Central versus institutional self-archiving

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Mon Aug 30 12:13:32 EST 2004

On Mon, 30 Aug 2004, David Goodman wrote:

> You say, "it does not matter which archive has the article." surely the
> the logical consequence is that it does not matter if it is the NIH/BMC
> archive that has the article.

I said exactly why it does not matter at all for full OA *functionality* which 
OAI-compliant archive an article is self-archived in, but I gave 3 reasons
why it *does* matter for OA *growth* within and across disciplines and
institutions whether Congress mandates PMC self-archiving specifically or
(as in the recommended amendment) merely mandates self-archiving itself,
without specifying PMC (and preferably recommending the author's own
institutional OA archive):

The 3 reasons (again) in order of priority were:

(1) Institutional self-archiving will propagate the effects of the mandate
and resulting practise across institutions and all their disciplines;
PMC-self-archiving will restrict its effects to NIH-funded funded biomedical

(2) Because all OAI-compliant OA archives are interoperable, nothing is
lost if the PMC-stipulation is dropped, as the metadata can be harvested
into PMC anyway, if desired.

(3) One needless obstacle with publishers will be removed, because 3rd-party
central self-archiving will not be needlessly stipulated.

> Why should we concern ourselves with previous publishers contracts:
> the point of regulatory action is that they will all to have to compy
> with the new standard. If we had had to negotiate library by library
> and publisher by publisher, it would have been a problem. Nut we don't.

If publishers were trying to block self-archiving altogether, then there
would necessarily be a conflict between them and the proposed mandate. But
they are not trying to block self-archiving altogether and indeed 92%
of journals have already given it the green light -- but in the form of
institutional rather than 3 central self-archiving. So since central
self-archiving is not necessary for 100% OA, and since unnecessary conflict
can only retard, not facilitate OA, it would seem reasonable to drop the
stipulation that the full-text must be self-archived in PMC.

(I have said in other postings that I think publishers' worries about
central self-archiving and free-riders are groundless and based on
a misunderstanding of the online medium and OA, but even groundless
misunderstandings can slow the progress of OA. Moreover, I repeat that
the concern about publishers' policy on central self-archiving (3) is
*not* the main reason for the recommended amendment: the propagation of
the effects of the self-archiving mandate across institutions and their
disciplines is. I have no doubt that if publisher worries about 3rd-party
free-riding were the only reason for not stipulating PMC specifically,
a PMC-specific agreement could easily be arrived at with publishers.
So, to repeat, that needless complication is neither the 1st nor the
2nd reason for recommending the amendment.)

> There are some other things in the agreement that you have previously
> said you disliked, particularly the provision for embargo periods. Do
> they no longer bother you?

I replied to you on this point in this same Forum when you first raised
it: Of course the embargo is not necessary (and I have recommended that 
the Bill use the language "at most 6 months", with no specification of
the rationale for the embargo, which it is unnecessary to state). But the
embargo will shrink naturally; the mandate, however, if it stipulates OA,
will not spread naturally.

I would not have included the embargo; and the UK recommendations
recommended immediate self-archiving (within a month of acceptance). But
if the US legislators feel it will make their Bill pass more quickly and
surely, it is far better to mandate self-archiving within a maximum of
a 6-month delay than not to mandate self-archiving at all.

The same could be said of the mandate stipulating PMC: It is far better
to mandate PMC self-archiving than not to mandate self-archiving at
all. But the difference is that in the case of the 6-month delay,
the stipulation was introduced to diminish potential opposition from
publishers, whereas in the case of stipulating PMC, it is a constraint
that both goes against the interests of OA growth *and* is (mildly)
opposed by publishers! Moreover, it is unnecessary and serves no real

> Remembering the way you used to express it, anyone who claims to favor
> OA and does not accept the UK and US mandates as regulatory starting
> points to be adopted now and improved with experience, is not helping OA.

The mandates are not yet law, hence they can still be improved by amendment.
The amendments I propose are extremely minor, but they can help OA growth
if they are made. To amend is to make better, not to reject.

> Our opponents are still alive, and kicking very fiercly. Shall we argue
> with each other over what exact form is best, or shoud we work all
> together to accept a reasonably good immediately acheivable arrangement?
> Anyone who now says, Yes, but ... is not helping OA.  

David, it was you who wrote, about the US House/NIH recommended mandate: 

    "Unlike Peter, I regard this as a typical example of what one does
    _not_ want from a government mandate."

To propose an amendment is not to oppose the mandate. (And if the
amendment were not to be adopted, I would of course strongly support
the mandate anyway.)

Stevan Harnad

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