Re: Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's Back-Sliding

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 03:47:38 +0000

For those with neither the passion nor the patience for Key Stroke
Romances, here is the short version of the posting below:

It takes N keystrokes (in M minutes) to make an article Open Access (OA) by
self-archiving it. The first few keystrokes are the metadata (author,
title, journal, etc.). The next-to-last keystroke is the "upload"
key to deposit the full text, and the Nth keystroke is to set the
accessibility of that full text from "institution-internal" (the default
option) to "Open Access". (The metadata are in any case accessible
to all, webwide).

The NIH-12 policy would be to encourage NIH fundees to perform these keystrokes
within 12 months of publication.

The Institutional Keystroke ("IK-0") policy would be to require all
institutional researchers (or their assistants) to perform the first
N-1 of the keystrokes immediately upon acceptance of the article, and
the Nth one (Open Access) at a time of their own choosing (though with
encouragement to do that immediately as well, and to do the keystrokes
for preprints well before acceptance too).

Les Carr suggests that the two policies are compatible, and they are.

But it is an open question whether NIH-12 helps or hinders IK-0, and
particularly whether it hastens or retards that Nth keystroke (Open Access).

I am inclined to think it hinders and retards a little, but not much.

The real barrier to 100% OA for the past 10 years has been the keystroke
barrier itself, no more, no less. Authors will not perform those first
N-1 keystrokes until/unless required to do so. We can have a good deal
of confidence in the likelihood of their performing the Nth keystroke,
once the first N-1 have been done.

    Swan & Brown "asked authors to say how they would feel if their
    employer or funding body required them to deposit copies of their
    published articles in... repositories. The vast majority... said
    they would do so willingly."

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

      Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) Authors and open access
      publishing. Learned Publishing 2004:17(3) 219-224.

Now you can think about it, forget it, or read on:


> > (1) It's true that the NIH has recently revised its policy.
> > Formerly, it would have provided free online access for deposited
> > articles six months after their publication in journals. The new
> > policy makes the embargo period anything from zero to 12 months, at
> > the author's choice. If there's an advantage, it's that authors could
> > choose release earlier than six months, which formerly required the
> > publisher's consent. If there's a disadvantage, it's that authors
> > could choose release much later than six months. The NIH will urge
> > authors to allow public access as soon as possible. But it's likely
> > that some publishers will urge authors to wait as long as possible,
> > putting authors in the difficult position of having to choose between
> > their funder and their publisher. In my view, this is a net loss and
> > a regrettable retreat by the NIH. I'll have a lot more to say about
> > it in the February issue of my newsletter, which should mail next
> > Wednesday (February 2).

As has already been pointed out in an earlier posting, there is a slight
misunderstanding here: It was not providing free online access prior to
6 months post-publication that required the publisher's consent in the
prior version of the NIH policy and no longer requires the publisher's
consent in the latest version. Rather, it was providing free online
access *in PubMed Central* that was denied *NIH's* consent in the prior
version, and no longer requires NIH consent in the latest version. This
has nothing whatsoever to do with publisher consent, one way or the other.


> This explanation of NIH from Peter Suber seems to cast a whole new
> light on the affair. It could be argued that NIH-12 has the same effect
> as Harnad-Keystrokes with a 12-month cutoff on the dilly-dallying -
> especially if the 12-month figure is a RELEASE embargo rather than a
> deposit embargo.

I would say that the Immediate-Keystrokes (IK-0) Mandate and NIH's
Within-12-months (NIH-12) Encouragement may be in a similar spirit, but
are unlikely to have the same effect: Indeed they are somewhat at odds.


Of course it was nonsense of NIH originally to have suggested that NIH
would not *allow* self-archiving (in PubMed Central) earlier than 6 months
(except if there has been "payment" to the publisher) when 79% of journals
have already given their green light to immediate self-archiving of the
postprint (plus 13% for self-archiving the earlier preprint). So that absurdity
was bound to be corrected.

But now what we have is an NIH "encouragement" (not a requirement) to
self-archive by 12 months (with many publishers moving toward
providing 12 month Back-Access themselves in any case).

The Immediate-Keystrokes Mandate (IK-0) requires authors (or their proxies)
to key in their metadata and full-texts as soon as the final draft is
accepted for publication (and encourages them to do the same with
their preprints even earlier). The only thing that is optional is the
very last keystroke, which determines whether the full-text is immediately
accessible OA or only accessible institution-internally; the metadata
are OA in any case. That last keystroke is strongly encouraged but
not mandated.

Now consider:

With 6-12 month Back Access from publishers becoming the norm, it helps
research and researchers little to "encourage" NIH authors to provide
free full-text access by month 12: More likely, it encourages publishers to
Back-Slide on immediate green (as Nature has done) and instead endorse
self-archiving only after 6-12 months, when the Back Access would kick
in anyway.

Although this will no doubt vary from field to field, the first 1-6
months from publication is the most important "growth" region for research
progress in many fields -- and especially in the biomedical fields that
are NIH's remit.

With 79% of publishers already giving their green light to immediate
postprint self-archiving (and the preprint-plus-corrections strategy
there to cover the remaining 21%), the IK-0 mandate would simply leave
it up to authors whether and when to perform that last (Nth) keystroke
that would make their full-text freely accessible (goaded, no doubt,
by eprint requests elicited by the visible metadata, as well as by the
growing evidence of the OA impact advantage and the growth of OA itself).

But what would be the likely effect of the NIH 6-12 policy on this? No
effect at all on the author's first N-1 keystrokes (or, if anything,
a disincentive: "Why do I have to do this now, if the NIH says waiting
up to 12 months is ok?").

And a negative effect on the timing of the Nth keystroke, by encouraging
publisher Back-Sliding from green to Back-Access 6-12, thereby
discouraging authors from adding that Nth keystroke. And with Back Access
6-12 being provided by more and more publishers anyway, NIH-12 could even
make the Nth keystroke beside the point (too late to be of any use),
locking in Back Access in place of Open Access for years to come.

So let us focus on those critical months 1-6. That all-important
research growth region is now becoming the primary target of the OA
movement in the biomedical fields. In another fast-moving research area
(not under threat from a 6-12 month embargo), astrophysics, Kurtz and
colleagues have reported that one of the major components of the Open
Access advantage in usage and citation impact is *Early Access* (EA):
making research accessible to all of its would-be users as soon as the
peer-reviewed draft is available (and sometimes even earlier, at the
preprint stage).

    "OA advantage = EA + AA + QB + OA + UA"

Locking into Back Access instead would needlessly deny research
and researchers the full potential of this critical growth
region. Institutions and research funders mandating IK-0 will overcome the
inertial resistance to performing the keystrokes that has been the only
real barrier to OA for over a decade. Leaving that last keystroke optional
moots all possible objections and leaves nature to take its course.

So NIH-12 will not help, but perhaps it won't hinder too much either.

As to DEPOSIT versus RELEASE embargoes: a pox on both their houses! We
need no embargoes here: what we need is access! Nor do we need central
archiving (as in PubMed Central), at least not as the first port of call:
The author's institution is the co-producer of the research; it is the
natural one to host and harvest its own output, for record-keeping,
CV-generation, performance-evaluation, and enhancing institutional
visibility and prestige (not to mention impact and productivity).

Others, such as NIH and other research funders, can then *harvest* the
OA contents of their fundees' institutional OA Archives (that is what
they are OAI-compliant for, after all!) in order to populate their own
repositories, such as PubMed Central. But NIH and other research funders
need to align themselves with what is in the best interests of research
and researchers -- which is immediate OA -- and not to hamper or retard it
with arbitrary and unnecessary embargoes or depositing constraints.

    "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

    Alma Swan, Paul Needham, Steve Probets, Adrienne Muir, Anne O'Brien,
    Charles Oppenheim, Rachel Hardy, Fytton Rowland and Sheridan Brown
    (2005). Developing a model for e-prints and open access journal
    content for UK higher and further education. Learned Publishing, 18
    (1), 25-40.

The Immediate Keystroke Mandate (IK-0) is the optimal policy for reaching
100% OA at last.

Stevan Harnad

Nature 10 September on Public Archiving (1998)

E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal (1999)

Floyd Bloom's SCIENCE Editorial about NIH/E-biomed

Evolving APS Copyright Policy (American Physical Society)

Nature's vs. Science's Embargo Policy (2000)

AAAS's Response: Too Little, Too Late (2001)

APS copyright policy (2002)

Open Letter to Philip Campbell, Editor, Nature (2003)

Shulenburger on open access: so NEAR and yet so far

Nature Web Debate on Open Access (2004)

Elsevier Gives Authors Green Light for Open Access Self-Archiving

A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

URGENT support for NIH public access policy

Nature Back-Slides on Self-Archiving [Corrected] (2005)

Please Don't Copy-Cat Clone NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!
Received on Mon Jan 31 2005 - 03:47:38 GMT

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