DASER 2 IR Meeting and NIH Public Access Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2005 21:39:44 +0000

This is a summary (from my own viewpoint) of the Washington meeting this
weekend sponsored by American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), organized by Michael Leach (Harvard, President, ASIS):

    Digital Archives for Science and Engineering Resources (DASER 2)

(For some other slants on DASER 2, see these two blogs; but beware, as
they do contain some notable garbles and omissions, having been blogged in
real time: Dorothea Salo http://cavlec.yarinareth.net/
and Christina Pikas http://asistdaser.tripod.com/daserblog/ )

DASER 2 rehearsed some familiar developments, highlighted some of them,
and brought out one potentially important new one (re. the NIH Public
Access Policy).

The familiar developments were the worldwide growth in institutional
repositories (IRs), and in new services to help institutions to create,
maintain or even host IRs: ProQuest (using Bepress software), BioMed
Central (using Dspace software) and Eprints Services (using Eprints

Fedora software was also discussed, but it was quite apparent (at
least to me!) that at this DASER meeting, whose specific focus was
digital science/engineering resources -- hence Open Access (OA) IRs in
particular, targeting the self-archiving of institutional peer-reviewed
science/engineering article output, in order to maximise its visibility,
usage and impact, rather than digital curation in general -- Fedora's
much wider and more diffuse target (the collection and curation of any
and all institutional digital content, incoming or outgoing, research or
otherwise) was not the urgent priority. Indeed, there are good reasons
for expecting that if the IR movement first puts its full weight and
energy behind the focussed archiving of 100% of each institution's own
OA IR target content, that will itself prove to be the most effective
way to launch and advance the more general digital-curation agenda too.

There was likewise considerable time devoted to the future of publishing,
with much discussion of OA publishing and the possibility of an eventual
transition to OA publishing. But here too, the lesson was that the best
contribution that OA IRs in particular can make to this possible/eventual
transition is to hasten their own transition to the institutional
self-archiving of 100% of their own OA target content.

Present and contributing very constructively were the two Learned
Society Publishers in whose discipline author self-archiving has
been going on the longest, and has gone the farthest (having reached
100% years ago in some fields): The American Physical Society (the
first publisher to adopt [in 1994] an explicit "green" policy on
author self-archiving [today about 76% of publishers and 93% of journals
are green]) and the Institute of Physics (likewise green, along with
some notable experiments in "gold" OA publishing).

The keynote speaker was Jan Velterop, formerly publisher of "pure gold"
BioMed Central, and now director of OA for Springer's "optional gold"
Open Choice. Jan's main concern was (understandably) to encourage authors
to pick the gold option and to encourage their institutions and research
councils to fund the author costs.

Jan applauded the growth in the IR movement but noted a substantial
decrease in the number of postings on the American Scientist Open Access
Forum (AmSci) in 2004-2005 compared to prior years, and worried that this
might reflect a decrease in OA momentum.

On the contrary: the decreased AmSci volume was intentional. In 2004, a new
policy for AmSci postings was announced, reserving the Forum for concrete,
practical discussion of institutional and research-funder OA policy
design and implementation. AmSci's former open-ended (and unending)
philosophical and ideological debate about open access was instead
redirected to the many other OA lists that have spawned since the AmSci
OA Forum's inception in 1998:

    "[T]his Forum, the first of what is now a half dozen lists
    devoted to OA matters, is -- as has been announced several
    times -- now reserved for the discussion of concrete,
    practical means of accelerating OA growth." [December 2004]

The DASER conference also devoted time and thought to the future
of librarians in the digital and OA era; again, insofar as IRs are
concerned, a good investment of librarians' available time, energy and
resources is in helping to create and fill IRs, first OA IRs, and then
eventually expanding them to wider and wider digital content, thereby
again facilitating the inevitable and desirable transition. (My own
personal view, however, is that librarians should abstain from speculation
about the future of peer review, which is not really their field of
expertise; I also think retraining librarians to become institutional
in-house publishers may not be the best use of their time and talents.)

That librarians can be an enormous help in getting institutional authors to
deposit their OA content in their IRs was illustrated in my own talk,
using examples from around the world (CERN, Portugal, Southampton)
but with especially striking data from Australia (with thanks to
Arthur Sale and Paula Callan). I also reported on the growing evidence
for the dramatic OA research impact advantage across all disciplines,
now including the humanities and social sciences, and its implications
for research and researcher funding and progress..

The OA impact advantage, IRs, and librarian-help are all *necessary*
conditions for filling IRs with OA content, but to make them into a
jointly *sufficient* condition, one further critical component is needed,
and this has been demonstrated in case after case: The only IRs that are
well along the road toward toward 100% OA are the ones that also have
an institutional self-archiving requirement. Without that, spontaneous
OA self-archiving is hovering at about 5% - 15% globally..

Which brings us to the last and newest development reported at DASER:
The NIH public access policy is flawed and failing -- its deposit rate
is at about 2%, which is even *below* the global average for spontaneous
self-archiving. But the good news is that NIH has realized this, and
is planning to do something about it. The question is: what? There is
a committee to look at this question, but at a quick glance, it does
not seem to include those who actually know what needs to be done,
and how, to make the NIH policy work. Represented are librarians and
publishers, but missing are the institutional OA policy-makers that can
make self-archiving work.

But the solution is simple, and NIH can do it, very easily. First, it is
important to face the 3 flaws of the current NIH policy very forthrightly.
Here they are, in order of severity:

(1) Deposit is *requested* rather than *required*.
(2) The request is not for immediate deposit but deposit within one
    year of publication.
(3) The request is for deposit in PubMed Central (PMC) (rather than in the
    author's IR, from which PMC could harvest it).

The reason the deposit is not required and not immediate is related to
the reason the deposit is in PMC instead of the author's own IR: NIH has
cast itself in the role of a 3rd-party access-provider. This is fine,
for its own funded research. But then it must deal with its publishers
and their conditions (which include access-embargoes of up to 12 months,
in order to protect against perceived risks to their revenues).

OA itself does not require a 3rd-party access-provider. All it requires
is OA! And for that, any OAI-compliant archive, whether the author's own
institutional IR or a central repository like PMC will do, because they
are all equivalent and interoperable, in the OAI-compliant age, and
all accessible to any user or harvester webwide.

So NIH can have what it wants -- 100% of its funded content in PMC
within a year of publication -- while still requiring deposit immediately
upon acceptance (preferably in the author's IR, harvestable by PMC, but
absent that, direct deposited in PMC).

That leaves only the question of how to set the access-privileges, and
now those can be merely the subject of a (strong) request to set them to
OA immediately upon deposit -- but with the option left open (sic) for
the author to set access instead as restricted to institution-internal
and PMC-harvestable (or, for PMC, PMC-administrative-only) if the author
has reason to prefer that (the reason presumably being that the article
is published in one of the 7% of journals that are not yet "green" on
immediate OA self-archiving).

Is this merely a way of tweaking the current NIH policy so as to get
deposits up to 100% without getting immediate OA up to 100%? The answer
is: Yes and No. Yes, this policy will immediately drive up NIH deposits
from their current 2% level to 100%, because deposit will be a fulfilment
condition on receiving the NIH grant. But no, it is not true that it
will not generate immediate 100% OA. For it can generate that too, with a
far smaller delay-loop than 12 months: something more of the order of
12 hours at most:

The solution is very simple (and we are already building it into
the Eprints IR software): The metadata (author, title, journal, date,
abstract) are of course all immediately OA for 100% of deposited papers,
regardless of how the access-privileges for the full-text are set. That
means that from the moment the text is deposited, the metadata are
visible and accessible to all would-be users webwide, thanks to OAI and
the OAI search engines, as well as to google scholar and the non-OAI
search engines.

But what about the full-text? For about 7% of journal articles (the
ones in the non-green journals), access will not be immediately set to
OA. What the Eprints software will do when a would-be user encounters
this dead-end is that the IR interface will provide a link that will pop
up a window allowing the user to send an automatic email to the author
(whose email address is part of the IR's internal metadata) requesting
to be emailed an eprint of the full-text in question. The requester's
email will be sent by the software -- automatically and immediately --
to the author, with a prepared URL that the author need merely click on,
in order to have the eprint immediately emailed to the would-be user.

This author-mediated access-provision is not quite as convenient,
instantaneous or sensible as immediately setting the full-text to
unmediated OA, so the user can just click to down-load it, but it
is effective 100% OA just the same. And NIH can (as now) harvest the
full-text whenever it likes, and can go on to make it OA in PMC whenever
it elects to. None of that will be holding back OA any longer.

This immediate-deposit requirement is also the form that the RCUK policy
is now taking; and it offers a general model for the rest of the world
to adopt too.

Note that this slightly modified policy completely side-lines all publisher
objections: It is merely a deposit requirement, not an OA access-setting
requirement. It is left up to researchers and the would-be users of
their research to sort out access-provision according to the needs of
research -- exactly as it should be.

This is of course also the policy that institutions should adopt, for
their own institutional research output, whether or not funded by NIH
or RCUK. An immediate-deposit requirement will result in IRs worldwide
filling virtually overnight (at long last).

(The other thing NIH should do is to couple its deposit requirement with
an explicit statement of NIH's readiness to cover OA journal publication
charges for those NIH fundees who choose to publish their findings in
an OA journal.)

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:
        To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
        Post discussion to:

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 Mon Dec 05 2005 - 21:57:39 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:48:07 GMT