NYTimes.com Article: In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Aug 3 14:39:35 EST 2003


> In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever By VIVIEN MARX
> http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/03/edlife/03EDTECH.html
> 
> ''institutional repositories'' designed to harness their
> own intellectual output.

Unfortunately "harness" and "intellectual output" are a bit too vague
to explain what institutional repositories are meant to contain, and
why. They can contain many things, but what the open-access movement
is concerned about is institutional research output, in particular, the
2,000,000 research articles written annually by institutional researchers,
and published in the planet's 20,000 peer-reviewed journals.

Publishing articles in journals is not "harnessing," it is publishing.
But what researchers can do with the help of their institutional
repositories is to maximize the visibility, usage and impact of those
articles by depositing them in those repositories to make them
accessible toll-free to all potential users worldwide. *That* is
certainly harnessing the institution's intellectual output. 

It is important, though, not to mix up the self-archiving of published
articles with either self-publishing them (instead of publishing them
in refereed journals), or with founding new institutional journals to
publish them in. It is also important not to mix up the kind of
institutional intellectual output that its authors are interested in
making accessible toll-free to one and all (like refereed research
articles), because it is written for research impact alone, with the
kind of institutional intellectual output that its authors are definitely
*not* interested in making accessible toll-free to one and all (such as
royalty-bearing books, textbooks, software etc.), written for other
reasons.

Courseware too, is a new form of intellectual output that is not
necessarily going to go the same route as refereed research (though it
might). 

> Scholarly Storage. Traditionally, journals make research
> public after peer review, which can take months, sometimes
> years. Archives like DSpace, however, collect unpublished
> work -- documents of any length, lecture notes, photos,
> videos, computer simulations, blueprints, software -- in
> all disciplines and make most of it available to anyone as
> soon as it's received. .

It doesn't help to lump all this stuff together. Yes, institutional
archives can and should deal with all sorts of digital content. But the
case of self-archived refereed research articles is distinct and will
not be understood (or accelerated) if it is simply lumped with the
rest. And although more rapid access is certainly one of the
advantages of self-archiving research before and after refereeing and
publication, it is the toll-free access to it that is even more salient
(and salutary) than the speed.

> Here to Eternity. ''Loss'' is propelling the movement. When
> a grant fizzles, when a professor resigns, retires or just
> buys a new computer, work can get lost. University
> libraries hope to preserve this material forever -- not
> exactly a common time span in the digital fast lane, where
> hardware and software sunset soon after reaching the
> marketplace.

This is again conflating the special case of refereed research -- whose
problem is not preservation but access -- with all the rest, where
preservation is the concern. Refereed research is published in journals.
Until further notice, there is no *new* preservation burden there: In
paper, it was the libraries who preserved the journals on their shelves
(regardless of which authors retired or resigned!). Online, libraries
will no doubt play a part too. But not as part of preserving their *own*
institutional intellectual output! It will be part of their (probably
collective) strategy of preserving their digital *buy-in* collections:
The periodicals that they buy in through access tolls (and containing
mostly the intellectual output of *other* institutions).

The self-archived versions of the institutions' own individual
contributions to that published refereed corpus are merely supplements to
those publications, provided in order to maximize *other* institutions'
access *to* them, and thereby their own institutional research impact; 
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/unto-others.html
these supplements do not have a separate preservation problem or
burden. Of course their contents will be maintained, for continued
toll-free access and impact. Their problem, however, is not preservation,
but presence! For most institutional refereed research is not yet
self-archived at all. It is a systematic self-archiving policy that
institutions need most now; then they will have something more to preserve!
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/archpolnew.html
http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue35/harnad/
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2670.html

So whereas digital archiving in general is no doubt propelled by 
fear of eventual loss, the open-access movement is propelled by
the desire for immediate access (and eventual impact).

> The Journal Backlash. Institutional repositories are novel
> in that much of their content sidesteps academic
> publishers, which have come under attack from the so-called
> open-access movement. Some scholars complain that journals
> delay publication of research and limit the audience
> because of their soaring costs.

"Side-steps" is misleading, implying that authors self-archive a paper
*instead* of publishing it in a refereed journal: What they do is
self-archive it *in addition* to publishing it in a refereed journal, in
order to maximize its impact by providing toll-free access.

> Out of frustration with journals' limitations, some
> scientists have started their own archives. This fall, the
> new Public Library of Science will begin making
> peer-reviewed articles accessible free to all online.

Two very different things are being conflated here: Yes, scientists are
self-archiving their journal publications in their institutional
archives, in order to maximize their access and impact. But the Public
Library of Science is not such an institutional archive. It is the
publisher of two new journals whose policy is to make all their articles
open-access. (They are in fact archived in the PubMed Central Archive
rather than the authors' own institutional archives.)

> Stevan Harnad... started a digital archive for his field in 1997. 

http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/
But since then things have evolved, and CogPrints, a central archive,
has spawned the Eprints software http://www.eprints.org/ which,
like DSpace, is for distributed institutional self-archiving (over
70 institutions already use it), but, unlike DSpace, Eprints is designed
for and devoted very specifically to the self-archiving of refereed
research output http://www.eprints.org/self-faq/ (although it can in
principle be used for the other institutional archiving purposes as well).
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/0293.html

> He says that the subscription-based model ''holds
> peer-reviewed articles hostage.'' He advocates that
> scholars put their work in online archives first so it can
> be available immediately and free.

The emphasis should be on self-archiving papers *in addition to*
publishing them in peer-reviewed journals. (The "first" just refers 
to the pre-peer-review preprint, which is an additional bonus, though
optional. What primarily needs to be self-archived to make it accessible
toll-free is the final peer-reviewed draft.)

The toll-based model is another matter: It may or may not eventually be
replaced by an open-access publishing model. 
http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/harnad.html#B1
But what is already within reach is open-access itself, through
institutional self-archiving, regardless of whether or when there is
ever a transition to open-access publishing.
http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/boaifaq.htm#journals

> Jeffrey Drazen, editor in chief of The New England Journal
> of Medicine, argues that his readers want information
> ''that is highly meritorious and rigorously reviewed so
> that they don't make patient treatment decisions based on
> premature findings.'' But he acknowledges the
> self-archiving movement and says the journal is rethinking
> its rules that prevent it from considering material that
> has been made public in a digital archive.

This is a slightly different matter: It used to be the case (the
"Ingelfinger Rule") that some journals would not peer-review a paper
whose unrefereed preprint had already been self-archived. As
Dr. Drazen indicates, this policy is now being revised. But,
as noted, it is less the unrefereed preprint than the
peer-reviewed postprint that is the main target for institutional
self-archiving. As journals come to recognize the great benefits of
open-access to researchers, they are coming to support institutional
self-archiving: http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/rcoptable.gif
http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/archive/00001703/

> Archives like DSpace ''build on a growing grassroots
> faculty practice of posting research online,'' says Rick
> Johnson, a director of the Scholarly Publishing and
> Academic Resources Coalition. He doesn't think they are a
> substitute for journals but offer ''the best of both
> worlds: you get the work certified by a journal and the
> benefit that provides for promotion and tenure. At the same
> time you get your work exposed more broadly than in a
> journal alone.''

Rick's statement captures the essence of it.
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/che.htm

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

    http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html
                            or
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/index.html

Discussion can be posted to: september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 





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