Re: Risk analysis - the researcher's point of view

From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2006 10:41:09 +1100

Stevan Harnad has already responded to part of this (while I slept), but it
is worth a few more comments. My further comments are interspersed, but I
should start off by writing that I, too, am a researcher first and foremost.
Field: computer science.

Arthur Sale

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
> Sent: Friday, 10 March 2006 21:14
> Subject: [AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM] Risk analysis - the
> researcher's point of view
> Dear all,
> Arthur Sale recently posted a paper on Risk Analysis for research
institutions deciding
> to set up Open Access Repositories.
> Let us also consider that risk analysis from the researcher point of view.
> The study of individual decision making under uncertainty (with apologies
for ringing
> my own bell)
> teaches us that objectively small probability events can matter a lot,
especially since:
> - Choosing a repository to manage one^Ňs life production is a decision with
> emotional stake
> - There are irreversibilities with putting anything on the net
> - The probabilities are unknown

Some people may see these as risks, (I don't), and institutions certainly
don't. They are as you correctly say "researcher fears". I would add
"groundless" to that description because they are easily refuted but most
researchers simply haven't been brought up in the Internet culture and have
never any time to discover anything about it.

Since the risk analysis is intended for use by central decision-makers (not
individual researchers) these groundless fears, with many many others, were
> Here are several risks associated with Institutional Repositories that are
well worth
> mitigating :
> - Technical and disaster risk can arise if IR are physically centralized
at the
> institution.
> This need to be mitigated by mirroring the archive using a different
software, in a
> datacenter far away from the primary.

I made a conscious decision to not address any of the risks associated with
each and every ICT installation, such as proper backups; provisions for
fire, earthquake, tsunami, flood etc; power failure; network security;
firewalls; intrusion from within; physical security, authentication.
Everyone knows about these risks and should have them under control. The
risk analysis is about OARs specifically.

BTW we had a fire in a University substation over the weekend which took out
the network and the server for half a day, so if you had difficulty
downloading the paper please try again. Power is restored.

> - One political risk is acceptability : big brother aversion could lead a
> fraction of researchers to reject an IR as a whole.
> Network effects imply that this minority behavior is a risk for the
community as a
> whole,
> as it deprecates the integrity, hence the value of the IR .

This risk was addressed in the report. It is effectively small, provided a
requirement policy is provided. If not, disenchantment will indubitably set
in and it is the highest risk there is of failure. The value of a 15% full
IR is not large to the institution.

> The measure to alleviate this would be to harvest metadata in whatever
> the researchers do archive in.
> The immediate difficulty is that these repositories are not likely to
contain all the
> metadata the IR tracks.
> However, there are example of systems that harvest first, and allow to add
> at a later time,
> usually in a decentralized contributive way.
> See e.g. CiteSEER in Computing Science, or RepEc in Economics.
> The later even manages the relation between authors and labs and

This measure does nothing to alleviate the risk. It makes it worse by making
a requirement policy ineffective and incapable of being monitored.
> - Another political risk is monetization. What garantee do the
researchers have that
> the IR remains OA ?
> Given the financial pressures on the research institutions as a whole,
> if the repository is asked to recoup its costs, it could switch to a pay
per article
> distribution mode.
> An mirror of the archive which is not under government control would
mitigate that.

Since there has been no such case anywhere anytime in an OAR, this is a
negligible risk.
> - The country-specific dimension of risks could be mitigated by mirroring
the archive
> in a different country,
> or even best in a different cultural zone (continent).
> I guess that my conclusion is that commingling Institutional Repositories
with the
> Internet Archive and siblings
> would increase their attractiveness for researchers,
> and hence the rate of deposits we seek to maximize on this list.

My response it that no they don't. What we need are a higher percentage of
deposits (100% of all published articles). Researchers have shown by their
actions that they generally don't use any repository except in a few
well-documented disciplines each with special features.

By all means encourage people to deposit in global repositories such as
PubMed or arxiv, but don't for one moment suggest it is an either/or. The
deposit should be made in an institutional open access repository as well.
We don't need to agonize over just one copy in the Internet world. Even if I
do nothing about it, the deposit of a PhD thesis in my OAR will see three
automatically generated copies of the metadata created in Australia, and at
least one more globally. A searcher may find any of these four or the

Best wishes
Arthur Sale
> Yours,
> Minh
> --
> Minh HA DUONG Chargé de recherche CNRS
> CIRED, Campus du Jardin Tropical
> tel: +33 1 43 94 73 81 45bis ave. de la Belle Gabrielle
> fax: +33 1 43 94 73 70 F94736 Nogent-sur-Marne CEDEX
Received on Sat Mar 11 2006 - 01:17:21 GMT

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