Re: A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 2 May 2005 17:12:59 +0100 (BST)

Charles Bailey wrote, In "Two Views of IRs"

> The crux of the matter is two very different views of institutional repositories
> (IRs), and, therefore, different perceptions about how quickly IRs will solve the
> self-archiving problem.

I think Charles has it exactly right here. There are (at least) 5 distinct aims
for "IRs":

    "The 5 distinct aims for institutional repositories"

    I. (RES) self-archiving institutional research output (preprints,
    postprints and theses)

    II. (MAN) digital collection management (all kinds of digital content)

    III. (PRES) digital preservation (all kinds of digital content)

    IV. (TEACH) online teaching materials

    V. (EPUB) electronic publication (journals and books)

There are hence also, I suppose, two different views of "self-archiving"
-- though I have to point out that the term "self-archiving" and even
"open archives" preceded the "institutional repository" (IR) movement,
was specific to (what has since come to be called) "open access" (OA) and
its specific target content was the target content of (what has since
come to be called) the "open access movement," namely, refereed journal
articles (both their preprints and their postprints, plus theses, i.e.,
RES, above). None of my disagreement with Charles is about semiotics,
but words do get in our way.

The disagreement is about the agenda for II-V (MAN, PRES, TEACH and EPUB)
holding back progress on the agenda for I (RES), which is the specific,
focussed agenda of the OA movement:

    "The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which
    scholars give to the world without expectation of payment. Primarily,
    this category encompasses their peer-reviewed journal articles, but
    it also includes any unreviewed preprints that they might wish to
    put online for comment or to alert colleagues to important research

RES (i.e., OA) is quite urgent and quite overdue. It (i.e., c. 100% OA)
is also already easily within reach and now only requires a mandate from
researchers' institutions and funders. Researchers themselves have made
it clear that this, and this only, is what it will take to get them to
(OA) self-archive, and do so willingly.

The IR agenda (I-V, above, which does not even seem to assign any particular
priority or urgency to I, which is RES, i.e., the OA subagenda of the
IR agenda) has hence become (unwittingly and unintentionally, no doubt,
but alas good intentions do not make up for untoward effects!) yet another
"brake" on progress in OA self-archiving, adding to the long and long-standing
list of groundless worries that have been holding back OA self-archiving for
years now ("Zeno's Paralysis")
further worries that don't even have anything to do with OA
self-archiving, but have to do with the IR agenda. (Indeed, although the
replies to the 32 Zeno worries predated the IR terminology and the IR
agenda, many of them could now be expressed as "This is a red herring
for OA self-archiving and is based on conflating the OA self-archiving
agenda with the IR agenda. Self-archive now, and worry about II-V later, or
in parallel.")

> In Stevan's view, the sole purpose of an IR is to provide free global access to
> e-prints.

No, RES is the sole purpose of the OA movement (as distinct from the IR
movement), and it is the urgent and 100% feasible solution to the research
access/usage/impact/progress problem. Librarians -- bless their hearts,
which are all in the right places, but saints preserve us (sic!) from some
of their bibliocentric and sometimes fatally anachronistic instincts! --
seem to understand (a portion of) the access component of this problem
(the "serials crisis"), but not the usage, impact and progress components,
nor their solutions, in the online age.

MAN, PRES and TEACH have nothing whatsoever to do with the OA problem
or its solution. And EPUB (which does include "golden" or OA Journal
publication) is the far slower and more uncertain road to 100% OA, hence
the wrong horse to back (particularly at the individual institutional
EPUB level). Yet, wouldn't you know it, a goodly portion of the library
community had a hand in the futile, one-sided "gold rush" of the past
3 years, which only served to keep us still longer from the greener
pastures of OA self-archiving!

Let it be admitted, though, that librarians are far from being alone in
their mismanagement of gold and green:

    The Case Against Mixing Up Green and Gold

And now it is SPARC, which it took ever so long to wean from its
one-sided, short-sighted preoccupation with just driving down journal

    "A Role for SPARC in Freeing the Refereed Literature" (2000)

that first went overboard on gold and then, partially recovered, went
on to submerge the focussed, urgent OA (green) agenda in the much more
diffuse IR agenda, effectively piling further needless weight onto OA's
burdens instead of lightening them.

> I'm unclear about Stevan's position about independent scholars who will
> never be able to self-archive in an IR because they are not affiliated
> with any institution or about researchers who are affiliated with
> non-academic institutions that will never have IRs. Perhaps, in the
> last case, he believes that IRs will be universal for every non-academic
> institution.

I certainly hope that (OA) IRs will be universal to all research institutions,
whether academic or not. There is certainly no reason they should not be, and
every reason they should be, since doing doing it (n.b., *OA* IRs: RES) is
cheap and simple, with the access/usage/impact/progress benefits amply
rewarding the cost.

But what about about unaffiliated researchers? The only way I can reply
is in percentage terms. If those do not speak for themselves, I give up
and rest my case!

Today we have about 15% OA. Another way to put this is that 85% of our research
article output is needlessly losing potential impact daily, weekly, monthly,
with the size of that lost impact being estimated at between 50% and over 300%
across all fields.
Let's conservatively peg the OA impact advantage at 50%: That means 85% of the
2.5 million articles published yearly are losing 50% of their potential
research impact today.

Now some more percentages. It is also the case that 92% of journals
are green (i.e., have given their official green light to their authors
to self-archive, immediately; note that I am not saying that the green
light was needed, but for those who feel it is needed, it is already
there, in 92% of cases).
Yet only 15% of articles are self-archived.

More percentages: Charles himself has estimated that less than 6%
of universities worldwide as yet have (OA) IRs. This, despite the fact that the
software is free, and the set-up and maintenance costs are risibly small,
especially in relation to the benefits (for OA IRs! not necessarily
for the whole II-V IR kit-and-kaboodle [MAN, PRES, TEACH, EPUB], but,
to repeat, we are not talking about that; that's not what's urgent,
that's not what's needlessly bleeding daily research impact).

More percentages: the 2 JISC international, interdisciplinary author
surveys have reported that 79% of authors say they will self-archive --
and self-archive willingly -- but only if their employers and/or funders
require it. If we add those who say they will comply grumblingly, we
reach 96%, meaning only 4% of authors who say they would not comply with
a self-archiving mandate.

Now, in the face of all these percentages, Charles asks me to say what will become
of the articles of unaffiliated scholars! (Can we please see to the welfare of the
dog, before worrying about the welfare of the flea on its tail? I am a vegetarian,
and I care about the welfare of all living organisms, but there are numbers and
priorities to reckon too. There are obvious solutions for unaffiliated scholars;
but can we please keep them in proportion, rather than amplifying them into yet
another antigen in the pandemic of Zeno's Paralysis?)

> (To clarify one point of confusion, libraries are not generally expecting IRs to
> solve the e-journal preservation problem. They are turning to solutions such as
> LOCKSS to do that.)

Well thank goodness that canard, at least, has been removed from Zeno's list
of 32, but alas only by Charles! That's one down and how many more librarians to
convince that journal article preservation has absolutely nothing to do with
OA self-archiving?

And does this mean that IR PRES will no longer be cited as a retardant on OA IR

> I do not believe that getting faculty to voluntarily deposit e-prints will be
> easy. I'm not convinced that most university administrators are going to be
> quickly and effortlessly persuaded to endorse Berlin 3 unless it is, in effect,
> externally mandated (e.g., Research Councils UK proposal).

There are two speculations here: (1) that it will be hard to persuade faculty to
self-archive and (2) that it will be hard to persuade administrators to require
faculty to self-archive. Charles's speculation may or may not be right. (Faculty
themselves seem to be saying (1) will be easy if only (2) happens.) I prefer to
work to make (2) happen, rather than speculating about whether it will happen, and
how hard it will be. (I already know, after over a decade of archivangelizing, how
hard it is to persuade people to see and do the optimal and inevitable!)

By the way, we need both institutional and funder mandates (and the funder
mandates should be for *institutional* self-archiving as the preferred mode,
for many, many reasons).

    A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

And, as a proof of the fact that it can be done, there are already some
universities and research institutions that have adopted self-archiving
policies (may their tribes increase!):

But they are far too few; and meanwhile 50% of potential research impact
continues to be lost -- needlessly and cumulatively -- for 85% of research
output worldwide.

> I think that at least a significant subset of universities will want some type of
> basic vetting of the copyright compliance status of submitted e-prints, and, given
> the current wide range of variations in publisher copyright agreements and a
> relatively low level of faculty awareness and interest in copyright matters, that
> this will be a thorny issue (and one that directly relates to my standard
> copyright agreement idea).

It will be as thorny an issue as we choose (needlessly and arbitrarily) to make
it. Ninety-two percent of journals are green on institutional self-archiving.
There is no need for the 8% tail to wag the 92% dog. 92% of research output can
be self-archived immediately. For the time being, that portion of the 8% tail that
is concerned about publisher policy can self-archive the metadata and full-text,
and set the access for the full-text as institutional-internal for the time being,
instead of OA, and the authors can email the full-text to all eprint-requesters
(who will have seen the metadata for the 8%, along with the full-texts for the
92%). That cobbled solution will suffice to stanch all needless impact loss for
the 92%, and most of it -- if less conveniently -- for the remaining 8% as well.

But not if we don't do it, and instead keep fussing about permissions and
copyright reform!

> This is why Johanneke Sytsema of Oxford University said [what she said]]

And that is why I replied what I replied:

Librarians must learn to distinguish OA from IRs (i.e., RES, from
MAN, PRES, TEACH and EPUB) and to treat the former separately, on its
own very special terms; and they must learn to understand the research
access/usage/impact/progress problem from the point of view of the
needs of research and researchers in the online age, not the habits and
expectations of librarians in the on-paper age, reflexively carried over,
kit and kaboodle, to the online medium. Some adaptations are in order,
and I think it is librarian concepts and practice that need to adapt to
research needs and the possibilities of the new medium, not vice versa.

> Which of these two views of institutional repositories will prevail' Time
> will tell. If my view prevails, IRs will take longer than if Stevan's view
> prevails. Academic authors who have papers accepted by publishers with
> restrictive author copyright agreements (i.e., those that bar deposit
> in disciplinary archives or in the universal repository) will have to
> wait to deposit papers in an OAI-PMH compliant archive. Lacking a way
> to self-archive with relative ease, they may simply choose not to do
> so. Non-academic authors may never be able to deposit their papers in
> an OAI-PMH compliant archive.

I am working for the prevalence of a practice, and the benefits it brings,
not for the prevalence of a view. The practice I advocate has been demonstrated
to work, and to deliver the promised benefits, because it is already being
practised by 15% of researchers. The bottle-neck for remaining 15% is purely
mental, not practical or legal or financial. The library community (whose benign
motivations are not for a moment in doubt, and who have already done a great deal
to awaken the research community to the budgetary side of the access problem) have
a choice now as to whether they want to become a part of the solution or the
problem, insofar as OA self-archiving is concerned. If they opt for promoting
the view that OA self-archiving needs to be subordinated to wider IR (MAN, PRES,
TEACH, EPUB) and publishing/copyright reform agendas, they opt (in my view) to
become part of the (OA) problem, rather than the (already tested and proven)

> If the only barrier is a small investment of time and money (as Stevan describes
> ...), it's unclear to me why we don't have universal IRs today:

But it is quite clear to me precisely what is still missing! the universal
adoption of institutional (OA) IR-filling policies, i.e. institutional
self-archiving policies along the lines recommended by Berlin 3:

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon May 02 2005 - 17:12:59 BST

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