Saturday, August 30, 2008

In the digital age, Widener is "almost a museum"

Earlier this week, I was lamenting the state of research and the dissemination of knowledge in academia. Despite the incredible tools at the disposal of students, scholars, and professors, paper is still the medium of choice when it comes to publishing research and sharing knowledge.

I am not alone. This morning I was reading the September-October issue of Harvard Magazine, and spotted this quote from Venkatesh Narayanamurti, the outgoing dean of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences:
"I believe that the liberal-arts education of the twenty-first century has to be different," he says, noting that information is no longer centered in Widener Library. "The library made Harvard -- we have always had the rarest things, the best repository of knowledge, [but] information now is digital; it is on the Web. Widener Library is very valuable, but it is almost a museum."
When it comes to publishing, the Extension School is also very much oriented toward paper. Theses are bound in buckram and end up on shelves in Grossman Library. They may never be seen or read outside of the university community.

I really hope to see the Extension School and other academic units at Harvard embrace digital publishing and other Web-based ways of distributing knowledge in the next few years, so our collective efforts can be truly shared with the world, rather than being restricted to the museums of paper that dominate the campus.Widener Library, photo by Ian Lamont

Update: I just found out that in February of 2008, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved a plan that will "post finished academic papers online free, unless scholars specifically decide to opt out of the open-access program." The source indicates that the policy applies to professors, but it's not clear whether student papers or research will be published online as well.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Is there any information on the Harvard Post-Bacc premed program? I would be curious to find some info.