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For Immediate Release
June 26, 2008

For more information, contact:
Jennifer McLennan
(202) 296-2296 ext 121

Washington, DC – June 26, 2008 – SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has named the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University as the newest SPARC Innovators for their unanimous vote in support of a policy that ensures Open Access to the faculty’s published research results.

A February 12 vote made the Harvard faculty the first in the U.S. to embrace an Open Access directive and the first to grant permission to the university to make their articles openly available. The policy, drafted by a 10-member provost’s committee, was ratified by unanimous vote of a quorum of faculty members.

The Harvard FAS vote and Open Access policy emerged at a time when there is growing concern among faculty that traditional publishing processes are not ensuring maximum access to their research.

“The FAS vote confirms that broadening access to their collective output is of fundamental importance to our faculty, and that they are willing to take strong and decisive action to ensure the accessibility of their works,” adds Stuart M. Shieber, professor of computer science at Harvard, Chair of the provost’s committee, and recently named director of the university’s new Office of Scholarly Communication.

The new SPARC Innovator profile details the process that led to the faculty’s ultimate vote.  It explores motivations behind the decision to take action, looks at how members of the faculty were informed and engaged, why the Open Access requirement and its opt-out provision emerged, and how Harvard has paved the way for other institutions to follow suit.

“People think Harvard can do this kind of thing because Harvard is so rich,” said Shieber. “The irony is that the reason people here got involved was the financial unsustainability – even at Harvard – of the current scholarly publishing regime, which has led to a steady erosion of access as we and other institutions must cancel subscriptions. The goal of this and future policies we will develop is not to save money. The goal is to broaden access.”

“Harvard’s leadership on this issue is an inspiration to academic institutions across the country,” said Diane Graves, University Librarian at Trinity University in San Antonio. “Thanks to Harvard’s prestigious reputation and the unanimous vote by the Arts and Sciences faculty, colleges and universities throughout North America have the incentive to start – or strengthen – similar conversations between their libraries and the faculty.  This landmark vote – and the votes that are sure to follow – signals the beginning of a new, sustainable model for scholarly communication.”

“Harvard’s success was possible because of the determination of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to ensure the widest exposure of their research. We hope their forward-looking step will serve as invitation to other campuses and departments of all kinds to explore their own policies for research access,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “It is SPARC’s pleasure to highlight their achievement in as many ways as we can.”

“It always takes more work to be first,” said Michael Carroll, professor of law at Villanova University and consultant on the policy. “The trail has now been broken and it’s a lot easier for others to follow.”

To read the full June 2008 SPARC Innovator profile, visit the SPARC Innovator Web page at http://www.arl.org/sparc/innovator/.
The SPARC Innovator program recognizes advances in scholarly communication propelled by an individual, institution, or group. Typically, these advances exemplify SPARC principles by challenging the status quo in scholarly communication for the benefit of researchers, libraries, universities, and the public. SPARC Innovators are featured on the SPARC Web site semi-annually and have included student leaders; Ted and Carl Bergstrom; Melissa Hagemann of the Open Society Institute; the University of California; and Herbert Van de Sompel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. SPARC Innovators are selected by the SPARC staff in consultation with the SPARC Steering Committee.

Individuals can nominate their colleagues as potential SPARC Innovators at http://www.arl.org/sparc/innovator/nominate.html.

For further information or a list of previous SPARC Innovators, please see the SPARC Web site at http://www.arl.org/sparc.


SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), with SPARC Europe and SPARC Japan, is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. SPARC’s advocacy, educational, and publisher partnership programs encourage expanded dissemination of research. SPARC is on the Web at http://www.arl.org/sparc/.