Stuart M. Shieber discusses ecumenical open access and the Finch report principles

The principles underlying the Finch report – access, usability, quality, cost and sustainability – are broadly to be commended, writes Stuart M. Shieber in his chapter for Debating Open Access, a new publication from the British Academy. However, the report’s specific recommendations are short-term prescriptions that may lead to a limited increase in the amount of OA at a very high cost. In particular, it equates open access journals and hybrid journals, offering support to both of these models. However, the hybrid model entrenches the dysfunctional subscription model to the exclusion of the competitive and sustainable open access model. A preferable approach is to require authors to provide open access, but to be ecumenical about how that is achieved – through self-archiving or open access or hybrid journals – while providing support only for true open access journals.

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Stuart M. Shieber is James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. His primary research field is computational linguistics, the study of human languages from the perspective of computer science. His research contributions have extended beyond that field as well, to theoretical linguistics, natural-language processing, computer-human interaction, automated graphic design, the philosophy of artificial intelligence, computer privacy and security, and computational biology. He is the founding director of the Center for Research on Computation and Society and a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Professor Shieber received an AB in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1981 and a PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 1989. He was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator award in 1991, and was named a Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1993, one of only thirty in the country in all areas of science and engineering. He has been awarded two honorary chairs: the John L. Loeb Associate Professorship in Natural Sciences in 1993 and the Harvard College Professorship in 2001. He was named a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence in 2004, and the Benjamin White Whitney Scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for 2006-07. His work on open access and scholarly communication policy, especially his development of Harvard’s open access policies, led to his appointment as the first director of the university’s Office for Scholarly Communication (, where he oversees initiatives to open, share and preserve scholarship.

Read more about Debating Open Access, a collection of a series of 8 reflecting on the challenges and opportunities for humanities and social sciences open access publishing practices.

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British Academy

The British Academy is the UK’s national body which champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It is an independent, self-governing fellowship of scholars, elected for their distinction in research and publication. Our purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.

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