Re: Question for publishers - Research Assessment Exercise 2008

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2006 21:10:02 +0000

On Sat, 18 Feb 2006 wrote:

> I regret to say that Stevan is incorrect in some of his comments. For
> previous RAEs, there WERE licensing arrangements put in place to permit
> p/copies of articles to be passed to RAE panels. he is probably unaware of
> this because no great publicity was associated with the arrangements that
> were set up.

There is no end to what people will do, if left to their own devices,
safely out of reach of critical reflection. The only substantive question,
though, is: What actually makes sense?

(If more publicity had attended the low-profile RAE licensing
arrangements last time, perhaps some voices of reason would have
been raised earlier. As it stands, it seems to me that people in the
self-regulating interstices of permissions departments are making ad
hoc decisions about what does and does not need permission without any
particular answerability to reason one way or the other!)

Unless I am mistaken, the RAE consists of the following: Researchers all
over the UK submit N (4? 8? 12?) copies of their four most important
articles, to be counted (and sometimes confirmed, and sometimes even
read and pondered) by a panel of RAE assessors.

I (and many others the world over) receive, every year, several times,
copies of the articles of candidates at other institutions who are
being evaluated for employment, promotion, tenure, chairs, prizes,
or funding. Does anyone imagine that a license has been or needs to be
sought in order to send someone's own work out to be evaluated?

Reductio ad absurdum: Suppose the photocopies, which the author makes for his
own private use, are temporarily *lent* to another individual, with the
request that they then be returned to their owner: Does that too call
for "licensing arrangements"?

Well then let the evaluation copies be considered a loan, and let that
be the end of it. (If still in doubt, run the same thought experiment
through with a lent book, instead of an article, or one's own photocopy
of one's own book, lent.)

Still not absurd enough? Well then return to what would have been the
most sensible thing to do in the first place: Not to use originals or
photocopies of the publisher's version at all, but simply the author's
own final peer-reviewed final draft. Still think a license is needed
for me to send my own work to be evaluated?

> Licences are likewise needed this time around because the Universities do
> not (in general) own the copyright in these items, so they are "dealing"
> with someone else's (usually a publisher's) copyright material. Such
> copying by Universities cannot be considered "fair dealing" as it is not
> for one of the permitted purposes, and indeed is not permitted under any
> other exception to copyright. So I am glad that PLS is arranging a licence
> so that institutions can pass copies of items to RAE panels without risk of
> copyright infringement.

The solution to this rather absurd pseudo-problem ("How can I send my own
writing to be evaluated by someone I would prefer not to have to go out
and buy a copy for himself to pay for the privilege?") is super-simple:
Let it not be (nominally) the "universities" that do the submitting to
the RAE; let it instead be (nominally) the authors themselves. "Here
is my work: Please assess me!" Let the authors either "lend" their
own photocopies of their own published articles to the RAE assessors
(with a postage stamp and request to return it once assessed), or,
better still, let them lend their own final, corrected drafts, out of
their own word-processors. (I had already pointed out that the fatal
foolishness -- probably out of pointless pedantry if not paranoia -- was
in RAE's insisting on the publisher's version rather than the author's
final draft in the first place.)

I am, of course, not proposing that these idiotic prophylactic measures be
taken; I am just trying to use them as an intuition pump, to wash off the
nonsensical notion that "institutions" (whether the author's university
or HEFCE) are here making "unfair use" of the publisher's property:
It is the authors who are doing the using, of their own work,
in their own interests. Anyone who insists on construing it in another
way is simply giving HEFCE and the universities bad advice. (But,
without publicity, bad advice risks being followed.)

> In summary, I'm afraid the law does require licensing this time around, as
> it did for the previous RAEs.

The Law requires licensing if we put this question to the Law in the
form: "Can institutions make multiple photocopies of a published work
to submit them to the RAE?" The Law comes up with another answer
if we ask": "Can individuals lend/send personal copies of their own
work to be evaluated?"

QED (or so it ought to be, but I expect there are more hermeneutic
epicycles to be spun on this yet...)

> My understanding is that the RAE panels want pdfs rather than author
> postprints because they need the reassurance that the thing they are
> reading is identical to that which was published. Since the RAE is an
> auditing exercise in which the onus is on the integrity of what is being
> submitted, HEFCE no doubt feel that the pdf offers the necessary security.

That is indeed the heart of the matter, and just a little common sense and
reflection will reveal -- as I have pointed out many times before -- that
the onus is *not* on HEFCE but on the *institutions*, to make sure that
what they are submitting is kosher. If it is discovered that someone has
submitted a plagiarised or altered work -- something that the electronic
medium makes even easier to detect and expose than was possible in the
paper medium (though there too, the risk and consequences of exposure
were mighty) -- then the ones that are named, shamed, blamed and punished
are of course the institutions, and ultimately the researchers, not HEFCE!

To show that this is pure pedantry and nothing more (except possibly
paranoia), ask yourself whether it is really "safe" to trust even the
journal version? After all, peer review being the frail human exercise
it is, the only ones who may (or may not) have ensured that the paper
met all dietetic laws were the referees: Is the onus of the integrity
of the RAE exercise to be entrusted to one or two fallible, corruptible
referees? Surely RAE should re-do the peer review, and with more robust
numbers, on whatever document the author submits!

[If this seems to call into question the value of having the RAE
assessor's re-do in any measure the assessment that has already been done
by the peer reviewers, then I have succeeded in making myself understood!
There is no need for most of the baroque trappings of this auditing
exercise: Insofar as published journal articles are concerned, it *is*
just an auditing exercise. The RAE should not be asking for copies of
the papers to read at all -- god knows how many of them they actually
read anyway -- it should simply be counting: journal articles, citations,
downloads, and other objective indicators. (Charles himself has published
a good deal to show that a goodly proportion of the variance in the RAE
rankings is already predictable from that scientometric audit trail.)]

Instead, we find ourselves in the absurd position of twisting
ourselves into knots in order to have the "legal right" to submit for
*re-assessment* (inexpert, and only on a spot-check basis), by an RAE
panel, the publisher's proprietary page-images of a peer-reviewed
article that has already been assessed (by purpose-picked, qualified
experts -- within the vagaries of journals' quality standards, competence,
and conscientiousness), when the outcome is already highly correlated
with an objective audit we could have done without even needing to have
the full-texts in hand, and, inasmuch as we may have felt impelled to
give the full-texts a look, we might just as well have had the author's
peer-reviewed, corrected final draft, without the further trappings and
ceremony, just duly certified by the already frantic and compulsive RAE
preparation committee in each department of each university, eager to
maximise their ranks, minimise their risks, and be compliant in every
conceivable and inconceivable way.

As I said, this will all be seen to be hilarious in hindsight: Once we
are all making our refereed final drafts routinely accessible online
free for all in our institutional repositories, the thought that we were
agitating ourselves over "licensing arrangements" for RAE assessment
way back in 2006 will be seen to have just been one of those quaint
paleolithic quirks, like the conviction that everyone needed a walking
stick or a top hat in order to stay upright and avoid their death of a
cold or sunstroke...

> Having said all that, things would have been so much simpler if, as Stevan
> has argued, mandated self-archived articles with copyright owned by the
> academic/HEI had been around years ago!

I hate to be so contrary again but, no, it is not copyright-retention that
has been and is the problem. It is finger-retention: If/when researchers
at last make (or get made to make) their fingers do the walking, to do
the keystrokes required to deposit their refereed final drafts (and
optionally also their pre-refereeing preprints) in their own IRs --
a practice to which 93% of journals have already given their blessing,
though it was not really needed, yet only 15% of authors are actually
doing it unmandated -- then all of this substance- and sense-free
shadow-boxing will be at an end and... After 12 long years I no longer
say "the optimal and inevitable" will be upon us: I don't doubt that we
will simply graduate to some new, higher level of tom-foolery.


Your faithful archivangelist, with patience alas a-frayed...

Stevan Harnad

    Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003)
    Mandated online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives:
    Improving the UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst
    making it cheaper and easier. Ariadne 35 (April 2003).

> Quoting Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>:
> > Thanks to Peter Suber for drawing this to my attention. (I was not on
> > LIS-E-Journals but have now joined to be able to reply.)
> >
> > Below, Kate Price of U. Surrey asks whether publishers would allow
> > authors
> > to make electronic versions of their articles available to the RAE
> > assessors (in place of the usual paper submissions). Alicia Wise of the
> > Publishers Licensing Society replies that licensing arrangements are
> > being made with HEFCE.
> >
> > First, I would like to point out such a colossal absurdity in this that
> > it takes one's breath away. Then, more constructively, I will point out
> > what is likely to be the actual outcome, mooting the entire question.
> >
> > (1) The Absurdity: If for RAE 1996 and 2001 there was no need felt to
> > make a
> > "licensing arrangement" in order for authors to submit paper copies of
> > their published articles for RAE assessment, why on earth would anyone
> > imagine that a licensing arrangement is required for the electronic
> > versions? I am not in the habit of asking my publisher for permission to
> > send copies of my own article for evaluation, whether for RAE, salary
> > review, or research grant funding. (What on earth were HEFCE thinking?).
> >
> > (On top of this, it is almost certain that it is HEFCE's completely
> > arbitrary, unnecessary and dysfunctional insistence, to date, on the
> > publisher's PDF for RAE assessment that is the source of all the fuss.)
> >
> > (2) The Constructive Alternative: RCUK is, one hopes, on the verge of
> > mandating that the final, peer-reviewed, accepted draft ("postprint") of
> > all articles resulting from RCUK funding must be deposited in the
> > fundee's
> > institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication.
> >
> > UK Universities are also poised to follow suit, with mandatory depositing
> > of all their research output.
> >
> >
> > The solution is hence crystal clear. Forget about licensing! The
> > postprints should be used for RAE assessment. The PDFs are infinitely
> > more trouble than they are worth: their marginal value over the
> > postprint is next to nothing. HEFCE should join the chorus (of
> > research funding councils and research institutions themselves) in
> > mandating that all postprints be deposited in the university's IR.
> >
> > Deposit mandates are wonderful things, for they cater for all tastes.
> > Ninety-three percent of journals have already agreed that access to them
> > can be set to Open Access (OA). (Note, again, that *no* permission is
> > needed from anyone in order to deposit the postprints themselves!) The
> > journal's endorsement of the author's making the deposit OA is welcome,
> > but not necessary either. But if an author for some reason prefers not
> > to make the deposited article OA, they can make it RA (restricted
> > access) instead. The RAE assessors can then be given access to the RA
> > deposit.
> >
> > Now, before everyone starts squawking about all sorts of legalistic and
> > pedantic niceties, sit and think about it for a few moments, and try to
> > sort out what really has substance in all this, and what is just
> > officious fluff: No, the difference between PDF and postscript is *not*
> > a problem. No, providing access to RAE assessors for a restricted access
> > deposit is not a problem. No, mandating deposit is not a problem. In
> > fact all of these are natural developments, optimal for research,
> > researchers, their institutions, their funders and their assessors --
> > and they are also inevitable.
> >
> > So we can either keep talking ourselves through more epicycles, or we
> > can just go ahead and do the optimal and inevitable (and obvious)
> > at last.
> >
> > Harnad, S. (2001) "Research access, impact and assessment." Times
> > Higher Education Supplement 1487: p. 16.
> >
> >
> > "UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) review" (Oct, 2002)
> >
> >
> > Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003)
> > Mandated online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives:
> > Improving the UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst
> > making it cheaper and easier. Ariadne 35 (April 2003).
> >
> >
> > "Bronze release of RAE software for OA repositories" (2006)
> >
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
> > American Scientist Open Access Forum
> >
> >
> > >> Sent: 15 February 2006 17:46
> > >> Subject: Question for publishers - Research Assessment Exercise 2008
> > >>
> > >> This is really a question for any publishers scanning this list, but
> > UK
> > >> HE librarians will be interested in the answers.
> > >>
> > >> The UK Research Assessment Exercise will occur again in 2008...
> > >>
> > >> I'm concerned about... published journal articles,
> > >> published conference proceedings and published books (and individual
> > >> book chapters).
> > >>
> > >> Paragraph 96 states that institutions will be expected to make
> > published
> > >> journal articles, conference proceedings and book chapters available
> > "in
> > >> electronic format" to the assessors... "the method of submission may
> > >> involve HEIs depositing items onto a protected website or giving
> > access to
> > >> institutional repositories of publications"...
> > >>
> > >> 1) Has the Higher Education Funding Council for England made any
> > >> approaches to publishers regarding allowing electronic access to
> > >> published materials specifically for the RAE?
> > >>
> > >> 2) What are publishers' opinions on the copyright implications of this
> > >> (given that this access would be for a limited period, to a very
> > limited
> > >> audience, and crucial for the main business of a UK university). Are
> > >> publishers likely to object strongly?
> > >>
> > >> Kate Price
> > >> E-Strategy & Resources Manager
> > >> University Library
> > >> E-mail:
> >
> > > Dear Kate,
> > >
> > > My name is Alicia Wise, and I work for an organisation called the
> > > Publishers Licensing Society. Graham Taylor at the Publishers
> > Association
> > > kindly forwarded your email to me.
> > >
> > > HEFCE and PLS are actively working on a licence so that RAE panels can
> > > access published works for their review purposes. The licence would
> > cover
> > > printed and digital copies. I'd be happy to update you on progress, or
> > you
> > > could speak with Ed Hughes who is the RAE Manager at HEFCE.
> > >
> > > With very best wishes,
> > >
> > > Alicia
> > >
> > > Dr Alicia Wise
> > > Chief Executive
> > > Publishers Licensing Society
> > > London, WC1E 6HH
> >
Received on Sat Feb 18 2006 - 23:40:54 GMT

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