Harvard Panel Pushes Benefits Of Free Journals

Monday, April 30, 2012

Harvard may be the world’s wealthiest university, but fees for its academic journal subscriptions have gotten so steep - some as much as $40,000 a year - that an advisory council is encouraging faculty to submit their work to “open access’’ online journals that are available for free.

The council also asked Harvard faculty to consider resigning from the editorial boards of the high-priced subscription publications and to urge professional associations to “take control’’ of scholarly literature in their fields.

In a memo sent to faculty last week, the council called the rising prices of journals, which connect researchers with cutting-edge ideas and findings, “untenable,’’ “fiscally unsustainable,’’ and “academically restrictive.’’ It is a sentiment being aired by scholars and universities around the world as academic libraries struggle with rising costs.

“The escalation is simply spectacular and it’s inflicting serious damage,’’ said Robert Darnton, a university professor and chairman of the council. The memo states that in 2010, a fifth of the library’s entire expenditures on subscriptions went to certain unnamed publishers that bundle together journals and raise prices. This year, the memo said, the library is spending about $3.75 million on journals from just those publishers.

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