Profs Might Make Their Articles Free

Faculty Council proposes ‘open access’ for journal articles

The Faculty Council, the 18-member governing body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), advanced a measure yesterday that would make articles written by Harvard professors in scholarly journals available online at no cost.

The proposal would create a system of “open access” whereby the authors could make their work available either on a personal or university Web site for free, according to Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature Judith L. Ryan, who serves on the council.

Professors would have the option to opt out of the new system, Ryan said.

“The problem this is supposed to address is the increasing monopoly that has developed on the part of scholarly journals, who are now making it increasingly difficult for people to access the material they publish,” she said.

“Libraries everywhere are paying huge amounts to scholarly journals,” she added, “and that means the amount of money they can spend on other purchases is increasingly squeezed.”

The program has been spearheaded by Welch Professor of Computer Science Stuart M. Shieber. According to Ryan, Shieber has appeared before the council three times in the past year and a half and has worked closely with the University Office of General Counsel to address any possible legal issues.

Shieber could not be reached for comment last night.

Jayne Professor of Government Jennifer L. Hochschild, who is also a professor of African and African American Studies, said that this measure would address both an affordability and accessibility issue.

“It’s an issue that directly affects students—that’s a lot of money in your coursepack,” said Hochschild.

The proposal will now come before the full faculty for a vote. Ryan said she expected it to be addressed at a Faculty meeting this term.

The measure will immediately take effect if passed, according to Ryan, and the publishers will have little recourse.

“It is pretty certain that other universities would follow,” she said, “And that is crucial because it would put pressure on big publishers.”

—Staff writer Alexandra Hiatt can be reached at ahiatt@fas.harvard.edu.