Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Open Up the World of Learning to Everyone Who Wants to Learn"

From the New York Times:
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.

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.
Interesting addition to The Cult of the Amateur arguments. At least one professor isn't buying some of those arguments:
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.


  1. Hello Karl, I am currently a student at Elk River High School. I have a question about your "Did you Know?" video (here is the link.... ) I was wondering if I could use the music from it for a commercial I am making for a local news station. If you have the rights to that song please let me know and if you would let me use it I would be extremely grateful!

    Thanks Karl,

  2. @Drew - I need to know a little bit more about this commercial and how you're involved. Can you either leave another comment or send me an email?

    Some things I need to know are what is the commercial for, the general content of the commercial, how you're involved (class project or are you in business), who makes money, etc. It's not that I'm opposed to you using it necessarily, but I have to know a little bit more about the commercial (i.e, monetary) aspects before I can make a decision.

  3. Thank you very much for responding so quickly. The commercial is for a local food drive. A local news station in Minnesota is sponsoring the drive and requires each school participating in the drive to submit a 30 second commercial promoting it. My mom showed me this clip and right away I knew that your song would be perfect for the commercial.

    (This is entirely non-profit)
    If the commercial is good enough it will be shown on local television.

    I hope that helped a little.

    Thanks Karl,
    Drew Peterson

  4. Drew - you're welcome to use the music for this purpose. You can download the music from this page - about the middle of the page.

    I'd love to see your commercial when you get it completed!

  5. Thank you very much. If you have time could you send a typed out letter telling the news station that you gave me permission to use the music?

    (And of course sign it at the bottom and leave a phone number....the school number is fine)

    Again this is up to you, I just want to make sure they accept our commercial.

    When I complete the commercial I will post it on youtube.

    Thanks again Karl,
    Drew Peterson

    (I'm at home sick today and yesterday)