Yesterday The Harvard Crimson published an Op-Ed by Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, who has set the groundwork to create an Office for Scholarly Communication which will manage an open access repository hosting the works of Harvard’s faculty of arts and science (FAS). This project will be established to make these publications available to the entire world, and not just those who can afford the expensive journals in which they are often published. Articles will be available through the university’s OPAC Hollis.

The project’s goal is two fold. First it aims at sharing Harvard’s wealth of information, and second it hopes to make a statement against the high prices of many academic journals. Darnton has only recently taken on the job of university librarian, but promises large moves towards accessibility and openness. Actually this effort to make all faculty publications freely accessible comes on the heels of other projects at Harvard making more and more of their collections available to everyone. Currently the university participates in the Harvard-Google project which will make monographs in the public domain actually available to the public. Their Open Collection Program is working hard to digitize many of the treasures housed at their various libraries and making them available to everyone.

This new initiative to make faculty’s publications available to the world for free establishes an automatic “op-in” stance, requiring faculty who don’t want to participate to fill out a waiver. In terms of copyright, the project would make faculty share copyright with the university library which would allow the library to publish the material, but it would still allow faculty to publish their work in other venues which allow for non-exclusive copyright. This set up should not hinder or devaluate publications by faculty members, and Darnton explains that for those participating in the project, they will benefit from having the full weight of the institution behind them.

You can read the Op-Ed in the Harvard Crimson here, or an article on the subject from Library Journal here. The university’s Open Access policy is here.

05.21.08 – The Harvard Law School has also joined this initiative, making them the first law school to adopts such a commitment towards open access. You can read more about this here.