A few weeks ago, danah boyd wrote her resolve to publish only in Open Access journals. I couldn’t agree more – being an ardent supporter of scholarship that is freely accessible. One of my biggest complaint about our academic world is about the inaccessibility of research to anyone without institutional affiliation or a hefty bank account. The impact of which is that, academic work in the humanities remains largely confined to a handful of readers and commentators.
The comments to boyd’s piece were rather over-blown – highlighting the needed work of editors, production costs, peer-reviews etc etc. As if, those things are tied simply to dead-tree models of capitalism. As if, NYTimes, WSJ, and every other daily newspaper doesn’t generate revenue from online sources. As if, the pay-for-archives wall hasn’t crumbled everywhere else. The simple fact is that there are enough alternate revenue streams for any peer-review, niche academic jorunal to make its living via an open, public, archive and publication model. Other commentators, fixated on the struggle to start new OA journals – and the requirements of tenure stream to stick with prestigious print models. Good points both. The first step is, of course, to convince journals to move to Open Access.
Which is why the vote by Harvard Arts and Science Faculty to republish their scholarly work is such a welcome new step.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need. To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository. The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.
Not enough, but a good start, nonetheless. We also need to work to free the archives.
JSTOR (Journal Storage) began as a Mellon grant project to make digital copies of Journal back catalogs with universities subscribing through a two-tiered model – the initial Database Development Fee and the on-going Annual Access Fee. Fees that are often lacking for the scholars in the global south. I have done my share of copying articles for friends in Delhi or Karachi but I really would like to see the archives available to everyone. JSTOR – a non-profit – can spend some mental muscle figuring out ways to make money off of eye-balls. JSTOR results are already included in Google searches (through scholars.google.com but, often, also in normal search). So, some one is already making ad-sense money off those searches.
JSTOR can simply point towards the publishers of academic journals as the copyright holders who will resist any such effort. It is a valid point. A twin-pronged approach is thus needed.
One: Those of us, not at Harvard or not willing to take up boyd’s rallying cry, can still insist on retaining re-publishing rights on our work. We can also seek to pressure our field’s leading journals to open up their archives. And Two: We need to pressure JSTOR to open up its archives and find alternative revenue streams.