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Eprints, Dspace, or Espace?

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Wed Oct 20 06:52:34 EST 2004

On Wed, 20 Oct 2004, Philip Hunter wrote:

> The focus of each of the OAI-compliant archive-creating softwares is
> different, as you acknowledge, since some are designed to archive digital
> objects in general, not just eprints. The functionality of the different
> softwares differs on this account, and therefore there is a choice to
> be made between softwares.

There is indeed. But Philip seems to have missed the point: This is an
Open Access Forum, not an "Institutional Digital Asset Management Forum." 

Institutional Digital Asset Management is indeed an important and worthy
issue. So is Research Funding, Public Health and World Hunger. But
those are not what the Open Access Initiative is about! The Open Access
Initiative is about providing toll-free, online, full-text access to
the 2.5 million articles that appear annually in the world's 24,000
peer-reviewed journals in order to make them accessible to all their
would-be users worldwide -- irrespective of whether their institutions
can afford to subscribe to the journal in which each article appears --
and thereby maximising the research impact of each article, its author,
its author's institution, and its author's research funder. It is not
about Institutional Digital Asset Management.

        Budapest Open Access Initiative

    "The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which
    scholars give to the world without expectation of payment. Primarily,
    this category encompasses their peer-reviewed journal articles, but
    it also includes any unreviewed preprints that they might wish to
    put online for comment or to alert colleagues to important research

    "An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible
    an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness
    of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research
    in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry
    and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good
    they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the
    peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted
    access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and
    other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature
    will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the
    rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature
    as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity
    in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge."

My reply to the student's inquiry about which OAI archive-creating software
to use was based entirely on the fact that it was addressed to me (and
in the context of the American Scientist Open Access Forum). I am not, and
never have been, a spokesman for Institutional Digital Asset Management
(though I of course have nothing against that project, only the highest
admiration for it).

Nor was the GNU Eprints OAI-archive-creating software -- the first and
most widely used of the OAI archive-creating softwares -- written for the
sake of institutional digital asset management (although it can certainly
be used for that purpose too). It was written for the sake of
institutional Open Access self-archiving. And it was with respect to
that objective that I told the student that all the softwares he listed
were equivalent, and that what really mattered was the institution's
adopting an effective policy for the self-archiving of all of its authors'
journal article, so as to provide Open Access to it.


I would add only -- though it is but a hypothesis -- that an institutional
self-archiving policy that successfully generates Open Access to 100% of
institutional journal article input is probably the single most important
step an institution can take toward an eventual successful Institutional
Digital Asset Management policy too, but I make no strong claims about
this, as it is not my area of expertise, experience or interest.


So, to repeat, although any of the OAI archive-creating softwares can
indeed also be used for Institutional Digital Asset Management too, it
is not their functional equivalence with respect to that application on
which I was commenting, particularly, but their functional equivalence
with respect to institutional Open Access content-provision, the theme
of this Forum, and the goal of the Open Access Initiative.

> All deposited papers have the same metadata tags? Your definition of an 
> eprint is not up to speed. The Open Archives site FAQ reminds us that 
> "the metadata harvesting protocol supports the notion of multiple 
> metadata sets, allowing communities to expose metadata in formats that 
> are specific to their applications and domains. The technical framework 
> places no limitations on the nature of such parallel sets, other than 
> that the metadata records be structured as XML data, which have a 
> corresponding XML schema for validation."
>     http://www.openarchives.org/documents/FAQ.html

The Open *Archives* Initiative (OAI) (not to be confused with the Open
*Access* Initiative) (BOAI) was originally focussed on Open Access too,
but it soon grew far more universal and powerful, covering all digital
content, not just Open Access content. The original objective was to
keep the number of compulsory metadata tags minimal, so as to encourage
maximal compliance and hence maximal content-provision: Keep it simple
and minimal, and more authors and their institutions  will be willing to
adopt, and provide their content, suitably tagged.

As the OAI became more ambitious, and outgrew the confines of Open Access
content (journal articles) to embrace all digital content, the tagging
scheme became more ambitious, and less minimal, too.

But for the subset of the total digital corpus that was and still is the
target of the Open Access Initiative -- the 2.5 million annual articles in
the 24,000 journals -- the minimal metadata tags I mentioned (author-name,
journal-name, article-title, date, etc.) continue to be sufficient. What
continues to be insufficient is not the metadata sets, but the contents
themselves, those 2.5 million articles. Elaborating the metadata sets,
adding further functionality to the archive-creating software, and targeting
further kinds of digital content are no help at all in filling the archives
with the target Open Access content; rather, they are a distraction, even
a deterrent.

That is why I recommended not worrying about whether to use EPrints or DSpace
but worrying instead about not having ESpace (empty space) in one's institutional
archives -- at least if Open Access is the objective, rather than something else.

> Well perhaps the range of available softwares reflects what the user 
> community actually wants. Always a valid point to consider. :-)

The user community may want something other than Open Access, but I
hope I will be forgiven for continue to pump for Open Access until we
have at least that, rather than forgetting altogether what the whole
exercise was about, or for!

Besides, which "user community"? (1) The would-be users of journal articles whose
access is denied by toll-access barriers and (2) the authors (and funders and
employers) of the authors of those articles, whose potential research impact is
denied by that access-denial are the user community that is pertinent for
the Open Access Initiative. 

As to the user community for Institutional Digital Access Management -- nolo

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
        To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
        Post discussion to:
    american-scientist-open-access-forum at amsci.org

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-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.

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