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Administration and Programs

Office for Scholarly Communication

Office for Scholarly Communication


The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) was formed in 2008 in the context of widespread resolve at the University to take more ownership of its scholarly communications, by capturing and sharing the knowledge created by the faculty and broader research community at Harvard. 

The formation of the OSC was announced three months after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted unanimously in favor of a forward-thinking open-access policy (OAP). As FY 2009 ended, three of Harvard's graduate and professional schools (the Law School, the Kennedy School of Government, and the Graduate School of Education) have followed suit, adopting very similar resolutions. As a result of the four OAPs now in effect, the University has a prior, non-exclusive license in the relevant faculty members' journal articles authored for publication, and these authors have committed to making their articles openly accessible via deposit in a central Harvard repository.

The policy is opt-out, rather than opt-in, to maximize participation and move faculty towards better publishing choices and more rights retention. But faculty members always have the option to waive the policy for a particular article. The commitment to more open and efficient channels of scholarly communication comes at a time when library purchasing power, relative to the growing cost and range of scholarly information resources, is severely constrained. Hence, traditional modes of dissemination and access to scholarly resources have become decreasingly sustainable.

The OSC's main objective during its first year of operation was to manage the implementation of the FAS policy, by educating FAS faculty about the policy's compliance options and procedures; creating and operating a University-wide digital repository for Harvard scholarship; and facilitating the collection of articles falling under the OAP. Each of the three professional schools with an OAP has internal staff dedicated to building its repository collections and working directly with its faculty; hence the OSC has been less directly involved than in the case of FAS.


The OSC is directed by Stuart M. Shieber, who is also the James O. Welch, Jr., and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science. It is staffed by a program manager and a staff assistant. A digital library software engineer was added to staff in the spring of 2009. The office also employs several part-time workers, including an MSLIS student from Simmons and a professional cataloger to assist with metadata quality and the deposit authorization process, as well as several student Open Access Fellows (OAFs). OAFs are Harvard undergraduate or graduate students who work on an hourly basis and are trained to assist with recruitment and deposit of faculty publications.

Web Site

The OSC now utilizes a web-based content management system based on the Drupal platform as an all-purpose communication and documentation resource. The Drupal site is effectively divided into three sub-sites, each with its own access permissions: an internal site for use by OSC staff and affiliates, a fellows site for student workers, and an open site that will eventually serve as the OSC's public presence on the web.

OSC staff and affiliates use the internal site to set priorities and track the development of the DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) Repository; to engage in and capture conversations in forum threads; and to document technical, procedural, and policy information. The fellows site contains forums for student workers, an online handbook, a selection of information resources for conducting bibliographic and license research, and a glossary of terms used in open access; the OSC uses the site to train and communicate with fellows, coordinate their activities, and provide them with the online tools they need to complete their work. 

Faculty Education and Support

As part of an ongoing effort to educate FAS faculty about OAP implementation, all FAS departments were offered the opportunity to meet with OSC staff at their convenience. OSC staff spoke at 15 FAS departmental faculty meetings during the academic year and paid numerous visits to individual faculty and staff in other departments.

It was not unusual for the OSC to field dozens of faculty inquiries by e-mail and phone each week during the academic year. Yet other departments, upon request, received printed materials describing the policy and repository procedures, as well as customized reports concerning the self-archiving policies of the journals most important to their faculty.

Much of the support offered to faculty takes the form of mediated, or “hands-on,” deposit of their work by staff, volunteer librarians, or one of the OSC's student fellows. The success of the OAF program, once it was fully implemented in February of 2008, contributed greatly towards a steady increase from week to week in FAS deposits.

Longer term, the OSC's faculty-facing charge is to integrate use of the DASH repository into the authoring workflow.  This is a significant challenge because it involves changing entrenched behaviors around journal publication. It is made even more challenging in the short term by the discrepancy between the broadly stated Harvard OAP and the limited self-archiving grants of most journal publishers today. In most cases in which a publisher already allows the author to post his or her accepted, peer-reviewed manuscript to an institutional repository, Harvard faculty are still required to waive the University's prior open-access license.

In addition, the OSC co-sponsored two outreach events on open access during the year. Dr. Kenneth Crews, founding director of Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office, spoke on "Protecting Your Scholarship: Copyrights, Publication Agreements, and Open Access." Peter Suber, the well-known independent policy strategist, delivered a University-wide lecture on the future of open access. Suber is now spending the 2009–2010 academic year as a joint Berkman–OSC visiting fellow.

Faculty–Repository Interaction

Providing a digital repository to faculty who have already committed to the concept of self-archiving does not automatically lead to a thriving repository. Why? Most faculty members have limited time and attention for matters perceived to be outside their core research and teaching responsibilities. In addition, the intellectual property issues around self-archiving, along with the requisite agreement addenda and license waivers, are understandably off-putting to many authors. It is well established in the institutional repository arena that the most effective way to keep faculty engaged with their institution's repository is to feature individual faculty profiles, so that faculty experience the repository as a vehicle for promotion of their own work and for career advancement more generally. One of our most important repository design decisions during the year concerned how to integrate DASH with a faculty profiles front end.

Another important process decision concerned how to loop faculty authorization into the DASH workflow. Given the limited available attention of most professors, OSC moved away from the requirement of up-front faculty authorization for each deposit, and from collecting faculty affirmations and license selections during the submission process itself. Instead, the deposit workflow now includes an automatically generated e-mail to faculty after one of their articles is uploaded to a repository approval queue. The e-mail message invites the faculty member to confirm or change the back-office license selection, and to affirm the University's open-access policy. It also offers the author(s) the opportunity to remove the item from deposit altogether.

This approach results in an electronic record of the faculty author's instruction for each deposit. It also keeps the faculty more engaged with the repository on an ongoing basis, via the e-mail messaging. Finally, it makes it easier for OSC staff and OAFs to upload works without faculty approval up front, which will facilitate procedures for bulk ingests of content from outside sources, where the faculty would otherwise be unaware that their work has been deposited into DASH.

Publisher Partnerships

The Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication works along both publisher-facing and faculty-facing lines toward the goal of expanding access to the University's scholarship. One focus is on engaging the publishing community in practical ways to evolve copyright sharing and business practices, to secure the rights of Harvard faculty to make their research publications openly accessible.

The OSC has sought to engage the scholarly publishing community to address their questions and concerns, and to simplify compliance with the open-access policies. OSC staff attended and spoke at numerous academic publishing conferences over the course of the year. OSC used these opportunities to converse with publishers about Harvard's intended use of the content in its repository and resulting publisher concerns.

What emerged was a form of “treaty” in which Harvard clarified that for articles covered by the OA policy it would:

  • refrain from using facsimiles of the publisher's version of the articles unless the publisher permits;
  • not charge for the display or distribution of articles;
  • cite to the publisher's definitive version of the articles and link to them where possible; and
  • authorize others to use the articles only subject to these same restrictions.

These were already Harvard's intentions, but by highlighting them more clearly, OSC has entered into agreements with several publishers according to which they acknowledge the OA policy and do not require addenda to their publication agreements or waivers of the policy. As a result, Harvard authors publishing in their journals can more easily comply with the open-access policies they have voted, and publishers can express solidarity with their academic community partners while avoiding addenda or waivers on a per-article basis. More information and a listing of participating publishers is available on the OSC web site.

OSC concluded several such arrangements in FY 2009 and began featuring the publishers and journals that have been supportive in this way in a listing of publishers who are “easiest to publish with.” The list provides a resource for our faculty to let them know which journals they can publish in without waivers or addenda. OSC received affirmations from scholarly societies (APS, American Mathematical Society, American Economic Association), non-profit publishers (Public Library of Science, Berkeley Electronic Press), commercial publishers (BioMed Central, Hindawi Publishing), and university presses (Duke, Rockefeller, and University of California presses).

DASH: Profiles

Institutional repositories linked to faculty research profiles are in general much more successful at attracting and sustaining faculty participation than repositories without author-specific collections. The OSC is partnering with Harvard Catalyst to integrate with its existing faculty profiles system. Because Harvard Catalyst Profiles is already slated to become a central University service for faculty directory and publication information, it is well-suited to serve as a front end to DASH, with publication information shared between the two services. The social networks that the Profiles system creates will provide an interface that is even more compelling and useful to faculty than a simple collection of faculty web sites.

The synergy between Profiles and DASH promises to enrich the on-campus knowledge environment in several ways, for several audiences. Because of the information-sharing between Profiles and DASH and the data pre-population approach, all FAS faculty are included by default, and it will be very straightforward to expand the service to other faculties over time.

The DASH beta site that became publicly available in August 2009 tags Harvard authors and links them directly to faculty profiles. The Profiles site has ingested bibliographic metadata from DASH and links back to DASH full text accordingly. A more extensive integration plan for DASH and Profiles is under development, with the goal of providing faculty with a central service for managing information about their scholarly publications, feeding a variety of “critical-path” applications.

OSC in the Context of HUL

The OSC works closely with the HUL Office for Information Systems (OIS) on the development of the DASH repository (see below). In the future, many OSC activities could become more fully integrated into the libraries, and library outreach was another important area of activity this year. OSC staff met with several of the Library's standing committees throughout the year (Metadata Coordination Committee; Science Libraries Council; and Research, Education, and Outreach Committee of HCL), to talk about the OSC's mandate and to begin to explore how library staff in other divisions could take a more active role going forward in the population of and day-to-day management of the repository. OSC staff also participated regularly in the Digital Acquisitions and Collections Standing Committee (DACSC) and the Collections and Content Coordinating Committee (CCCC).

In terms of the growth and sustainability of the repository itself, it is crucial that some existing library roles evolve to include regular, ongoing support for faculty use of the repository. Library expertise is especially needed in the approval phase of the deposit process, when metadata must be edited and verified. This would be best handled by staff with both metadata/cataloging and subject-area expertise, who may already be working closely with faculty. Hands-on experience with institutional repositories would likely be welcome by many library staff, especially if it figures explicitly in their job descriptions.

Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH)

The design, population, and maintenance of a central digital repository for scholarship is at the core of the OSC's mission.

Harvard's DASH repository was released as a public beta site on August 31, 2009. A Harvard-internal beta had been available for University access and content deposits since mid-November of 2008. The count of items in DASH began rising steadily in February 2008, when the OAF program was fully deployed, and has been rising steadily since. When the DASH beta opened to the public, over 350 Harvard authors had already contributed to the repository, including roughly one-third of the 722 members of FAS. Of the 1,500-plus items in DASH at the time, the vast majority were peer-reviewed journal article manuscripts.

DASH is intended to serve as a University-wide repository for Harvard-authored scholarship. Hosting publications that fall under the OAPs is a key function of the DASH repository. But DASH is also intended to serve as a digital home for a wide and growing array of other scholarly content produced at the University. DASH will eventually have collection spaces for each of the ten schools at Harvard, and non-faculty researchers and students (with faculty sponsorship) are already afforded deposit privileges as well. The repository will eventually contain numerous books and book chapters, working papers, technical reports, dissertations, data sets, etc.

The repository is strategically designed to support deposit of faculty articles under three different license scenarios.

  • The open-access author's agreement is used if the item is subject to an OAP and the author does not seek a waiver of Harvard's prior license.
  • The so-called limited author's agreement is used if the item is not subject to an OAP, or the author receives a waiver of Harvard's license in the article, but the item is still be made publicly available.
  • A metadata-only submission, with no author agreement, is used if the author intends to register only a description of a published work, with or without a full-text manuscript for preservation purposes only.

With these three deposit options, faculty upload their articles to DASH no matter what their self-archiving rights for a particular work may be—a key component of our policy implementation strategy.

The DASH beta is a joint project of the OSC and Harvard University Library's Office for Information Systems (OIS), based on the open-source DSpace repository platform. The OSC provides strategic direction for the project and administrative support to users of the repository, and OIS is responsible for hosting and operation of the repository as well as ongoing technical development, enhancements, and integration with existing library systems. There is no single “repository manager” role per se, but rather a distributed approach to repository management.

The repository is regularly crawled and indexed by Google and other search engines. Most users arrive at DASH content as the result of a Google search. Once in DASH, users can explore the site through the browse menu, which includes several browse options: by community, by issue date, by all authors, by Harvard authors, by keywords, by item title, or by FAS department. Although it is too soon to provide data here about the usage of the repository, a variety of statistics will soon be available to authors, publishers and users of the site.

Looking Ahead

OSC's initial focus is on implementing Harvard's faculty open-access resolutions, with the development and population of a repository for Harvard-authored scholarship at the core. But the potential remit of a central office devoted to scholarly communication goes well beyond the repository, and OSC staff have already been invited into a wide range of initiatives and discussions during the past year. Hot topics include electronic dissertations, electronic journals, faculty web sites and social networks, faculty-produced digital collections of data and artifacts, campus-wide guidance on copyright issues, and standards development for author rights retention policies.