Campus & Community

Stuart M. Shieber to lead new OSC

6 min read

Announcement marks new era in open access to current research, scholarship

Stuart M. Shieber ’81, Harvard’s James O. Welch Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science, will serve as director of the University’s new Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC). Harvard University Provost Steven E. Hyman made the appointment, which he announced today (May 22) with Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library (HUL).

“As chair of the Provost’s Committee on Scholarly Communication, as director of the Center for Research on Computation and Society and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center, and as author of the open-access motion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Stuart has already established a vision and leadership in the vital area of open access,” said Hyman. “With Stuart at the helm, Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication has the potential to exert worldwide leadership in promoting open access and in moving the academic world toward a more sustainable publishing system.”

The impetus for Shieber’s appointment and the launch of OSC was the adoption by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University of a policy that granted the University the right to make FAS faculty members’ scholarly articles freely available everywhere in the world. Shieber authored the policy motion, which passed unanimously.

Shieber emphasized that “dissemination of the knowledge that our scholarly activities generate is central to the mission of the University. The OSC has the potential for unparalleled expansion of the scope of that dissemination, to the benefit of our faculty, the Harvard community, academia, and the public. I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead Harvard’s efforts in this endeavor, and hope that Harvard’s activities in promoting scholarly communication can be exemplary for the academic community as a whole.”

Said Darnton, “The Harvard University Library has long been engaged by the many questions of access to scholarship that face the University, and we have worked closely with Stuart Shieber and the Provost’s Committee on Scholarly Communication in the formulation of a policy that ensures Harvard’s leadership role in open-access endeavors. Stuart’s appointment marks the launch of the Office for Scholarly Communication as a program of the Harvard University Library and brings HUL’s engagement with scholarly communication to an entirely new level that is consonant with our mission to provide comprehensive access over time to the fullest possible range of scholarly materials.”

HUL created the OSC to enable individual faculty members to distribute their scholarly writings in keeping with the University’s long-standing policy that “when entering into agreements for the publication and distribution of copyrighted materials individuals will make arrangements that best serve the public interest.” The OSC, which will be under the oversight of a faculty advisory committee, will be responsible for executing the University’s open-access policy. It will undertake many related activities, which could include the online distribution of Ph.D. dissertations and of gray literature (datasets, technical reports, occasional lectures), support for open-access journal publishing, and sponsoring of conferences. The OSC also will coordinate other University-wide open-access initiatives, and all the faculties of the University will be invited to join in a common effort to transmit scholarly articles to a central repository.

“The open-access repository at Harvard is meant to promote openness in general,” Darnton said. “It will make the current scholarship of Harvard’s faculty freely available everywhere in the world, just as the digitization of the books in Harvard’s library will make learning accumulated since 1638 accessible worldwide. Taken together, these and other projects represent a commitment by Harvard to share its intellectual wealth.”

Shieber’s primary research field is computational linguistics — the study of human languages from the perspective of computer science. Shieber received an A.B. in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1981 and a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University in 1989. Having joined the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1989, Shieber was named John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences in 1993, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science in 1996, Harvard College Professor in 2001, and James O. Welch Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science in 2002.

Shieber was given a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991, and was named a Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1993, one of only 30 in the country in all areas of science and engineering. He was named a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence in 2004. He is the founding director of the Center for Research on Computation and Society and the faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

“It is because of Stuart Shieber’s tenacity and hard work that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard became the first academic organization in the country to adopt an open-access policy,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. “Through countless meetings, conversations, and presentations, Stuart spoke with our faculty, and they overwhelmingly supported the proposal. There are few on this campus more knowledgeable of every aspect of the open-access issue — legal, ethical, and practical — than Stuart, and I know of no one better qualified to direct the new Office for Scholarly Communication. This is a superb appointment that will benefit all faculty members at Harvard.”

Shieber is the author, co-author, or editor of five books and numerous articles. Most recently, Shieber edited “The Turing Test” (MIT Press, 2004), which explores the philosophical basis for attributing intelligence to machines.

“As a computer scientist deeply interested in societal challenges, Stuart is perfectly positioned to help explore and shape the ongoing, and often unpredictable, evolution of scholarship in the digital age,” stated Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Students, faculty, and administrators alike will benefit from his deft ability to remain clearheaded about complicated issues, from copyright to peer review to distribution. After all, the Web and digital devices are rewriting, almost daily, the rules of publishing. I applaud Harvard’s bold decision to become an active player and innovator in finding new ways to preserve and promote knowledge. This is exactly the role a world-class university must play as the technical, economic, and ethical arenas all merge into bits.”

On May 1, Harvard Law School faculty voted unanimously to join the FAS in making each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free, making HLS the first law school to commit to open access. “This exciting development is something in which the whole Harvard Law School community can take great pride,” said John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and newly appointed vice dean of library and information resources. “The acceptance of open access ensures that our faculty’s world-class scholarship is accessible today and into the future. I look forward to working with the OSC in implementing this commitment.”