Mandating OA around the corner?

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Jul 18 09:35:04 EST 2004


On Sun, 18 Jul 2004, David Goodman wrote:

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

I am afraid I have to agree 100% with Peter rather than David on this one.
Though not yet perfect, the NIH proposal is very useful and very welcome, and will 
help make the rest of the dominos fall.

> There is only one positive thing to be said for this, which is that it
> is better than user-paid ("toll") access.

There is much, much more to be said for the NIH policy: It is the first
case of a research-funder taking a step toward mandating OA for published
research. Its *only* shortcoming is the 6-month embargo, but that's ok
for now. That will be dropped once the rest of the dominos fall.

> The proposal is for "access to authors' final manuscripts (as accepted
> for journal publication) and supplemental materials via PubMed Central
> six months after publication"

Apart from the unnecessary 6-month embargo, it would have been better
to mandate self-archiving in the author's own OAI-compliant institutional
OA Archive, rather than just in PubMed Central. That way the practise
will generalize beyond just NIH-funded biomedical research, establishing
an institutional practise across disciplines (among the dominos poised
to fall).

> This is the weakest form of OA that I have ever seen proposed.  (I am
> open to correction by anyone who remembers worse--I cannot.) First, it
> accepts as OA access to authors' manuscripts together with supplemental
> material--by which I presume they mean corrections lists.

"Final accepted manuscript" means the peer-reviewed postprint, which is
as much as one can ask for! The supplementary material refers to data
and further information that was for some reason not included in the
published version!

> Many are
> willing to consider this as OA ,  but they generally say that while this
> might be acceptable it is not very good. ("Pale green" is I think the
> preferred term.)

No, pale-green refers to the self-archiving of the unrefereed preprint plus the
corrigenda. That is *not* what NIH is proposing. This would be 100% OA (if it
were not for the 6-month embargo).

> It is inferior to authors manuscripts corrected by the
> author, which is in turn inferior to author-produced pdf copies from
> the publishers' print,  which is in turn inferior to posting the pdf
> from the publisher.

David has misunderstood, I believe, and is here splitting hairs
unnecessarily, instead of applauding a very s welcome step by NIH,
and for OA.

> Second, it accepts posting of even this weakest form, six months after
> publication. Some definitions of OA accept delayed OA. Those publishers
> which do offer delayed OA, offer delayed OA to the article as published,
> from the publisher's or supplier's site. If any publisher offers as
> little as this, I have yet to encounter it.

We agree the 6-month embargo is unwelcome, and means that this is not
really OA (which is defined as immediate and permanent), but it is a
policy with far more power and prospects to bring down the dominos and
usher in 100% OA than the Shulenberger NEAR proposal, in which publishers
were to impose the embargo and provide the access:

    "Shulenburger on open access: so NEAR and yet so far"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/3277.html

> Third, it provides that the author might use government-provided
> publication funds for the publishing of material posted under the weakest
> form of OA. Those in favor of government mandates generally ask that it
> provides access to the authentic text.

I think this is fussing over trivial details.

> This is a discussion of strategy, which involves the path to future
> progress; reasonable people might well differ here. Peter, and undoubtedly
> others, including Chuck Hamaker on liblicense, apparently think that
> requiring even this little is a positive step that will lead to future
> progress. I think that it is not productive to accept such a small
> increment, and that is may greatly delay substantial progress--that the
> government may now consider the problem solved permanently.

So David would rather refuse this step by NIH, and keep waiting for
something better? I doubt that researchers and their universities, anxious
to maximize their research usuage and impact now, would agree with him...

Stevan Harnad

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