Re: A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 11:37:02 +0100

On Thu, 28 Apr 2005, Charles W. Bailey, Jr. wrote:

> "Not Green Enough" (with links)

> "Departmental" archives are not institutional
> repositories. They do not have an institutional scope of coverage,
> nor are they as likely as institutional archives to be permanent.

But that is all irrelevant. The immediate and urgent purpose of
self-archiving is access-provision (to maximize research usage, impact and
progress), by supplementing the limited access to the publisher's official
toll-access version for all would-be users who cannot afford the tolls. It
is the publisher's official version that has the preservation problem,
not the author's supplementary access version. (Having said that, the
departmental archives have been doing a lot better job of providing
immediate *and continuing* access to their research output than those who
just keep fussing over preservation and permissions...)

> Institutional Archives Registry
> currently shows a total of 424 archives...
> 192 "Research Institutional or Departmental" registered archives
> worldwide... let's... say 100% of them are institutional
> repositories (IRs). Universities Worldwide (IAU, 1997)...
> lists 7,130 universities in 181 countries...
> that means that about 6% of all universities have
> IRs. Meaning, of course, that 94% do not.

Good estimate. Now you are facing the problem: Far too few archives,
and most of those that already exist, still not being filled. Total
percentage of the planet's annual 2.5 million peer-reviewed journal
output being self-archived annually to date: about 15%:

Now, having described the size of the problem accurately, this is
where Charles (having already worried about permissions and
preservation) takes us:

> And that means that 94% of authors at universities cannot self-archive in
> an institutional repository

The 94% of authors at archiveless universities are one $2000 linux server
-- plus a few days' one-time sysad set-up time and a few annual sysad
days' maintenance time -- away from having an institutional repository:

Meanwhile the 6% of authors at universities with archives are just waiting
for their university administration to stop fussing about permissions and
preservation and get around to policy-making:

> disciplinary archives and the Internet Archive's universal repository
> solve these problems.

By all means, all authors impatient to self-archive now can deposit
their papers in a central archive, if a suitable one exists. And those
who are diffident about 3rd-party archiving can just download the free
eprints software and create their own OAI-compliant archive. But only
institutions can adopt a policy mandating the self-archiving of their
own research output (though funders can and should help too: by
mandating that their fundees self-archive their funded research output
-- in their own institutional archives; that will help encourage
universities to set them up, and to adopt a policy for filling them).

> To be "no problem," we would have to believe that it doesn't
> matter if articles are archived in OAI-PMH compliant repositories or
> archives.

OAI-compliance is better than vanilla self-archiving, but any
self-archiving is better than no self-archiving. And 85% of articles
are not being self-archived any which way today, so why are we fussing
about preservation, permissions and OAI-compliance, when the cupboard
is bare?

> To be "no problem," we would have to not care whether scholars
> who will never have an institutional repository at their disposal can
> self-archive.

The absence of archives is not the problem! Even existing archives
are near-empty. The absence of institutional (and funder) self-archiving
policy is the problem.

> As to the question of it being "cheap and easy for any university
> to create an OAI-compliant institutional archive," I think there is
> some difference of opinion on that point.
> 1. $285,000, MIT
> 2. $100,000 (Canadian), Queens University (for staffing only)
> 3. $200,000, University of Rochester
> 4. between 2,280 and 3,190 staff hours,University of Oregon

Without putting too fine a point on it: There are differences of opinion
about what institutional repositories are for. Those with expensive
opinions have expensive (though not necessarily filled!) archives. The
target content for the OA movement is the annual 2.5 million articles
published in the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals. Any given
research-active university might publish from 1000 - 10,000 of those
annual articles. The server, set-up and maintenance costs are as I
described them. One can do more, of course, but the only further
thing that is *necessary* is a specific, targeted institutional
self-archiving *policy* along the lines of:

> I think that Stevan will find that few academic libraries
> are not going to worry about permanence. Not only will they
> worry about the permanence of digital objects in their
> repositories, they will also worry about the permanence of
> publisher's archives.

Everyone should do what they are best at doing. Some are better at
worrying about permanence, others are better at creating and filling
archives with their target contents. There are librarians of both
kinds. But it is a fact that the only ones in a position to provide
the target content are authors, not librarians; and the only ones in
the position to mandate that authors do so are their employers and
funders, not their librarians.

But I must point out again (and again) that the problem of the
permanence of the publishers' archives, containing the official version
of the 2.5 million annual journal articles *has nothing whatsoever to
do with OA or self-archiving*. Nor does the permanence of digital
objects other than journal articles. So there's a few things to get off
worriers' minds so they can devote their efforts and ingenuity to the
real task, which is getting authors self-archiving, and (institutional)
archives filled.

> universities are not going to establish
> institutional repositories just to support OA.

If they establish them for other reasons, with other expenses,
that's fine. But don't blame those further expenses on OA; and
don't let them further retard self-archiving, which has long been
100% feasible and is well overdue:

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"

> Libraries are also going to provide new services to provide
> IR support in addition to technical support, ranging from
> convincing faculty to self-archive and helping them do so to
> training users in using IRs (as well as other e-print
> services worldwide). These services will cost money.

If the money's available, it's welcome, and well-spent. But if it is
not, then let that not be cited as a deterrent from creating a vanilla OA
archive and adopting the all-important component: an institutional
self-archiving policy.

> > SH: The main distinction is the author's
> > own institutional archive versus central (3rd-party)
> > archives. It is the former that are the critical ones. The
> > rest can be done by metadata harvesting.
> The SHERPA colors do not make this distinction. Neither do
> the otherwise helpful notes. You must look at each specific
> agreement (if there is a link to it).

Nor should they make that distinction. The only relevant datum is preprint
green, postprint green, or gray. The default is to self-archive the
final, accepted draft in the author's own institutional archive. (The
website/archive distinction is 100% bogus.) The publisher's PDF is
unnecessary, and should always be linked to (if a URL exists). That's all.

> Developing clear, understandable standard copyright transfer
> agreements is a red herring? Let's look at just one aspect
> of the problem: IR managers' copyright concerns.

Let us hope that this brand-new portfolio -- "IR managers" -- either gets
up to speed with what OA self-archiving is really about, and for, and how
to go about it, or it (the portfolio!) rapidly goes extinct. Authors
need to self-archive; their universities and funders need to mandate
the deposit of the metadata and full-text; and the "Keystroke Policy"
takes care of the rest.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Apr 29 2005 - 11:37:02 BST

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