A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 04:10:59 +0100

Below is an extremely simple suggestion for NIH that, if adopted, will
give the NIH public access policy for NIH-funded research articles an
impact far, far beyond just the research that NIH funds: The practice
of providing Open Access to articles through self-archiving will spread
across all other departments at each NIH fundee's institution and will
quickly bring us all closer to Open Access for *all* research articles,
in all fields, in all institutions.

The change required is tiny, and preserves every feature of the present
proposed NIH policy; it is merely a specification of the way in which
the articles can be submitted to NIH.

The current wording of the NIH policy is this:

    "NIH intends to request that its grantees and supported Principal
    Investigators provide the NIH with electronic copies of all final
    version manuscripts upon acceptance for publication if the research
    was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding... We define final
    manuscript as the author's version resulting after all modifications
    due to the peer review process. Submission of the final manuscript
    will provide NIH supported investigators with an alternate means by
    which they will meet and fulfill the requirement of the provision
    of one copy of each publication in the annual or final progress
    reports. Submission of the electronic versions of final manuscripts
    will be monitored as part of the annual grant progress review and
    close-out process."

This wording is fine, and all it needs in order to promote, at the very
same time, the much wider objective of encouraging all non-NIH research to be
made open-access too, is the following simple -- but critically important
-- additional passage (specifying the *way* in which the submission to
NIH can be done):

    Submission may be done either by depositing the manuscript in the
    author's own institutional eprint archive and emailing NIH the URL
    or by emailing the manuscript itself to NIH.

All this does is to introduce an efficient and simple way for the author
to *submit* the text to NIH. But in doing so (and especially if, as I
would urge, the institutional URL submission option is mentioned *first*)
it also implicitly specifies and encourages institutional self-archiving,
explicitly linking it to the NIH policy, yet without requiring it:
merely as a potential mode of submission!

It cannot be overstated just how important this seemingly trivial
implementational detail will prove, if only NIH adopts it (and adopts
it in a high-profile way, making it a prominent part of the formal
statement of the policy, rather than just a fulfillment option mentioned
obscurely somewhere else).

Harvesting the full-text from the URL of the author's institutional
eprint archive is not only simpler and more uniform for NIH than receiving
it as an email attachment -- because the harvesting can be made automatic
and standardized, and automatically monitored -- but it also means that
the NIH system is then easily adaptable and extendable to harvesting
relevant non-NIH texts (or their metadata) -- likewise self-archived in
institutional eprint archives -- into PubMed Central as well! It also
means institutions will help in monitoring and fulfillment. But the most
important consequence is that it will make the self-archiving practice
propagate naturally across the other departments in each author's
institution in a way that just requesting that the text be emailed to
NIH will not.

By way of further support for making this tiny change, here is an
excerpt from the UK JISC report on central vs distributed institutional
self-archiving and OA.

        Delivery, Management and Access Model
        for E-prints and Open Access Journals
        within Further and Higher Education

    Study commission by U.K. Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
    Alma Swan, Paul Needham, Steve Probets, Adrienne Muir, Ann O'Brien,
    Charles Oppenheim, Rachel Hardy, and Fytton Rowland (2004).


    "This study identified three models for open access [OA] provision in
    the UK .... In considering the relative merits of these models, we
    addressed not only technical concerns but also how [OA] provision
    (by authors) can be achieved, since without this content provision
    there can be no effective [OA] (for users).

    "For technical and cultural reasons, this study recommends that
    the centralised model should not be adopted... [The] central archiving
    approach is the 'wrong way round' with respect to e-print provision.
    [For] reasons of academic and institutional culture and so long
    as effective measures are implemented, individual institution-based
    e-print archives are far more likely to fill (and fill quickly)
    than centralised archives, because institutions and researchers
    share a vested interest in the impact of their research output,
    and because institutions are in a position to mandate and monitor

Excerpts from American Scientist Open Access Forum contribution by Alma Swan:

    "How may authors be 'encouraged' to self-archive? The evidence shows
    that whilst a carrot approach produces some success, 'encouragement'
    would best take the form of a stick - by someone, somewhere,
    mandating self-archiving. Why authors need such a mandate can be
    debated at length by those with the inclination for such things. The
    fact is that when there is a mandate by some authority that has clout,
    authors will comply.

    "There are few examples of such mandates in operation as yet (though
    where they exist, they are working) http://eprints.org/signup/fulllist.php
    but plenty of promise for those to come. KPL's recent, separate,
    study on open access publishing (also commissioned by JISC) produced
    clear evidence that authors have, in general and in principle, no
    objection to self-archiving and will comply with a mandate to do so
    from their employer or research funder. Our findings were that 77%
    of authors would comply with such a mandate. Only 3% said they would
    NOT comply. [Swan, A and Brown, S (2004) Report of the JISC/OSI
    journal authors survey. pp 1-76.
    Swan, A and Brown, S (2004) Authors and open access
    publishing. Learned Publishing, 17 (3), 219-224.

    "The recent government-level recommendations in the US and the UK on
    mandating self-archiving are therefore perfectly on target to address
    the issue most critical to open access provision. Scholars will
    self-archive if told to do so. Employers and research funders have
    the authority to do the telling, but they tell authors to do what,
    and which authors? Funders can only tell their grantees, but have
    the choice of telling them to deposit their articles in the funder's
    own archive if there is one, in some other centralised archive,
    or in the researcher's own institutional archive, or all of these.

    "Employers can do all these too, but since they not only have shared
    goals with their researchers in respect of dissemination of research
    findings, but also see additional value in, and uses for, the content
    of an institutional archive, they are very likely to be eager to see
    it maximally populated and will insist on authors depositing there,
    at the very least. Moreover, they can mandate self-archiving across
    the board, including researchers who are not supported by external
    funding (a large number in many subject areas), and in EVERY scholarly
    discipline. This is a far more effective route to comprehensive
    eprint provision than relying on funder mandates alone, and is much
    more likely to provide eprints in ALL disciplines relatively quickly
    than relying on the eventual establishment of centralised archives
    in all subject areas.

    "Our conclusion was, then, that this scenario is the one most likely to
    provide the maximum level of archived content, a major plank of any
    model for the provision of eprints nationwide in the UK. Our model
    was devised accordingly and would be equally appropriate anywhere
    else in the world." -- Alma Swan, Key Perspectives Ltd.

If you too see the rationale for this tiny parametric change and its
substantial potential benefits, please do recommend it to NIH by adding
your comment at:
Prior Amsci Topic Threads:
    "E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal" (1999)
    "NIH's Public Archive for the Refereed Literature: PUBMED CENTRAL" (1999)
    "Central vs. Distributed Archives" (1999)
    "PubMed and self-archiving" (2003)
    "Central versus institutional self-archiving"
    "What Provosts Need to Mandate" (2003)
    Written evidence for UK Select Committee's
    Inquiry into Scientific Publications (2003)
    "UK Select Committee Inquiry into Scientific Publication" (2004)
    "University policy mandating self-archiving of research output" (2003)
    "Mandating OA around the corner?" (2004)
    "The UK report, press coverage, and the
    Green and Gold Roads to Open Access" (2004)
    "Implementing the US/UK recommendation to mandate OA Self-Archiving" (2004)
    "AAU misinterprets House Appropriations Committee Recommendation" (2004)
    "Victory for the NIH open access plan in the House" (2004)
Received on Fri Oct 29 2004 - 04:10:59 BST

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