Mandating OA around the corner?

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Jul 25 22:01:30 EST 2004


On Sun, 25 Jul 2004, Anthony Watkinson wrote:

> I am attaching a comment on the report from one of the two or three
> serious newspapers in the UK - The Independent. 
> http://news.independent.co.uk/business/comment/story.jsp?story=3D542723

That story -- like most of the news stories so far -- got the UK
Select Committee Report all wrong, and missed the thrust of its three
recommendations: In order of concreteness, the three UK recommendations
were:

    (1) Mandate author-institution self-archiving of all UK-funded
    research output (and fund and support the practise, as needed)

    (2) Fund author-institution costs of publishing in OA journals

    (3) Encourage and study further the transition to OA publishing

Note that (1) covers all UK-funded research output and is mandatory,
whereas (2) and (3) are optional, whereas the OA is already provided by
(1)!

> What is not surprising is that Dr. Gibson, a very dominant figure in his
> committee, has produced a report which is in favour of OA. ...he seems 
> to have no interest at all in the way that OA might work in practical 
> terms. This is all a problem for the government to work on. 

It is in fact surprising that *anyone* got the facts right and made exactly
the right recommendations. Yet Dr. Gibson and his committee managed to
do just that. And far from taking no interest in the practical side of
the way OA works, his recommendations are spot-on for having attended
to exactly the practical aspects:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/39909.htm
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/39903.htm 

> I strongly suspect that we shall see a nominal acceptance of many
> recommendations coupled with a reluctance to come up with all the extra
> money required.

To accept the principal recommendation nominally (i.e., formally) is to
mandate the author-institution self-archiving of all UK-funded research.
What is needed is not money, just the implementation of the mandate:
http://www.eprints.org/signup/sign.php

> For me the most interesting aspect of the report is the emphasis on
> institutional repositories. North American readers may not appreciate that
> institutional repositories in the UK do not reflect, in the way they are
> constituted, the views of thinkers like Clifford Lynch or practical
> exercises such as is happening at MIT. They are not repositories designed
> to accept content that faculty wants to keep such as digital grey
> literature but rather repositories aimed mainly to take on board
> postprints of refereed articles and with a mission to "educate"  
> reluctant academics into populating these spaces. The philosophy is
> expressed at www.sherpa.ac.uk - an ably run programme with a strong
> Harnadian flavour.

Nor is UK institutional self-archiving meant to me Lynchian, with its
associated MIT-leiden and grey matter:

    "Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2743.html

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2670.html

UK institutional self-archiving is meant to be exactly what the UK
Committee recommended mandating: OA provision though the self-archiving
of all UK journal article output.
http://archives.eprints.org/index.php?page=all&country=uk

And it's not philosophy: It's concrete practise, as exemplified by those
of the UK OA Archives that have implemented mandatory self-archiving:
http://software.eprints.org/handbook/departments.php

Now, one hopes, they soon all will.

> In the original remit for the report and during the hearings there was
> little discussion of repositories. Professor Harnad (as I recall) was not
> happy that he was not called upon to give evidence. 

I was worried about not having been called to give *oral* evidence, and
I was sceptical that the committee would manage to sort things out. But
I am sceptical no longer. Our *written* evidence was certainly taken on
board:

http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/UKSTC.htm
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/399we151.htm
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/399we152.htm

> Someone has worked with Gibson to give an unexpected spin quite 
> late in the day. 

Ian Gibson and his committee did their *own* work, based on the oral and
written evidence they received. The outcome was remarkably on-target.

> The interesting message is that the government through the 
> funding bodies (the research councils) should mandate all researchers 
> accepting grants from such bodies to either deposit refereed (postprints)
> or the final public version of articles (it is not clear which) in 
> the repository of the relevant university. 

It does not matter which is self-archived (the final refereed draft or
the publisher's PDF), just as long as it is the refereed, accepted
version! (And as long as it is mandated that *all* UK-funded research
is made OA in this way.

> Government has now been told (urged) to tell academics what to do. 
> I do not envy Government this proposed task.

But government research-funders (as well as universities) *already*
tell researchers what to do: "Publish or perish". This is merely a
natural online-age update to that mandate: "Provide Open Access to the
articles you publish" (in order to maximise their usage and impact) --
by self-archiving them.

    Harnad, S. & Brody, T. (2004) Comparing the Impact of Open Access
    (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals, D-Lib Magazine 10
    (6) June http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june04/harnad/06harnad.html

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S.,
    Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004)
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/21.html

To close again with Swan and Brown's highly pertinent finding:
Their JISC/OSI 2004 survey asked authors:

    "how they would feel if their employer or funding body required
    them to deposit copies of their published articles in... [OA
    archives]. The vast majority... said they would do so willingly..."

    Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey
    Report.  http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/JISCOAreport1.pdf
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/3628.html

    Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) Authors and open access
    publishing.  Learned Publishing 2004:17(3) 219-224.
    http://www.ingentaselect.com/rpsv/cw/alpsp/09531513/v17n3/s7/

Stevan Harnad

UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
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