Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 05:03:33 +0100

The 5 objections below from the letter to Dr. Zerhouni, Director
of NIH, by Drs. Brodsky, Crawford, and Frank of the American
Institute of Physics, Wiley, and the American Physiological Society
are predictable and are mostly the consequence of an unnecessary (and
easily corrected) stipulation in the otherwise very welcome and desirable
recommendation to mandate that fundees must provide Open Access (OA)
to all articles resulting from NIH-funded research by self-archiving them.

Mandating that articles resulting from NIH-funded research must be
self-archived in the fundee's own institutional archive would have been
quite enough to achieve the full objectives and benefits of OA. Further
specifying that they must be self-archived in NIH's own central archive,
PubMed Central (PMC), is unnecessary and in counterproductive conflict
with many publishers' objections to 3rd party self-archiving.

It is especially important to note that all three publishers
represented by the three authors of the letter (American Institute
of Physics, John Wiley & Sons, and American Physiological Society)
have already given their official green light to author self-archiving
in their own institutional archives:

So their objection cannot be to mandating the self-archiving per se. It
is the mandated *central* self-archiving that goes beyond both their official
policies and (even more important) the needs of OA. (See their objections
1-3 at the bottom of this message,)

The unnecessary and counterproductive stipulation to self-archive
centrally in PMC should be removed, not only in order to eliminate
the needless conflict with the existing policies of the many publishers
that have already demonstrated themselves to be progressive enough to
give their official green light to author self-archiving, but also in
order to make it far more likely that the self-archiving mandate will
propagate beyond just the NIH-funded research that is within its immediate

Institutions house all disciplines, and if the NIH-funded research
is self-archived in the fundee's own institutional archives, the likelihood
is far greater that the same practise will carry over to the institutions'
other disciplines. Moreover, all OAI-compliant institutional archives
are interoperable. Hence it makes no difference where the full-text
articles themselves are self-archived: Their metadata can all be harvested
into one virtual meta-archive (as well as into PMC!) so that they can
all be searched and retrieved seamlessly.

The publishers' other two objections (after 1-3 concerning central self-archiving
in PMC) are groundless and can very easily be shown to be so:

(4) The reason for mandating OA self-archiving is not only (or even
primarily) so that the lay public may have access to NIH research
output. Most NIH research output will be specialized and technical and
of little interest to the general public anyway. The main reason for
mandating self-archiving is to make that research accessible to all its
would-be users among *researchers*, so as to maximise its uptake, usage
and impact. That is the way to maximize the return on the tax-payer's
investment in funding the research in the first place: And maximizing
that is not something any publisher can raise any justifiable objection to.

(5) The self-archiving mandate is not a mandate to publish in OA journals;
it has nothing whatsoever to do with which cost-recovery model is used
by the journal in which an NIH author publishes. It is merely a mandate
to do the very same thing that the publishers themselves have already
given their official green light to their authors to do: The authors'
self-archived OA versions of their articles are not *substitutes* for the
publishers' toll-access versions: They are merely *supplements* to them,
intended for those would-be users whose uptake and contribution would
otherwise be lost merely because their institution happened to be unable
to afford the access-tolls for the journal in which the article was published.

So the solution is simple: Drop the PMC stipulation; make it optional.
Then the NIH mandate becomes immune to any justifiable objections, and
becomes instead a very natural and justifiable condition on the receipt
of the tax-payer funding in the first place -- an obvious online-age
update of the basic and longstanding mandate to publish the findings
resulting from funded research at all!

    Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

Stevan Harnad

> To:
> Elias Zerhouni, The National Institutes of Health
> From:
> Marc Brodsky, The American Institute of Physics
> Brian D. Crawford, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
> Martin Frank, American Physiological Society
> We understand your forthcoming policy to be driven by two motivations: 1)
> that the NIH itself should have an easy means to identify publications
> that result from NIH-funded research, and 2) that US taxpayers should have
> access to the results of government funded work. The solution you seem to
> favor is the establishment of PubMedCentral as a central institutional
> repository at the National Library of Medicine, with mandated deposit
> (presumably incumbent upon NIH grantee authors themselves) upon acceptance
> of their manuscripts for publication after journal peer review.
> 1. We object to the notion that government intervention in scientific
> publishing is warranted, and believe that any policy that would mandate
> the deposition of scientific publications into a central,
> government-operated repository to be an inappropriate intrusion on the
> legitimate business interests of the private sector. . . .

> 2. Alternatives to a mandated central government-run repository should be
> considered. . . .

> 3. Requiring NIH-funded authors to deposit their accepted manuscripts in a
> central repository also has the potential to compromise the integrity of
> the scientific record. . . .

> 4. We challenge the premise that because US taxpayers fund research, then
> the articles that result from all such funded studies, publishable only
> after the painstaking and costly process of peer review, should be made
> openly available by a US government agency to the world as a public good.
> 5. The policy that NIH is contemplating has the potential to force
> publishers away from a subscription-based publishing model to an
> author-pays model of open access--thus far a monolithic and unproven
> economic model of publishing.
Received on Wed Aug 25 2004 - 05:03:33 BST

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