CERN's historic role in OA

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2006 12:29:28 +0100

CERN is the biggest of the five institutions that have so far adopted
a mandatory OA self-archiving policy:

On Thu, 6 Apr 2006, Joanne Yeomans [CERN] wrote:

> the vast majority [of papers at CERN] are submitted
> by secretaries on behalf of a group or are harvested from arxiv.

That's fine! There is nothing sacred about authors doing their own
keystrokes! Secretary mediation is just as good, as long as the
doing of the keystrokes is mandated.

> an official CERN report number is
> very important to many of our authors and they will only get one of
> these by submitting it through the official internal channels and it is
> through this process that the secretaries upload the details and text to
> CDS.

That sounds splendid! The counterpart at an ordinary university or
research institition would be the researcher's standardised CV or (in
the UK) their RAE submission, so as to be considered for performance
evaluation. Nothing wrong with secretaries doing the keystrokes, as long
as the keys get stroked!

> There are a few keen self-archivers but they are really a minority....
> [Regarding] arXiv harvesting, this accounts mainly for theory
> papers and is usually the individual authors submitting their work. As
> the theory department knows that we harvest nightly from arxiv we have
> an understanding that it is enough for them to continue submitting there
> instead of to the institutional repository.

Translation: The keen self-archivers (the ones who do the keystrokes for
themselves instead of leaving it to secretaries) are the long-standing
Arxiv preprint self-archivers.

That's fine too. The keystrokes per paper are really so few that it is not even
clear why we are talking about who actually does them, as long as they get done!
And the CERN mandate see to it that they must be.

> I do think a mandate has helped in filling the repository -
> without it I am guessing it would not have been so easy to set up the
> secretarial effort, nor would we have the staff resources to put into
> the harvesting and managing of the repository. So a mandate might not
> change the behaviour of many authors, but it does still help to get the
> content in a more indirect way.

Although I keep saying that the only thing standing between us now (at 15% OA)
and 100% OA is a few keystrokes per paper, it is really a trivial matter who
actually does those keystrokes -- compared to making sure an institution mandates
that they must be done! (As to harvesting back from a central archive: I think
that is a local historic aberration, peculiar to physics: Those in other fields who
are "keen" to do the keystrokes themselves will far more sensibly deposit in
their own Institutional Repository in the first place!)

> We are taken with Minho's idea of offering financial incentives...we
> might test the political waters for this.

Are you sure it will cost less to make it worth a reseacher's while to do the
keystrokes than to just pay a secretary to do it?

> And as part of our OA
> publishing project we'll be making new efforts to encourage individual
> submission for the missing documents. OA publishing has grabbed the
> interest of the HEP community far more than talking about preprint
> deposit did so we hope to piggy-back a bit on this enthusiasm to improve
> the repository content too.

I couldn't quite follow that: Is it not the HEP community that is doing
its own keystroking already, by depositing in Arxiv? And are the missing
papers not the ones that they have not keyed in? How is talk about OA
publishing solving that problem?

(I'm afraid I cannot agree with CERN's strategic emphasis on OA [gold]
publishing at this time (15% OA), as I have said before. I think CERN
could do far, far, far more for worldwide OA today if it focussed on
spreading its own historic OA [green] self-archiving policy and practice
to other institutions worldwide and across disciplines. OA gold can
come after we reach 100% OA green. By focussing instead on OA gold at
this early and incomplete stage of OA itself, CERN is missing its
full potential historic role. CERN's role and contribution to OA will
nevertheless have been immense -- just far short of what it might
have been, because of this premature changing of local gears toward gold
when the green task worldwide is so far from done.)

Stevan Harnad
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Received on Fri Apr 07 2006 - 12:42:16 BST

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