Proposed update of BOAI definition of OA: Immediate and Permanent

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Sun Mar 13 15:00:42 EST 2005

On Sun, 13 Mar 2005, Heather Morrison wrote:

>sh>     "By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability
>sh>     on the public internet, immediately and permanantly..."
> this raises the bar too high at present.  My interpretation of your
> proposed definition is that only gold publishers who have figured out
> solutions for permanent archiving would fit ...

Absolutely not! Quite the opposite. I am a longstanding *opponent*
of having to "figure out solutions for permanent archiving" in advance,
as a prerequisite for OA self-archiving! 

It's far simpler than that (and neither technical nor formal nor
legalistic): An article should be made freely accessible online
immediately upon acceptance for publication and it should be kept freely
accessibly on line from then onward. No delays, no withdrawals.

There is no reason whatsoever for "figuring out solutions for permanent
archiving" in advance. The articles that were self-archived in 1991 in
arxiv, for example, are still with us today, without the authors (or the
archivers) having felt that they first had to "figure out solutions for
permanent archiving." No one yet has failsafe archiving solutions, but
they can and will continue to be worked on in parallel. In the meanwhile,
arxiv and the many other institutional archives are good for another
few decades yet -- but they are still 80% empty! The immediate problem
is providing that missing OA content, not figuring out failsafe advance
solutions for its preservation.

    Re: Priorities: OA Content Provision vs. OA Content Preservation

> There are many green publishers who allow for self-archiving, who do not
> take responsibility for ensuring that authors take advantage of this
> opportunity.  

There is nothing that green publishers need to take responsibility for
ensuring other than that they should be and remain green publishers!

It is the responsibility of their *authors* (and their authors'
institutions and funders) to take responsibility for ensuring that their
articles are made and kept OA (immediately and permanently). That is
*certainly* not the publisher's responsibility.

I suspect that you may be confusing (1) the green publishers'
(non)-responsibility to ensure that their authors make their articles
OA with (2) *all* publishers' responsibility to help ensure that their
contents (both paper and digital) are preserved. That responsibility
(shared with the libraries that purchase or license the contents) exists,
to be sure, but it has *absolutely nothing to do with OA* at this time,
nor with self-archiving.

The publisher's version of an article (paper and digital) is the official version
of record. That is what subscribers buy or license. And that of course needs to
be permanently preserved. That has nothing to do with the supplementary version
of the same article that the author may or may not make OA, by self-archiving it
(in order to provide -- immediate and permanent -- online access to all potential
users worldwide who cannot afford access to the publisher's official version)..

That self-archived supplement needs to be kept online and accessible permanently
too (for the sake of OA), but that is not the responsibility of the publisher,
but of the author and the author's institutional archive.

That responsibility can and will be and is being shouldered by the
institutional archives, but, as noted, after 15 years, the problem is not
the preservation, which is carrying on just fine, but the content-provision,
which is not, yet. What is still missing is (80% of) the articles! For that,
what is needed is not to "figure out solutions for permanent archiving"
but to implement an institutional policy to ensure immediate 100%

> By leaving this with the authors, also, the publisher has no
> way of knowing if the method employed by the author (IR, department web
> site, author's home page) is securely archived.  

The publisher has no *way* of knowing whether the supplemental OA versions
self-archived by the author are securely archived and the publisher has no
*need* to know! The publisher need only concern himself with the secure
archiving of the publisher's own official version of record! (Links
from the author/institutional OA supplement to the publisher's version
of record, however, are of course good scholarly practice and should be
strongly encouraged. Self-archiving in an OAI-compliant institutional
OA archive rather than just on the author's naked home page is of course
also always to be strongly encouraged.)

> Nevertheless, these [green] publishers have taken significant steps
> towards open access, which I believe need to be recognized, even if they
> are not the total solution.

But the fact -- that even though they are not among the 5% that are gold,
the publishers of the 92% of journals that are green are still on the
side of the angels insofar as OA is concerned -- is certainly a fact
that is recognized, and will be even more recognized and credited once
their authors (and their institutions and funders) get around to taking
advantage of that fact. The "total solution" (100% OA) now depends entirely
on researchers, their institutions and funders. As these are both the
providers and the beneficiaries of OA, we have every reason to expect that
they will soon get around to adopting and implementing an effective policy
for providing OA to all of their own research output.

Stevan Harnad

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UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-1 ("green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a open-access journal if/when 
            a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
            in your institutional repository.

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