This is big. Harvard University has a new policy: make your scholarly articles available free online.
As Slashdot commenter hawk describes it:
The academic publishing industry is a dinosaur in desperate need of elimination. It charges tens of thousands of dollars per school for journals that would be more useful as web sites–, not and available several months earlier. As it exists, journals are for the benefit of the publishing companies, not the world at large, academia, or the authors. The economic model is that the faculty write, are paid nothing, and the libraries pay huge fees to the publishing houses.
Will the publishers react to open up? I doubt it; they can’t.
The *real* result of this will be top articles going to online journals, which will first rival and then displace the printed journals. This is a good thing for everyone except the publishing houses.
But what’s in it for me, the end user of the paper? First, faster review cycles. Second, my ideas will reach a wider target (those who are not affiliated with a powerful library and cannot access them otherwise). Third, the ideas will get there faster. Forget about the close to a year delay between accepted and printed. Seeing “In press” in the reference list may be a thing of the pass soon. Fourth, if everything is online (imagine a journal article with a ‘comments’ section, open to anyone), then soft peer review is even easier and more transparent.
Nothing of this should be news, most people have their articles online anyway… but it sometimes breaks the agreement you have with the paper journal. Now that a large university makes this practice a policy, we’ll see other universities follow up soon.