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Research Councils UK's forthcoming Output Dissemination Policy

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Fri May 20 09:39:32 EST 2005

    [The following was just sent to Sir David King, Sir Keith O'Nions,
    and the RCUK Executive Group]

Dear Sir David, Sir Keith, and members of the RCUK Executive Group:

The forthcoming policy on RCUK output dissemination is ever so important,
not just for the UK, but for the rest of the research world, which is
carefully watching the position that the UK takes on this and is very
likely to follow suit.

Having been much involved in the world movement toward maximal
dissemination of research output, I am taking the liberty to send some
comments on 5 critical parameters of the RCUK policy. I will be brief:

    (1) Require or Request self-archiving?
    (2) Immediate or Delayed self-archiving?
    (3) Institutional or Central self-archiving?
    (4) What if the Institution has no Repository?
    (5) What if the Publisher does not endorse self-archiving?

(1) Require or Request self-archiving?

    It would be very important that RCUK require self-archiving (as the
    Wellcome Trust has done) rather than merely request it (as the US
    National Institutes of Health have done).

    Two international surveys conducted by the JISC (2004, 2005) have
    found that most researchers do not currently self-archive, replying
    that they will not self-archive until/unless their employers or
    funders require them to do so. If/when required to self-archive,
    however, 81% of researchers reply that they will self-archive
    willingly, 14% that they will comply reluctantly, and only 5% reply
    that they will not comply.

        Swan, A and Brown, S. (2004) JISC/OSI JOURNAL AUTHORS SURVEY
        Report. JISC Report http://cogprints.org/4125/

        Swan, A. and Brown, S. (2005) Open access
        self-archiving: an author study. To be
        published by the JISC (Joint Information Systems

(2) Immediate or Delayed self-archiving?

    Research does not progress by being subjected to a needless access
    embargo of 6 months, a year or more. 92% of journals have already
    given their green light to immediate author/institution self-archiving
    upon acceptance for publication:


    Concerning what to do about the remaining 8%, see (5)

(3) Institutional or Central self-archiving?

    An extensive, multi-authored JISC study commissioned to investigate
    this question resulted in a strong and unequivocal recommendation
    that self-archiving should be distributed across the UK institutions
    that provide the research, each self-archiving its own output, rather
    than central. (Subsequently, if desired, the data [all interoperable,
    because compliant with the OAI metadata harvesting protocol] can
    also be centrally harvested and enhanced.)

        Swan, A, Needham, P, Probets, S, Muir, A, O'Brien, A, Oppenheim,
        C, Hardy, R,l and Rowland, F, (2005) Delivery, Management and
        Access Model for E-prints and Open Access Journals within Further
        and Higher Education. JISC Report. http://cogprints.org/4122/
        Committee), May 2005

(4) What if the Institution has no Repository?

    The UK has 191 universities and HEIs, about 73 of them research active
    (based on RAE returns). Most of the research-active universities
    already have institutional repositories (the UK is second in its
    number of repositories, currently 55, second only to the US with 127).


    Those UK institutions that do not yet have a repository are only a
    ($2000) server plus a few days of set-up and annual maintenance
    time away from having one. The potential returns on this minimal
    investment for an institution from citation-enhancement alone
    already vastly outweigh its tiny cost:

        "The dollar value (in salary and grant income) of one
        citation varies from field to field, depending on the
        average number of authors, papers and citations in the
        field [but self-archiving enhances it in all fields]...
        A much-cited 1986 study estimated the 'worth' of one citation
        (depending on field and range) in 1986 at $50-$1300:"

    Institutional repository-creation will take care of itself. The
    RCUK should be careful not to unwittingly insert an unnecessary and
    self-defeating opt-out clause, effectively nullifying the force of its
    requirement, by essentially saying "You are 'required' to self-archive
    if your institution already has a repository, but if not, not!".

    There will be a burst of institutional repository creation following
    the RCUK policy announcement. For tide-over self-archiving during
    the interim, there are already several central repositories in the
    UK and even international ones in which to self-archive for now:

        Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive as OA Back-Up

(5) What if the Publisher does not endorse self-archiving?

    As indicated above, 92% of journals already endorse self-archiving.
    For the 8% of journals that do not yet do so, the solution is
    to require (exactly as for the 92%) depositing their metadata
    (authornames, title, date, journalname, etc.) as well as their
    full-texts (immediately upon acceptance for publication) into the
    author's institutional repository, and to leave it up to the author
    whether to set access to the full-text immediately as Open-Access,
    or to set it as Institution-Internal-Access for the time being,
    and meanwhile respond to eprint-requests from would-be users who
    see the metadata (which are of course Open-Access in any case)
    by emailing them the eprint.


The critical thing is to make self-archiving a requirement immediately
upon acceptance for publication. The rest will take care of itself,
as nature take its course toward the optimal and inevitable outcome
for UK research and researchers, their institutions and their funders:
Open Access to 100% of UK's research output.


Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

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