Against Pre-emptive Plans for Content-Bare Cupboards

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 7 May 2005 14:35:53 +0100

Please pardon this homily (and mixed metaphor) from your self-annointed
archivangelist on the subject of definitive chicken-rearing plans floated
for chickens as yet unhatched, from eggs as yet unlaid (and unlaid in large
part because of pre-emptive egg-laying-unfriendly chicken-rearing plans!).

The OA sectors of "Institutional Repositories" (which I prefer to
call "OA Archives" to remind us of their specific intended content:
published journal articles) worldwide are at least 85% empty today. The
cupboards are bare. The eggs are unlaid.

Yet some of us are busy confidently promoting *strictures* on how the
contents are to be arranged, how the eggs are to be stacked, and how
the chickens are to be reared: We have plans for publishing-reform,
peer-review reform, preservation-reform, permissions/copyright-reform --
proud plans, but next to nothing to execute them on.

Worse, every one of these plans -- other than the one to provide the
cupboards -- is directly at odds with the filling of the cupboards,
the laying of the eggs, by needlessly increasing the barriers and burdens
that are holding back egg-laying today, instead of reducing them.

May I suggest a moratorium on chicken-rearing plans and a concerted
focus on egg-laying? What institutions need to do is to adopt explicit,
official *policies* for providing OA to their own article output by requiring
their researchers to self-archive them (lay the eggs, fill the cupboards).

This requires a system of incentives that are entirely within the hands
of researchers, their institutions and their funders -- carrots, such
as explicitly rewarding research impact as an extension of the existing
publish-or-perish incentive system -- not a pre-emptive set of burdens
and barriers (reform the publishing system, reform the peer-review system,
reform the preservation system, reform the permissions/copyright system)
that not only exceed the scope of researchers, their institutions and
their funders, but are neither necessary for, nor the objective of, OA.

The specific, direct objective of OA (tautologically) is to provide
100% Open Access to the annual 2.5 million articles published in the
world's 24,000 peer-reviewed research journals. There may (or may not)
be something to be said for publishing reform, peer-review reform,
preservation reform, and permissions/copyright reform too, over and above
OA, but it is 100% OA that is the necessary and sufficient condition
for 100% OA, and for that the cupboards need to be 100% filled, the eggs
need to be 100% laid.

Only 15% of the eggs are being laid today. This is not the time to tack
a sign on the egg-cupboards: "The Only contents admitted are those for
which the 4 [putative] 'p-problems' have first been solved." That is
a recipe for at least another decade of empty cupboards. What is needed
is a sign that says "All eggs must be laid here, now, in order to be
counted and rewarded for productivity."


Stevan Harnad

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.

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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Received on Sat May 07 2005 - 14:35:53 BST

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