US University OA Resolutions Omit Most Important Component

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 14:51:14 +0100

    [Preface: In case there is any doubt about it, I do not at all enjoy
    having always to play the role of n'er-content and fault-finder.
    It sometimes reminds me of the old joke about the man at the
    psychiatrist's, doing the ink-blot test: The doctor asks him why
    he keeps reporting pornographic content and the patient replies
    "I can't help it doctor, if you keep showing me dirty pictures!"

    But even with that caveat I cannot but report what I see. To check
    whether it is just a mote in my eye, please review the statements
    cited below for yourself, in the light of what I am about to say.]

University Open Access (OA) Resolutions, even toothless, purely
abstract ones with no concrete policy proposals, are better than no
University OA Resolutions, one would have thought, just as some
sort of NIH OA Policy is better than none (one would have thought).

    "Please Don't Copy-Cat Clone NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!"

But, we must ask ourselves, is this really true, at a time when 100% OA
is fully within reach and already long overdue, with research access,
usage, impact and progress continuing to be needlessly lost, the loss
compounded daily, weekly, monthly, as we continue making false starts
that miss the point and keep heading us off in the wrong directions
(and mostly no direction at all)?

Of the two most recent in a series of University Resolutions and
Statements, Columbia's actually mentioned OA: "Resolution Concerning
'Open Access'" whereas
whereas Berkeley's "Scholarly Publishing Statement of Principles"
did not even mention "Open Access" but only "alternative venues
for scholarly communication" and "retaining faculty control

What was missing from both was the core component of a targeted university
OA policy, the only component with the capacity to move universities
to 100% OA rather than continuing to drift aimlessly, as they do now.

Of all the US University Statements and Resolutions, the only one
that does contain this all-important component (albeit in a needlessly
circuitous and somewhat hobbled form, because the part in square brackets
is at least 92% superfluous --
is that of the University of Kansas:

    "The University of Kansas Senate... Calls on all faculty of the
    University of Kansas to
    [seek amendments to publisher's copyright transfer forms to permit the]
        {1} deposit[ion of] a digital copy of every article accepted
        by a peer-reviewed journal into the ScholarWorks repository,
        or a similar open access venue... {and} to
        {2} invest in the infrastructure necessary to support new venues
        for peer-reviewed publication"

All the rest of the US university statements and resolutions so far fail
to mention self-archiving at all, going on and on instead about {3}
the high costs of journals, about {4} the (putative) need to reform
copyright and retain ownership, and about {5} the (putative) need to
favor "alternative publication venues" (by which is meant OA journals),
not only by helping to fund them (i.e., {2} above), but even by more
favorably evaluating the work that appears in them; and of course there
is much abstract and ideological praise for {6} the abstract principle
of free(r) access.

Yet universities themselves are the providers of the very content for
which they are seeking Open Access (from one another!) in these Statements
and Resolutions. How long will they keep dancing around the blinkered idea
that it is intellectual property rights {4}, academic evaluation {5},
or publishing itself {3} that they need to reform, when the key to 100%
OA lies in their very own hands?

The only thing universities need to do in order to make the content
that they themselves already provide openly accessible is to keep
on publishing it in journals exactly as they always have done, but in
addition, to make an online copy of it openly accessible to all would-be
users webwide who cannot afford the official published version -- by
self-archiving a supplementary draft of every published article in the
university's own OA eprint archive.

With 92% of journals having already given their green light to university
self-archiving it is nothing short of absurd to keep harping on retaining
copyright {4} and favoring "alternative venues" {5} instead of simply
adopting a policy of self-archiving all university journal article output:

The US Universities are travelling a well-worn path of false starts. The path
has been travelled by the UK Parliamentary Science and Technology
Select Committee, which started out with an equally diffuse initial position
but then successfully brought into focus on the optimal policy recommendation
(require self-archiving, encourage/support OA journals):

The Berlin Declaration likewise managed to get itself into focus recently at the
Berlin 3 conference in Southampton, on a policy recommendation that was
virtually identical to that of the UK Select Committee:

And of course the University of Kansas (along with 12 other universities
and research institutions worldwide) have also adopted a policy along
the lines of the UK and Berlin recommendations:

Let us hope that other universities (US and non-US) as well as research
institutions and research funders world-wide will not copy/clone diffuse
and directionless statements/resolutions such as Columbia's and Berkeley's
but instead include the critical concrete component {1} that will convey
us all at long last to the optimal and inevitable (and long overdue)
outcome for research, researchers, their institutions, their funders,
and their funders' funders, the tax-paying public: 100% OA

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2005)
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-1 ("green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a open-access journal if/when
            a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
            in your institutional repository.
Received on Tue May 03 2005 - 14:51:14 BST

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