Re: AAU misinterprets House Appropriations Committee Recommendation

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2004 22:54:42 +0100

Peter Suber has written an excellent FAQ on the House Appropriations
Committee/NIH mandatory self-archiving plan:

The FAQ is clear, comprehensive and on-target. I highly recommend it
to anyone who is having any difficulty understanding the House/NIH

There is only one point on which I would disagree. Peter's FAQ says:

    Why PubMed Central [PMC]?

    PMC is maintained by the NIH; it already houses a very large body
    of medical literature; it has benefited from years of infrastructure
    refinements; it is committed to open access, long-term preservation,
    and interoperability. Some publishers object to the use of PMC and
    would like to see Congress allow grantees to put the literature
    elsewhere, either in multiple repositories or in any repository that
    meets certain conditions. If the report language were amended to meet
    these objections, open access would not suffer. At the same time,
    however, the high quality of PMC makes such amendments unnecessary.

Peter is right that if the report were amended to allow grantees to
deposit in any OAI-compliant archive, open access *to those papers*
would not suffer.

He is also right that this amendment would not be a *necessary*

But such an amendment would make the recommendation a far *better*
one. For it would generate far more Open Access (OA), in more disciplines
and institutions, and sooner, if PMC were not stipulated as the mandatory
locus of the self-archiving, only that the self-archiving must be done
in an OAI-compliant OA Archive, preferably the author's own institutional
OA Archive.

The reason is that:

    (1) the self-archiving practice is far more likely to generalize
    to other disciplines at the same university if it is done at that
    university than if it is only done in PMC;

    (2) for functionality and quality the physical locus of the full-text
    makes no difference at all, as long as it is in an OAI-compliant
    OA Archive;

    (3) all OAI-compliant OA Archives (including PMC) are equivalent
    and interoperable;

    (4) the metadata of all OAI-complaint OA Archives are harvestable,
    hence they could be harvested into PMC too, if that was desired;

    (5) even the full-texts could be harvested into PMC, if that was

    (6) PMC could (and should) be available as a backup locus for
    self-archiving for any grantee whose university does not yet
    have an OAI-compliant OA Archive.

Another (very minor) reason for institutional rather than central
self-archiving is that many of the 86% of journals that have already
given their green light to author self-archiving have stipulated
self-archiving at the author's own institution (so that their green light
should not be legally construable as sanctioning 3rd-party free-riding
by rival publishers). The publishers' worry is silly, but mandating PMC
self-archiving just makes it into a further needless obstacle.

So it is not just publishers who "would like to see Congress allow
grantees to put the literature elsewhere": It is also those OA
advocates (like myself) who hope to see the House/NIH self-archiving
mandate's effect propagate far beyond just the NIH-funded biomedical
research papers to all of OA, in all fields.

    "In a study in the UK which we have just completed for the Joint
    Information Systems Committee, JISC (a brief account of which will,
    referees permitting, be published in a forthcoming special issue
    of Serials Review), after quite exhaustive review of all aspects
    of e-prints archiving, we recommended a "harvesting model", in
    which full texts (and other digital objects) remain at distributed
    institutional (and other) archives, but metadata is harvested and
    processed centrally." --- Fytton Rowland

See also:

    "Central vs. Distributed Archives"

    "Central versus institutional self-archiving"

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Aug 16 2004 - 22:54:42 BST

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