Prof. Shieber replied that the data is available for anyone to do these studies, but that it is “hard to believe” that an OA paper would be read less than a non-OA paper.

Stergios commented that interviews with HBS faculty revealed that they don’t care if the published piece of research is OA or not. She attributed this to much research appearing in working papers and other formats prior to publication in a journal. Prof. Shieber noted that these attitudes differ by discipline. Some faculty are Ok with the “submitted article,” such as on a preprint server like ArXiv. He said he wants ” to profit from peer review.”

Stergios asked a question about providing other publication services for faculty. Prof. Suber commented that there are other vehicles for publication besides books and journals. Subsequently, Pearch brought up interdisciplinary research Prof. Shieber mentioned the Harvard Catalyst program which may enable interdisciplinary collaboration. “Faculty might not know each other,” he remarked, that they may share research interests with faculty in other schools and centers. A social networking platform could be created on top of DASH, for instance, “integrating” repository data with “Harvard Catalyst profiles.” The resulting data could be “much broader than PubMed,” in that the “profile system will serve as a data-mining platform.”

A question about metadata and quality assurance issues was posed. Prof. Shieber talked about the DSpace software and that authority control will be part of the next version of DSpace. Pearce asked about controlled vocabulary. Prof. Shieber remarked that DASH is “not using authority control with keywords;” however, he informed us, the content is indexed by Google Scholar, enabling full text searching and retrieval.

1 Comment

  1. LinewirePro

    November 12, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

    1

    Hi

    Can I use your article on my website? I will link back to your blog!

    Thx

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