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Harvard law faculty votes for open access

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The Harvard Law School (HLS) faculty unanimously voted last week to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free, making HLS the first law school to commit to an open access mandate.

The vote came after an open access proposal was made by a university-wide committee aimed at encouraging wider dissemination of scholarly work. The HLS mandate is the 4th in the US and the 44th in the world. Similar initiatives are underway to promote free and open access to scholarly articles elsewhere, although no initiative extends as far as Harvard's.

Under the new policy, HLS will make articles authored by faculty members available in an online repository, whose contents would be searchable and available to other services such as Google Scholar. Authors can also legally distribute the articles on their own websites, and educators here and elsewhere can freely provide the articles to students, so long as the materials are not used for profit.

John Palfrey, Harvard’s executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and newly appointed vice dean of library and information resources announced: ‘I'm delighted that the Harvard Law School faculty has voted unanimously to adopt an open access policy. This policy is consistent with the policy adopted by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences earlier this year.’

Harvard librarian, Professor Robert Darnton said: 'That such a renowned law school should support open access so resoundingly is a victory for the democratisation of knowledge. Far from turning its back to the outside world, the HLS is sharing its intellectual wealth.'