Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish â€” on the Web, at least â€” free.
Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.
Although the outcome of Tuesdayâ€™s vote would apply only to Harvardâ€™s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the universityâ€™s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.
â€œIn place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,â€ said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. â€œIt will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.â€
If adopted, the system will be opt out, not opt in – and as experience from both the NIH and library repositories goes, opt in hasn’t created a groundswell among researchers. This is a bold move.
UPDATE: The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has approved the plan. Wow.