Harvard University has adopted a new policy that may jeopardize the future of academic publishing. According to a piece on Bloomberg.com, the school’s professors have now been afforded much more leeway to publish their research for free online.
Harvard’s decision lends support to the growing open-access movement in academia, an approach opposed by journal-industry representatives who say bypassing journals and their peer-review process may harm the quality of published research.
“This is a large and very important step for scholars throughout the country,” Stuart Shieber, a computer science professor who sponsored the motion to adopt the new policy, said in a statement released after the vote. “It should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated.”
The article gets at the other side of the argument by quoting Ian Russell, chief executive officer of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers in the U.K.:
Russell, who represents both nonprofit and commercial publishers, said journals enhance scholarly work through the peer review process, the prestige they carry and links to previous work.
“Why should that be free? That’s value-added material that publishers are adding over and above the raw material,” Russell said. “It’s like saying you can dig silver out of the ground, and therefore silver knives and forks should be free.”