Re: Momentum for Eprint Archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 20:22:01 +0000

Re-posted from:


> (PS interpolations are comments from Peter Suber of FOS.)

> In the January 2003 MIT Technology Review, Sally Atwood reviews
> DSpace. Quoting MacKenzie Smith, DSpace project manager: "If you look
> at the landscape of digital repositories, there seem to be two types.
> One concerns library holdings that happen to be in digital format. The
> other is a preprint archive that is tailored to scholarly papers in
> a discipline and is a vehicle for getting them out quickly. They
> are not concerned with long-term preservation." (PS: Typically,
> the second sort of archive contains both preprints and postprints
> and is vitally concerned with long-term preservation.)

DSpace is a very welcome and timely addition to the spectrum of options
for institutional self-archiving! Now let us hope that MIT and other
DSpace users are as successful in solving the empty-space ("ESpace")
problem as in preserving their archives' eventual contents! (Preservation
is the easy part!)

Getting the institutional archives filled will require a
systematic institutional policy and an active program:

Concerning the two different types of institutional archives, and their
respective agendas, see the following (but, as Peter notes, Eprint
Archives are not "Preprint Archives" but Preprint+Postprint Archives):

> Atwood: "Even in this era of digital media, the vast majority of
> scholarly material at most universities goes unshared. But once
> DSpace is up and running, it will serve as a portal not only to MIT
> research, but also to research at partnering institutions.

Important question: I assume this will be an open access
"portal," open webwide, and not only to users at the partner DSpace
institutions. Otherwise it is merely a consortial license and risks
making university research output into an exclusive club. (I am
almost certain an internal sharing system is *not* what is meant here.
Mackenzie? Sally?)

> To test
> this possibility, MIT has entered into a federation with five other
> research institutions -- Columbia University, Ohio State University,
> and the universities of Washington, Toronto, and Rochester -- which
> will become the early adopters from outside the Institute. More
> than 30 other institutions have lined up to install DSpace on their
> campuses once the system proves itself.

The proof of the DSpace system (as with the other available
self-archiving systems) will be in the filling:

> The implications for such
> collaborations are mind-boggling. Researchers who want to stay
> current with their colleagues? work will no longer have to wait for
> conferences or journal publications. Discussions of new ideas can
> flow unimpeded." (PS: Yes, but it is open access that produces these
> mind-boggling advantages. DSpace is one of many infrastructures for
> open access.)

And this is without even having mentioned the biggest benefit
of maximizing research access: maximized research impact!

> DSpace project members, SPARC, and other open-access advocates
> "hope that changes will come to the traditional publishing system
> as digital archives proliferate. 'We don't think of repositories
> replacing journals,' says Rick Johnson, enterprise director of
> [SPARC]. 'In the near term, they are complements.' But there is no
> doubt they would compete as well. Copyright agreements offered by
> journals will have to change, allowing faculty to retain the right
> to archive their papers in institutional repositories." (Thanks to
> LIS News: .)

It is extremely important to clear up this most recurrent and fundamental
of the misunderstandings about self-archiving:

Perhaps if I state it in long-hand I can show that it would be
self-contradictory that
    Institutional Open-Access Archives for the Self-Archiving of
    Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications
should be in *competition* with
    Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications!
That is like me being in competition with the ladder I am standing on!

What might happen (but this is only a hypothetical possibility) is that
the open access to peer-reviewed journal publications provided by the
institutional archives will diminish the demand for toll access to
peer-reviewed journal publications, and that that in turn will cause
peer-reviewed journal publication to restructure itself (possibly as
a peer-review service provider rather than a text-access provider).

It is premature to speculate about either preservation or publisher
restructuring, however, while the "ESpaces" are still empty... Strategies
for rapidly filling all the institutional repositories are what's
most urgently needed now:

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Dec 04 2002 - 20:22:01 GMT

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