In a major step forward for the open
access movement, on September 15th 2009, Berkeley, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology announced a joint commitment to provide their researchers with central
financial assistance to cover open access publication fees, and encouraged
other academic institutions to join them. The aim of the Compact for Open Access Publication Equity (COPE) is
to create a level playing field between subscription-based journals (which
institutions support centrally via library budgets) and open access journals
(which often depend on publication fees).
The Compact commits each university
"the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting
reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and
published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions
would not be expected to provide funds".
BioMed Central has long noted the asymmetry between the central support given by institutions to subscription journals via library budgets, in contrast to the relative lack of such central support for open access publishing models at most academic institutions, even where those institutions have strong policies in favour of increasing access to scholarly research.
Central institutional open access funds are a natural approach to dealing with this problem, but the practical challenges involved in reshaping the flow of funds that support scholarly communication should not be underestimated, especially given the challenging economic circumstances. This makes the achievement of Harvard and its partners in realizing the Open Access Compact all the more impressive.
The two-pronged approach pioneered by Harvard – mandating deposit of faculty publications into the university’s Open Access repository while also providing explicit support for fully open publishing models – looks set to be an extremely influential model and has the potential to dramatically accelerate the already rapid growth of open access journals.
Three of the five institutions listed as signatories of the Compact already have open access funds in place:
- Berkeley fund (launched January 2008)
- Cornell fund (launched September 2009)
- Harvard fund (launched September 2009)
Dartmouth and MIT have yet to announce what form their own funding arrangements for open access publishing will take, but are commited, via the Compact, to putting such funding in place in a timely manner.