Re: Guide for the Perplexed: Re: UK Select Committee Inquiry

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2004 02:39:40 +0000

    Select Committee on Science and Technology Fourteenth Report
    Response from the Government

Almost all of the government response to the Science and Technology Select
Committee's recommendations is focused on Open Access Publishing. But
the most important recommendation -- and the only measure the committee
proposed to mandate: institutional self-archiving -- had nothing whatsoever
to do with Open Access Publishing. Here, then, are the only points made in
the government's response by way of justification for declining to
implement the recommended mandate.

The recommendations of the Committee (REC) are followed by the response
of the government (gov) and then my comments:

>REC> 43. Institutions need an incentive to set up repositories. We
>REC> recommend that the requirement for universities to disseminate
>REC> their research as widely as possible be written into their
>REC> charters.
>gov> Responsibility for the amendment of university charters (where
>gov> they exist) lies with individual institutions, with the approval
>gov> of Her Majesty The Queen and not with the Government.

It is sufficient to mandate that all RCUK-funded research be self-archived
as a condition of the funding. The palpable benefits of the resulting
enhanced research impact will be more than enough to ensure that
non-funded research follows suit. In fact, all HEFCE funding can have
this contingency attached without needing either to amend university
charters or trouble HRM about it.

>REC> In addition, SHERPA should be funded by DfES to allow
>REC> it to make grants available to all research institutions for
>REC> the establishment and maintenance of repositories.
>gov> The Government recognises the potential benefits of institutional
>gov> repositories and sees them as a significant development worthy of
>gov> encouragement. But it believes that each Institution has to
>gov> make its own decision about institutional repositories depending on
>gov> individual circumstances. However, an increasing number of universities
>gov> are already establishing such repositories to enable greater access
>gov> to their research output. The Government welcomes this development...

The natural way to encourage beneficial practices is the same way research
itself is encouraged: By making funding contingent on the beneficial
practice. (Publishing itself is such a beneficial practice, which is already
encouraged by publish-or-perish contingencies.)

>REC> 44. Academic authors currently lack sufficient motivation to
>REC> self-archive in institutional repositories. We recommend that
>REC> the Research Councils and other Government funders mandate their
>REC> funded researchers to deposit a copy of all their articles in
>REC> their institution's repository...
>gov> Institutional and thematic repositories can play a significant role
>gov> in the dissemination of research outputs. However the Government has
>gov> no present intention to mandate Research Council funded researchers to
>gov> deposit a copy of their published material in institutional repositories.

There is a good deal of objective data showing exactly why such a mandate
would be highly beneficial to research, researchers and tax-payers. The
government neglected to cite the negative evidence on the basis of which
it declines to mandate self-archiving.

>REC> 48. In order for institutional repositories to achieve maximum
>REC> effectiveness, Government must adopt a joined-up approach. DTI,
>REC> OST, DfES and DCMS should work together to create a strategy for
>REC> the implementation of institutional repositories, with clearly
>REC> defined aims and a realistic timetable.
>REC> 52. The cost to the taxpayer of establishing and maintaining an
>REC> infrastructure of institutional repositories across UK higher
>REC> education would be minimal, particularly in proportion to the
>REC> current total UK higher education spend. When the cost is weighed
>REC> against the benefits they would bring, institutional repositories
>REC> plainly represent value for money.
>gov> [I]nstitutional repositories have an important role to play with
>gov> regard to access to information and institutional communication,
>gov> but there are a number of issues that need to be resolved:
>gov> COST: there is still considerable uncertainty about the cost
>gov> of setting up institutional repositories. There are a number of
>gov> possible models, some of which have already been piloted, including
>gov> through a JISC initiative. HEFCE tell us that they do not yet have
>gov> adequate information on their costs -- there will inevitably be
>gov> additional costs for example on technical support and administration
>gov> -- or a sufficient assessment of the merits of each model, to reach
>gov> a firm decision to support one or more through a national scheme.

Let's dispel the uncertainty right away, then: A 1000 linux server
plus a couple of days sysad set-up time, then a couple of hours a month

Each university can calculate its annual research article output and
divide that into the above figure, to calculate what it will amount to,
per paper per year. That cost -- under 10 per article -- should then
be reckoned against the enhanced research impact, and hence research
income it will bring to the researcher and his institution:

>gov> TECHNICAL ASPECTS: The Government believe there is more work to
>gov> be done on some key technical elements in particular, to develop
>gov> dedicated search engines to help researchers to find material in
>gov> them, and to secure national (or even international) agreement
>gov> on a raft of technical standards for presenting, indexing and
>gov> cataloguing their contents.
>gov> The Government notes with interest the valuable work that SHERPA is
>gov> carrying out to network institutional archives. We are aware of the
>gov> technical developments, particularly in interoperability between
>gov> repositories (through the use of the OAI-PMH software protocol)
>gov> that are easing global accessibility to repository contents,
>gov> irrespective of where these are stored. At the same time, we note
>gov> the challenge of ensuring the necessary and consistent standards,
>gov> not least in the harvesting of appropriate metadata.

Do the government believe that the work on these technical aspects should
be done a-priori, in advance, while access and impact are still being
lost daily? or do they think we might be better off with the articles
accessible and enhancing their research impact via the OAI standard and
google, whilst the search tools are being further optimised on them?

>gov> COVERAGE: many publishers already allow pre-prints and post prints
>gov> to be deposited in an institutional repository. The RoMEO Directory
>gov> of Publishers currently estimates that 66% of publishers already
>gov> allow articles to be published as a pre-print and post print
>gov> version on an authors own website or institutional repository.

And the point is...? (By the way, that's "self-archived," not "published.
The publishing is done in the journal. The self-archived version is to
provide access to those would-be users whose institutions cannot afford
access to the journal version.)

>REC> 58. We see institutional repositories as operating alongside
>REC> the publishing industry...
>gov> QUALITY: it is important that institutional repositories and
>gov> academic journals (both commercial and not for profit) are able to
>gov> co-exist. Journals provide the assurance of quality, underpinned
>gov> by rigorous peer review, which is essential information for users
>gov> when accessing articles in such repositories.

Correct. And the point is...?

>gov> The JISC is actively pursuing ways in which institutional
>gov> repositories can be developed further and plans to support
>gov> universities in providing best practice; software; models and
>gov> infrastructure to support institutional repositories that hold
>gov> research outputs...

But JISC cannot mandate self-archiving. Only researchers, employers
and funders (RCUK, HEFCE) can do that. And when polled, the majority
of researchers reported that they would willingly self-archive it were
mandated (but not if it were not mandated).

   Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey

Stevan Harnad

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UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Tue Nov 09 2004 - 02:39:40 GMT

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