Harvard Library’s Faculty Advisers Push for Open Access

April 24, 2012

The movement toward providing open access to scholarly research seems to be continuing.  I’ve noted before the decisions by a number of different organization, including Princeton University, the Royal Society, the JStor research archive, and, most recently, the World Bank, to provide open access to some or all of their research publications.   According to an article at Ars Technica, a faculty advisory council to the Harvard University Library has just issued a memorandum urging all faculty members to move to open access publication as much as possible, because of what it terms “untenable” and “unsustainable” trends in the pricing of traditional academic journals.

… the Faculty Advisory Council is fed up with rising costs, forced bundling of low- and high-profile journals, and subscriptions that run into the tens of thousands of dollars. So, it’s suggesting that the rest of the Harvard faculty focus on open access publishing.

The library’s current budget for journal subscriptions runs to about $3.75 million.  Admittedly, this is not a large sum compared to the size of Harvard’s endowment, roughly $32 billion; but it is clear from the language of the memorandum that the members of the council have had enough of continually increasing prices that, in their view, have little economic justification.  Some of their complaints, such as the “bundling” of journal subscriptions, will sound familiar to readers familiar with the boycott of Reed Elsevier journals, organized via the Web site, thecostofknowledge.com.  (Incidentally, when I first wrote about the boycott back in January, there were 1,335 researchers who had signed up to participate; the current total is 10,200.)  They feel that the increasing consumption of library resources for these expensive journals will compromise other parts of their mission.

The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership,  reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable.

They urge faculty members to submit research to open access journals, or at least those with reasonable access policies; to try to raise the prestige of open access publication; and to consider resigning from the editorial boards of journals with unreasonable subscription policies.

The recommendations are not binding on the faculty, but I hope that they will realize, along with academics elsewhere, that they do have the power to effect considerable change.  After all, they supply the “raw material”, in the form of their papers, that the journals need to exist, and they also supply most of the editorial work, usually for no compensation.  For too long, some of these journal publishers have not only bitten the hand that feeds them, but charged the rest of the body for the privilege.

Mozilla Releases Thunderbird 12.0

April 24, 2012

Along with the Firefox 12.0 release today, Mozilla has released version 12.0 of its Thunderbird E-mail client, for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows.  The new version includes improvements to global search, and to RSS feed handling.  It also fixes 13 security flaws, 6 of which Mozilla rates as Critical.  (Firefox was affected by many of the same vulnerabilities; the two packages share a substantial amount of code.)  More details of the changes are available in the Release Notes.

You can get the new version via the built-in update mechanism (Help / Check for Updates), or you can download versions for all platforms, in more than 50 languages.  Because of the security content of this release, I recommend that you update your system fairly soon.

Update Tuesday, 24 April, 18:06 EDT

The link for the Release Notes, above, originally pointed to the notes for version 11.0; it has now been fixed to point to version 12.0.  My apologies for the error.

Mozilla Releases Firefox 12.0

April 24, 2012

Today, Mozilla released a new major version, 12.0, of its Firefox browser for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.  The new version includes some feature improvements and streamlining; it also fixes 14 identified security vulnerabilities, 7 of which Mozilla rates as Critical.  More information about the changes in this version is available inn the Release Notes.

Because of its security content, I do recommend that you upgrade to the new version soon.  You can obtain the new version via the built-in update mechanism (Help / About Firefox / Check for Updates), or you can download a complete installation package, in a variety of (human) languages.

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