Berkeley Electronic Press's Self-Archiving Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 12:14:34 +0000

The Berkeley Electronic Press is making an
admirable effort to be progressive and responsible, by providing
electronic-only journals with rapid peer review, low price, and author
retention of copyright.

However, bepress's formal self-archiving policy is incoherent,
reflecting the obsolete exclusive-rights Gutenberg-era thinking it
apparently hopes will carry over into the PostGutenberg era.

In brief, the restriction below is meaningless as long as the authors's
institutional website is an OAI-compliant Eprint Archive

The OAI-interoperability will ensure that through free cross-archive
search engines like and (and even google, if the google search is
restricted to OAI-compliant Eprint Archives) the self-archived texts
can be searched and ahrvested by anyone, anywhere, any time, without
having to know or specify the locus where they happen to be archived.

That is the nature of the PostGutenberg phenomenon known as a public,
interconnected, digital network, as opposed to the obsolete concept of
an exclusive "locus of publication."

      2. When you say "exclusive world-wide rights to
      distribute electronically" what about an author
      posting his paper on other electronic web sites,
      including his own? Authors are not permitted to
      post a paper published by The Berkeley Electronic
      Press to any web site except their personal sites
      or sites associated with their institutions,
      provided these sites are non-commercial. For
      example, an author could post her article on her
      personal site and on her department's web site. She
      would not be permitted, however, to post it to or Authors are also
      prohibited from posting their articles to usenet
      news groups or other electronic bulletin boards. A
      condition of publication is that authors have
      copies of their papers removed from any web sites
      other than those on which they are permitted to
      reside. Authors are permitted to post the title
      and abstract of their articles on any web site.
      They are also permitted to post links on any web
      site that direct readers to the paper on the
      bepress web site.

It is not exclusive electronic sales rights for the first year that
will provide a stable cost-recovery model for bepress journals.
The only coherent way to do that is by recognizing that peer-reviewed
journal publication in the PostGutenberg era has reduced to a
service-provision (peer review) role in place of the product-provision
(the text, whether on-line or on-paper) of the Gutenberg era.

And (most important) the service is to the author-institution and not
to the reader-institution. No reader-institution-based access-blocking
toll will be viable, because open access can always be provided by the
author through self-archiving. Hence submission/acceptance charges to
the author-institution are the only viable way to recover costs
(although it may be premature, first requiring self-archiving to adapt
the research community to open access as well as to release thereby the
reader-institution subscription-cancellation savings that will pay for
the author-institution submission/acceptance costs).

Let us hope that bepress's other good features make it possible for
them to launch and stay afloat, even with their incoherent
self-archiving policy, long enough to eventually benefit from the
sea-change that will result from open access. For with their suitably
streamlined, online-only operations, they will be well-placed to take
over migrating titles, should the established publishers elect to get
out of open-access publishing rather than downsizing to become
peer-review service-providers.

Note that I could be wrong about this: Not about the incoherence of
the home website restriction, but about the absence of a toll-based
product market for texts that are also openly accessible elsewhere.

It is quite possible that longstanding Gutenberg habits (or benefits I
have not had the imagination to think of) will ensure that there
continues to be a viable subscription/licence market for online-only
journals for years to come, even when their contents are also
accessible online for free, via OAI-interoperable institutional Eprint
Archives. (All the evidence so far is that this will be the case -- but
it is still based on minimal open access, mostly in physics; but the
trend can continue even as open access grows and spreads across
disciplines -- assuming that it does grow, that is!)

It just seems risky not have a Plan B.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Mar 01 2002 - 12:15:58 GMT

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