Harvard Library's faculty advisory council says that the annual cost for journals from publishers is prohibitively high, but instead of asking for more funding, it recommends that faculty support open access — an effort to provide unrestricted access to peer-reviewed journal articles. According to the advisory council's memorandum, Harvard's library spends nearly $3.75 million on journals each year, and prices for online content from two of its providers has increased by 145 percent over six years, "which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices." The advisory council says that the "situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called 'providers') to acquire, bundle and increase the pricing on journals." It may sound strange that Harvard, which possesses the largest endowment in higher education, would complain about journal prices — but if it leads the way with open access, individuals and smaller schools and organizations could benefit.
To solve the situation, the advisory council suggests that faculty should publish their own papers with open access policies, and consider submitting their articles to open access journals or those with sustainable subscription costs — to "move prestige to open access." The council also recommends that faculty who are on the editorial board of a journal should consider resigning if they determine the journal can't be published as open access content, and for faculty to raise the issue of open access with professional organizations and peers. It's not clear what the future of peer review would look like in an open access world, and Harvard's faculty will actually have to accept the advisory council's recommendation for it to have any impact, but it's nonetheless a positive development for those who prefer broad access to knowledge.