Open access at MIT and Harvard

MIT now has recently adopted an open access policy, which means that all MIT faculty grant MIT the right to make their scholarly publications available on an open access basis, with the possibility of a waiver on an individual case-by-case basis.

Story via John Baez. This follows a similar initiative at Harvard. Both announcements are non-retrospective.

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This is probably a good thing...

...but I wonder if maybe this isn't pushing things too far in the other direction, as the discussion suggests.

However, I think some of the worst offenders are the journals, actually. Especially ones that charge authors substantial fees publishing their papers, charge institutions and other members of the public outrageous amounts of money for access, and are largely run by volunteer editorial boards. I honestly don't give a damn about how "prestigious" a journal like that is, that's dishonestly shuffling an undue amount of money into the publisher's pockets, and certain journals deserve to be boycotted for this very reason.

As John Baez points out, scholars *are* suckers.

Scholars have better things to worry about...

From the few scholars I know, it's probably a good thing to let them focus on solving the intricacies of their respective fields without having to worry about the details of present copyright law in the US.

Yes, this move is mostly a grab for power by the Universities from the publishers, but the power structures and interests of Universities align much better with the scientific community as a whole than those of for-profit publishers, and so, this is a Good Thing.

A new model - 'web of respect'

I can see the refereed journals being supplanted by an online review and referee mechanism. Just as secretaries have been replaced by word processors, making each writer responsible for their own editing, journals can be replaced by alternate grading and respect-scoring mechanisms.

There is still a place for many parts of the mechanism such as arranging for anonymous referees. But this is yet another case for the net replacing a middleman. Those functions will continue in another, probably better form.