There has been growing concern in the academic world with regards to the high prices academic publishing houses are charging for journals and their practice of bundling the journals forcing institutions to pay high fees.
The publications are essential for research, but at inflated rates it is a situation that is untenable for research by many institutions, let alone private researchers.
This is leading to a growing movement toward open source research, though that still has a long way to go.
Exasperated by rising subscription costs charged by academic publishers, Harvard University has encouraged its faculty members to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.
A memo from Harvard Library to the university’s 2,100 teaching and research staff called for action after warning it could no longer afford the price hikes imposed by many large journal publishers, which bill the library around $3.5m a year.
The extraordinary move thrusts one of the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious institutions into the centre of an increasingly fraught debate over access to the results of academic research, much of which is funded by the taxpayer.
The outcome of Harvard’s decision to take on the publishers will be watched closely by major universities around the world and is likely to prompt others to follow suit.