Harvard, after spending $3.7M on academic journals, pushes for open research

“Everything’s in flux, markets are rearranging,” Jonathan Rochkind, a senior programmer and analyst for Johns Hopkins University, wrote in a blog called Bibliographic Wilderness. “But I think I sense a general swing of the pendulum back to per-use fees; interestingly sometimes this is what libraries want and sometimes it’s what libraries resist, and the same for publishers and aggregators.”

Rochkind said a “downside of metered pricing”—Harvard’s recommended pay-per-use system—is that it could lead to a model that limits the number of research queries a student could submit in a university’s library collection.

That could turn college students away from respected academic journals and reliable search systems and toward the internet’s search giant.

“Google isn’t metered, and scholars and patrons can continue to abandon us for Google, even if it’s doesn’t provide them with everything we could,” he wrote, “if it’s easier to use, if it’s not metered, and we are.”

Duke University in 2010 signed on to the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE), an effort first introduced by Stuart Shieber, a computer science professor at Harvard University and director of Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication.

Nine U.S. universities have signed the pledge to “recognize the crucial value of the services provided by scholarly publishers” and underwrite “reasonable publication charges” that could make it feasible for faculty members to submit research articles to the open-access program.

The American schools that have signed COPE are Harvard, Duke, Cornell, Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the University of Michigan.

Duke, like other universities that have signed the compact, established a fund that will cover the costs of publishing academic research, according to the university library’s web site. Duke will dole out up to $3,000 a year to cover scholars’ article processing fees, and unused funds cannot roll over to the next year.

Other campuses, such as MIT, limit reimbursements to $1,000 per article, regardless of the number of researchers credited with the work, according to an MIT announcement.

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