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 — on the Web, at least — free.Interesting addition to The Cult of the Amateur arguments. At least one professor isn't buying some of those arguments:
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 Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’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.
“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”
Under the proposal Harvard would deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. Authors would still retain their copyright and could publish anywhere they pleased — including at a high-priced journal, if the journal would have them.
What distinguishes this plan from current practice, said Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science who is sponsoring the faculty motion, is that it would create an “opt-out” system: an article would be included unless the author specifically requested it not be. Mr. Shieber was the chairman of a committee set up by Harvard’s provost to investigate scholarly publishing; this proposal grew out of one of the recommendations, he said.
Professor Shieber also doubts that free distribution would undermine the journal industry. "We don’t know if that would happen,” he said. “There is little evidence to support that it would." Nearly all scholarly articles on physics have been freely available on the Internet for more than a decade, he added, and physics journals continue to thrive.