Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Richard Durbin <>
Date: Sun, 8 Aug 2004 14:28:11 +0100

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> I think the House Appropriations Committee was less wise in going on
> to specify *where* grantees should self-archive their articles to make
> them OA (in PubMed). Surely it is enough to mandate that they should
> be made OA! For reasons discussed in an early posting in the American
> Scientist Open Access Forum (reproduced below), it no longer makes any
> difference where an article is self-archived, as long as the Archive is
> OAI-compliant. In this regard, the recommendations of the UK Parliamentary
> Science and Technology Committee
> which were released within a fortnight of the US recommendations were
> wiser (though otherwise very similar). The UK did not stipulate that funded
> research must be self-archived in a central OA Archive, only that it
> must be self-archived, hence OA. (In fact, they expressed a preference for
> Institutional Self-Archiving.)

I disagree entirely with this. I believe that central open-access
archiving is far superior to distributed open access archiving. I
have had this debate with many individuals including briefly off-line
from this forum with Stevan. I know the OAI protocol allows search of
distributed archives, but (a) its coverage is currently very poor, with
no indication to me of how it will increase, (b) all current tools that
have been proposed to me are hopeless in performance (quality and time)
compared to Pubmed searching. The only useful articles I have found in
repeated OAI searches in broad areas of molecular biology, bioinformatics
and genomics have been in PMC (because they are gold or 6-month gold),
and OAI searches have given them back poorly, encrusted with junk. Search
is what matters. We learnt this lesson early with genomic data. The value
of openly available sequence data is in having it powerfully searchable,
and that happened when it was deposited centrally.

Second, I keep hearing that gold is 5% and green 84%. But well under 5%
of the articles in the 84% green articles are actually made open access,
at least articles of interest to me in fields of interest to me. So
currently, gold central archiving is more, not less successful than green
OAI distributed archiving in terms of article coverage, and it looks more
promising to me. Few of the 84% currently support central archiving (most
restrict to author's "own" web site, which is reasonably interpreted as
institutional). However, if NIH mandate conversion to central green I am
told that the top journals that currently either are only local green
or no-SA at all will have no problem converting to central green, and
the others will follow. The interesting issue for them is whether they
stop charging page charges and for colour figures, so as to preserve
their 6 months grace period, or allow access from day one.

The biological community is well on the way towards central archiving.
Please Stevan and other idealists on this group, stop acting to derail
this. Central self-archiving is what has succeeded for physics, not
distributed self-archiving. Please don't use biology as a guinea-pig
for a technology that as far as I can see has not yet proved itself for
any discipline. I agree that green is somewhat better than nothing but
central green is much much better than distributed green - gold is a
simple way to get central green. So I appeal to everyone on this list to
support central open access archiving for biology as the house recommends,
and encourage the UK to go the same way with national or international
archives, rather than promote a more distributed solution.

Richard Durbin
Head of Informatics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Received on Sun Aug 08 2004 - 14:28:11 BST

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