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Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication Celebrates Open Access Week 2015

By Peter Suber, Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication, and Colin B. Lukens, Repository Manager


Open Access Week is an international event highlighting open access to research and promoting it as the new default for peer-reviewed scholarship. This week, the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) planned a series of outreach efforts to showcase the advantages of open access. OSC has also released posters and table-tents throughout campus highlighting the benefits of depositing materials in DASH, Harvard’s open-access repository.

Expressing thanks for an article available from DASH, one reader wrote, “I am a practising lawyer in India and currently working on [a] research project for an NGO in Bangladesh on Child Marriage. It is only because of the open and free access to research papers that has enabled me to understand the situation in detail.”

Another wrote, “DASH's Open Access [has] helped us at Bardera Polytechnic to gather some information for the Somali government to help it plan and implement economic and social policies which benefit everyone, including the government itself.” A third wrote, “As a science journalist doing research, having access to top-level scholarship is critical to my work.”

These messages point to the public good served by Harvard’s program to supplement conventional journal publication with free online access through DASH. Peter Suber, director of the OSC, adds: “Why do we do this? Because open access increases the visibility, retrievability, audience, impact, and usefulness of research.”

Faculty at all Harvard schools have now adopted open-access policies. Under these policies, faculty retain their freedom to submit new work to the journals of their choice. However, these policies also grant Harvard non-exclusive rights to distribute the peer-reviewed manuscripts through DASH. With more than six million downloads, works in DASH are reaching a global audience larger than that of any scholarly journal.

In addition to scholarly articles, DASH distributes new Harvard theses and dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and selected student capstone projects. DASH depositors receive comprehensive traffic numbers, showing how often their works are downloaded and from which countries.

DASH works are discoverable through all major search engines, including Google and Google Scholar. They reach professors and students, doctors and patients, journalists, policy-makers, nonprofits, manufacturers, and the simply curious. For a glimpse of this highly diverse group, see Your Story Matters, DASH’s ever-growing collection of messages from readers. “These stories are very moving,” Suber said. “Readers across the spectrum are grateful for barrier-free access to cutting-edge research. Sometimes DASH enables them to overcome limited library budgets. Sometimes it enables them to bypass censorship. Either way, it shows that publishing in a conventional journal leaves unmet demand. It’s simply not true that everyone who needs access already has access, and these stories are the human proof.”

Article written by Peter Suber and Colin B. Lukens.
Article published on October 21, 2015.