Re: A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

From: Alma Swan <>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:21:50 +0100

Heather Morrison has just produced a splendid supporting case for my

> A centralised mandate approach to a distributed institutional repository
> system is not equally doable in all countries.

I don't see why not. If a funder is to mandate, from its centralised
position, it would assist in achieving maximum OA if it were to mandate
self-archiving in its grantholders' own institutional repositories (and in
the funders' own central archive, too, if they have one).

> Some countries have a strong centralized approach to a
> largely public higher education system. In this situation, a
> central mandate and distributed repositories is extremely workable.
> Other countries do not meet this description, however. In
> some countries (such as the U.S., I believe), a significant
> portion of the higher education system has historically been
> in the private sector. A government mandate in this
> situation can only cover the results of research funded by
> the government, not matters internal to these institutions,
> which the government does not fund.

But this is exactly my point. Funders, be they governments, charities,
foundations or private individuals, are only in a position to impose a
mandate on the people they fund. Since we know this only covers a proportion
of research carried out in the world, this will never achieve the largest
possible amount of self-archived content, though of course it will help. It
is the institutions themselves that must realise the benefit of OA and
implement the measures to achieve it. Funders can help this along by
'encouraging' institutional self-archiving - there will be few institutions
that hold out against establishing an archive if funder money is at stake.
> In other countries, like Canada, higher education is largely
> public, but is not centrally coordinated. Higher education
> is a provincial, not federal, responsibility. A federal
> mandate approach to how universities are run would encounter
> opposition that has nothing whatsoever to do with open
> access, but rather with political jurisdictional boundaries.
> Even at the provincial level, there are differences in the
> level of central coordination.

And it matters not whether universities are funded by central governments,
states, provinces, cities, patrons, rich alumni or great aunt Fanny, no
'coordination' from anywhere is required for each to set up an institutional
repository and tell their researchers to use it. The more chaotic the
situation with respect to higher/tertiary education, the more important the
argument about institutional repositories becomes. It is institutions that

i) The authority to mandate ALL their researchers, across the WHOLE SPECTRUM
of subject disciplines

ii) The most to gain from so doing, along with their researchers

In this respect, universities have the same interests and the same prizes to
gain, wherever they are in the world and however they are funded. If you
want OA, you should be recommending measures that are likely to push up the
number of universities with their own archives (filled, with content from
archaeology to zoology, by an institutional mandate) from the few hundred
currently in existence to a much more respectable and representative number.
A worldwide collection of research repositories, open to all. Funders
mandating that their grantholders deposit in their institution's archive
will help this effort enormously.

Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd
Truro, UK
Received on Fri Oct 29 2004 - 19:21:50 BST

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