The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard has voted to create a free digital repository that would include articles and monographs that previously would have been restricted to scholarly journals that charge extraordinarily high prices to very small readerships. The move was described as the first step in freeing knowledge from the “stranglehold of commercial publishers:
In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.
The repository which was created as part of a set of recommendations from a provost’s committee on Scholarly publishing, would include all articles unless the author opts out of having the included. Opponents of the measure argue that the digital repository system may diminish the quality of research by bypassing rigorous peer reviews provided by the journals or by eliminating the subsidy of less popular journals by income from more popular ones.
Physics, among other disciplines, has been freely distributing research papers for more than a decade without any detrimental effects to the field’s major journals.