The Game 2.0 : Open Access, Harvard vs. Yale – by “Paul R”

To start off, I’d first like to point to a short article that I wrote for the Herald just a few weeks ago advocating for open access policies at Yale. Geared toward a general audience, the article discusses open access at Yale especially in light of Harvard’s recent mandate requiring its faculty to upload all of their scholarly work to their new online repository. To follow up, I thought I’d use this space to detail more of what I’ve learned in terms of recent advances in open access at Yale and other universities.

Harvard has been the leader in the open access movement — on February 12, 2008, after months of discussion with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the faculty unanimously voted to mandate open access for scholarly work. The full text of the proposal can be read here and you can find an overview at their website here but in short, the faculty basically agreed to allow the university to make their work available online in a digital access repository (which as you can see already contains almost two thousand articles). The requirement of making this work available online does not, however, mean the author cannot publish in a traditional journal. Indeed, many do — this form of open access where a university self-archives but still allows traditional publication is usually referred to as “Green Open Access.” Finally, just to be clear, the system does allow faculty to waive the open access requirement upon request as long as the faculty member explains the need.

But the digital repository (Green OA) is just one part of the equation that provides for open access on the university side. As is detailed in our reading for today, the other part is publication in open access journals, otherwise known as “Gold OA”  (a directory of these journals can be found here). This form of open access is much harder to sustain because it requires funding for authors to pay for processing fees in OA journals. To this end, Harvard also created a fund, called the Harvard Open Access Publishing Equity (HOPE) fund to reimburse Harvard authors who aren’t grant-funded for processing fees in open-access journals. The fund gives reimbursement up to $3,000 (although there are currently no known journals that charge that much. The average amount of processing fees is about $1,000).

Harvard’s leadership in open access is significant not only because it was the first university in the United States to mandate open access, but also because it provides a model for implementation. In the past, most institutions had been skeptical of the beauracracy and funding needed for open access (see, i.e., Waters, “Managing Digital Assets in Higher Education: An overview of Strategic Issues” in the February 2006 report of the ARL), but Harvard has shown that they can make it work.

After Harvard announced its open access policies, a handful of other universities have also adopted similar open access policies. In particular, Stuart Shieber, the main proponent of open access at Harvard and now the director of its Office for Scholarly Communication, established the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity which currently has five signatories: Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley. Outside of this compact, there are roughly fifty institutions that have adopted at least green open access policies, and a full list of them can be found here.

Where is Yale in all of this? Currently, Yale has no such open access policies. Last year, the organization Open Access at Yale  did interviews of seventeen faculty members and found that although there was some faculty interest, Open Access was something that was little discussed. I recently exchanged emails with Meg Bellinger, the director of the newly created Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure, on the state of OA at Yale and she said that while open access was “the topic of much discussion,” currently most projects are focused on digitization, i.e. cultural heritage materials from Yale art museums. The closest thing that I’ve been able to find to Open Access at Yale is the new Digital Commons Repository created by the law school, but its still vastly underutilized (submissions from this year from faculty can be counted on one hand).

Obviously, Open Access is not something that can appear overnight. Stuart Shieber at Harvard has stressed the importance of faculty support for the issue, and this can only come with sustained advocacy and discussion. With time and effort, I hope that Yale too will soon join in on this global and open exchange of ideas.

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