Harvard Proposal to Publish Scholarly Research Free on the Internet - New York Times
A few days before this bit of news, Apophenia announced that she will boycott locked down journals, and explains why in this blog post and its comments.
In the nytimes article, I'm slightly disappointed to see no mention of free access to physics journals until the second to last paragraph. I don't see why arts and humanities would separate themselves so much from other scholars as to think physics scholarship wouldn't follow similar patterns as theirs in publication. Even in different disciplines, communities of scholars follow some of the same ideas of co-authorship, citations, and politics.
I don't believe that free access will degrade the quality of scholarship just because anyone will be able to read, write, and cite. These rules of politics will prolly continue to govern scholarly papers, who the bigshots are, who gets tenure, and who gets cited most often.
What I do predict is a possible revolution in the way information filters down to undergraduates and even students in secondary schools. Just yesterday in an Upper School inservice we discussed how do we teach our students to find and evaluate information, and furthermore how do we model that for our students? How do we go about finding published information in whatever discipline or field, and evaluating it?
When I'ved tried to model this, it has involved things like going to the cited articles in a Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, some of the best citations on a wiki page are locked up in databases that I can access through my Penn login ID, but the students would have no access on their own. If more articles are freely available, it might not only improve the quality of Wikipedia pages, but improve the research experience for people who use Wikipedia.
The unavailability of locked down articles is another reason I haven't introduced my students to Google Scholar. Many times I find good titles and abstracts through Google Scholar, but I can only retrieve the full text through EBSCO Megafile or PennText article finder. Google Scholar would be a much more valuable resource in the classroom for modeling scholarship and research if the articles were freely available.