Open Access Statement of Australian Research Insfrastructure Committee

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2005 10:35:16 +0000

I hate to always have to be such a curmudgeon, especially with the
enterprising and advanced OA/Oz movement, but this is yet another in the
endless series of hopelessly vague, haplessly inaccurate, and unhappily
OA-publication-centred Statements, Declarations, Manifestos, Initiatives,
Demands and Petitions that never manage to get around to making a concrete
proposal for an implementable OA *provision* policy. Here I go again:

> The Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee
> (ARIIC) has a commitment to the development of a coherent
> information infrastructure for Australian higher education.
> Successful achievement of this commitment is dependent on systems
> of academic publishing and communication that enable the rapid and
> affordable dissemination of the outcomes of research and scholarship,
> and on the preservation of the scholarly record for the future.

This is tilted far, far too much toward the publication system (and, implicitly,
OA publishing) as the basis for OA and for attaining OA. The far more important
institutional self-archiving of articles published in the *existing* journals
is almost completely missed here. This does not depend at all on "systems of
academic publishing that... (etc.)": It depends *only* on institutions adopting
policies of self-archiving their own published article output in their own
institutional OA archives.

The ARIIC statement also loses a great deal of its potential force by aiming
vaguely at all "academic publication" instead of specifically at OA's primary
target literature: Refereed journal articles (and refereed conference papers)
(plus, optionally, their prepublication preprint versions):

Why is that OA's primary target? Because books are not author give-aways,
the way journal articles are, written only for the sake of reporting
research to be used by all would-be users, rather than for the sake of
generating author royalty revenue or fees. Hence a "one size fits all"
statement about "academic publications" just creates confusion (and
resistance) because it does *not* fit all academic publications.

> ARIIC recognises that:
> 1. digital communications offer opportunities for the development
> of more efficient and effective systems of academic publishing.

Far more important than "more efficient and effective systems of academic
publishing" is providing open access to refereed research articles. That
is about *access provision*, not systems of publishing.

> 2. research is increasingly conducted globally by collaborations
> facilitated by grids of communications and computing power,
> and access to shared information resources will assist such
> endeavours.

And OA will assist research even for research that is not global and collaborative
even moreso! Collaborators already share their data. What is needed is access
to all refereed research articles for all their potential users worldwide,
irrespective of their institution's capacity to pay for access to the journal in
which it happens to be published. No reform of publishing itself is
necessary for this (though all OA publications are of course encouraged
and welcome!); only a reform in institutional access-provision policy --
through systematic self-archiving of 100% of refereed research article

> 3. open access to the outcomes of research will enhance the
> profile of universities and national research programs, contribute to
> the further advancement of knowledge, and recognise the public
> contribution to the funding of research.

Correct. But the statement has so far not even touched on what OA is and how to
provide it! It has just gone on abstractly about academic publication and

> 4. maintaining the quality and authority of academic publishing
> and the integrity of the scholarly record is of critical importance
> through any evolution.

Why is this statement involving itself in non-problems? Is it about
a decline in "quality and authority" of academic publication in the
digital age, or about taking advantage of the newfound possibility it
offers for providing Open Access?

And what is this about "integrity"? Is this about digital preservation (which has
nothing to do with OA and applies to all digital objects) or is it about

> access to information builds informed communities and contributes
> to the elimination of social and economic disadvantage.

Yes, yes, but along with the pious platitudes this statement needs some substance
and focus specific to the target of OA: refereed research articles written by
researchers for researchers and all other potential users.

> ARIIC acknowledges that the Australian government has supported
> the Open Access declaration formulated by the OECD Committee for
> Scientific and Technological Policy.[1] It is also noted that
> scholarly bodies throughout the world have issued statements and
> declarations relating to their commitment to open access initiatives
> that will enhance global access to scholarly information.[2]

Yes, and those many prior formal statements and declarations have
largely been abstract (and sometimes exceedingly vague) expressions
of principle. What is needed is a clear, focused basis for concrete
policy and practise. Footnote 2 especially introduces an abstract, formal
"definition" of OA that is in fact the definition of a publication in an
OA journal, not a definition of OA, which merely means: immediate, free,
permanent, online, full-text access. The rest is either completely irrelevant
or already comes with the territory.

(The OECD statement is about access to research *data* not to research
*articles*. Access to both is desirable and welcome, but the primary
focus of OA is access to research articles.)

> In agreement with the intentions of these statements ARIIC declares
> it will work to wards:
> 1. building the infrastructure, such as institutional repositories,
> that will advance open access.

Yes, but what does this mean? Merely providing institutional repositories is far
from enough: What is really needed is systematic institutional policies for
*filling* them (with institutional refereed research articles, theses, and their

> 2. raising awareness of the principles and practise of open access
> publishing within Australian research institutions.

Open Access *publishing* or Open Access? (And to raise awareness about OA
principles and practise one must have a clear idea of what OA is, what
publications it is for, and how to provide it.) But certainly raising
awareness is extremely important, and requires not only publicising the
growing evidence that providing OA substantially increases the visibility,
usage and impact or research output:
it also requires adopting and applying an effective institutional OA
provision policy:

> 3. implementing public policies that ensure fair use of copyrighted
> information for educational and research purposes.

Fair use is a *complete red herring* insofar as OA is concerned! Why mix apples
and oranges like this?

> 4. cooperating with Australian governments to improve access
> to scholarly information, and to maximise the amount of information
> in the public domain.

Again, hopelessly vague and abstract -- and simply incorrect, if it is imagined
that providing OA to refereed research articles has anything to do with making
them "public domain" (q.v.).

> [1]

OA is first and foremost about user access to research *articles*. OECD is about
research *data*.

> 2 Definition of open access publication:
> An open access publication is one that meets the following two
> conditions: The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all
> users a free, irrevocable, world-wide, perpetual (for the lifetime of
> the applicable copyright) right of access to, and a licence to copy,
> use, distribute, perform and display the work publicly and to make and
> distribute derivative works in any digital medium for any reasonable
> purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the
> right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.

This is the definition of OA *publication* but not of OA itself,
hence not a definition of OA *provision*. To provide OA is to make
the full-text article freely accessible immediately and permanently online.
*That's all!* The rest of the usage possibilities already come with that
-- and the license/copyright aspects are irrelevant. (Ninety-two percent
of journals have already given their official green light to author/institution
self-archiving, and there are simple legal ways to do it for the remaining 8%

> A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials,
> including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable
> standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial
> publication in at least one online repository that is supported by
> an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or
> other well-established organisation that seeks to enable open access,
> unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving.

This criterion -- which needs to be met (by definition) by any article
that is published in an OA journal (5%) -- requires an institutional
self-archiving policy for the 95% of articles that are published in
non-OA journals. This is the true heart of the matter, and it is missed
in this preoccupation with OA publication (5%).

> An open access publication is a property of individual works, not
> necessarily of journals or of publishers. Community standards,
> rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism
> for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the
> published work, as they do now.

All completely irrelevant to self-archived articles published in non-OA journals

> This definition of open access publication has been taken from A
> Position statement by the Wellcome Trust in support of open access
> publishing ( and
> was based on the definition arrived at by delegates who attended
> a meeting on open access publishing convened by the Howard Hughes
> Medical Institute in July 2003.

And was based on OA publishing (5%), not OA provision (95%).

Let us hope that the "Roadmap" that emerges from next week's international
meeting at Southampton on implementing the Berlin Declaration will succeed
in providing specific practical directions for institutional OA provision
policies to follow: We have had enough of abstract principles: We now need
concrete practise!

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
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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 Feb 22 2005 - 10:35:16 GMT

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