September 14, 2009, 03:00 PM ET
5 Major Research Universities Endorse Open-Access Journals
In an effort to support alternatives to traditional scholarly publishing, five major research universities announced their joint commitment to open-access journals on Monday.
The institutions—Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley—signed a compact agreeing to the “timely establishment” of mechanisms for providing financial support for free open-access journals.
While conventional journals require institutions to pay subscription fees to access articles, open-access publications make their material free to the public, thus aiding libraries forced to cut back during difficult financial times, officials at the universities believe.
John M. Saylor, associate university librarian for scholarly resources and special collections at Cornell, says it is a much healthier research environment when the financial burden is taken off the reader and everyone has access to the same research. Mr. Saylor says, however, that the challenge now is to develop a system that pays for the operation of journals that give away the store. “We just don’t know if it’s going to be too expensive,” he said.
According to Robert B. Townsend, an assistant director at the American Historical Association, one of the problems with a commitment to open-access journals is that it does not “acknowledge the stark differences between journals in the sciences and other fields," as far as the cost of operating the journals is concerned. He says he is “suspicious of the one-size-fits-all logic that seems implicit in this compact.”