Harvard University sent a memo to its 2,100-member teaching and research staff saying its libraries can no longer afford the rising prices imposed by scientific journal publishers, reports The Guardian's Ian Sample. "The memo from Harvard's faculty advisory council said major publishers had created an 'untenable situation' at the university by making scholarly interaction 'fiscally unsustainable' and 'academically restrictive', while drawing profits of 35 percent or more," Sample says. In the memo, Harvard encourages its researchers to submit their work to open-access journals and to resign from the boards of non-open-access journals, he adds.
At In the Pipeline, Derek Lowe calls the move "the biggest upheaval that I can remember in the scientific literature." And at the We, Beasties blog, Kevin Bonham says Harvard's decision could be a "game changer" in the debate. "Harvard's name alone commands attention, and if a university with such an enormous endowment is labeling costs as unsustainable, other institutions are bound to take notice," he adds.
Pharmalot's Ed Silverman says the Harvard memo isn't the first sign that major institutions are growing disenchanted with the current publishing model. Wellcome Trust plans to launch a new scientific journal called eLife which would make its articles freely available on the Internet. "And the Trust plans to tell researchers who do not allow open access in line in accordance with Trust policy that they could lose out when they apply for research grants," Silverman adds.