Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: ?iso-8859-1?Q?Hugo_Fjelsted_Alr=F8e?= <>
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2003 12:46:30 +0100

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> Those are all OAI-compliant archives, and they include both central,
> discipline-based archives and distributed institutional archives. With
> OAI-interoperability, it doesn't matter which kind of OAI archive a
> paper is in, but I am promoting university archives
> rather than central ones (even though I founded a central one myself
> ) because researchers'
> institutions (and
> their research funders) all share in the joint
> publish-or-perish interests
> (and rewards) of maximizing the impact of their research
> output. Central
> repositories and disciplines do not. (They are the common locus for
> research that is competing for impact.) Hence research institutions
> (and their funders) are in a position to encourage,
> facilitate, and even
> mandate (through an extension of the publish-or-perish
> carrot-and-stick)
> open-access self-archiving of their own research output in
> their own OAI
> archive by their researchers, whereas disciplines and central
> organizations (e.g., WTO, WHO, UNESCO) are not:

I think it is still too early to write off any of the possible paths to
open access within the field of self-archiving (not that you do that). I
see a potentially very fruitful role for community-building archives
that focus on certain research areas. These could be facilitated or
mandated by some of the specialized public research institutions that,
together with universities and private companies, inhabit the research
landscape. I think of research institutions oriented towards applied
research within for instance environmental research, agriculture, public
health, education, community development, etc. Here, there is a clear
two-sided research communication: towards the public and towards other
researchers in the field. Open access thus serves two communicative
purposes, improving scholarly communication and improving public access
to research results, besides the complementary purpose of institutional

By "community-building", I mean that such archives can contribute to the
creation or development of the identity of a scholarly community in
research areas that go across the established disciplinary matrix of the
university world. I have myself inititated an archive in research in
organic agriculture (, which we hope will become a
center for international communication and cooperation in this area.
Scientific papers from research in organic agriculture are published in
many different specialized disciplinary journals as well as in general
scientific journals and journals focused at organic agriculture, and it
is not easy for researchers to keep track of all that is being

I know the same thing can in principle be done with OAI-compliant
university archives and a "disciplinary hub" or "research area hub", and
in ten years time, we may not be able to tell the difference. But today,
it is still not quite the same thing. Contributing to the community
would be detached from the usage of what is there, since the depositing
of papers would take place somewhere outside the hub. This makes it
dependent on the widespread existence of university archives. So if one
wants to establish such an open-archive-based scholarly community hub,
the way to do it is to make an eprint archive with the scope that one

> Having said that, it is still a historical fact that the first and
> still-biggest open-access OAI archive is a central,
> discipline-based one,
> the Physics Archive founded in 1991 But
> Arxiv's growth
> rate has been steadily linear since 1991, and shows no sign of either
> accelerating or generalizing to all the other disciplines. So clearly
> something else was needed to hasten the open-access era, and my own
> hunch is that a concerted policy university-based archiving was what
> was needed.

What's wrong with linear growth? It must be the SIZE of the growth rate
that is important. And how long it will take to realize some satisfying
level of open access with this growth rate. When you are looking for
exponential growth, I take it that you are looking for something that
MIGHT turn out to have a higher maximum growth rate than, for instance,
arXiv. And that is all well, but it might be exponential and still have
a slower maximum growth than the linear growth we see in arXiv.

In the presentation that you refer to above, you write:
"At that rate, it would still take a decade before we reach the first
year that all physics papers for that year are openly accessible."

I think that this is an impressive and very satisfying growth. And I
don't think that a decade is too long - the great news is that physics
is getting there!

Kind regards
Hugo Alroe, archive administrator at
Received on Mon Sep 08 2003 - 12:46:30 BST

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