Re: Search Engine for Repositories Only?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 15:49:40 +0100 (BST)

On Fri, 4 Aug 2006, Philip Hunter wrote:

> Sarah Taylor wrote:
>>> Please forgive me for what I am sure is a ludicrous question, but
>>> is there any particular reason why we can't think of an institutional
>>> repository - i.e. the same institutional repository - as being a mechanism
>>> for both preservation AND for maximising access to research? Why must we
>>> have one for one purpose and one for another? Surely these two intended
>>> functions of an IR can complement one another?
> Stevan Harnad replied:
>> Because immediate OA is urgent and grotesquely overdue, yet OA IRs
>> are filling far too slowly, partly because it is not at all clear to
>> institutional researchers what they are for, or why, nor why OA is urgent.
> Stevan,
> I'm not really sure how that squares. How can you say that 'OA is urgent
> and grotesquely overdue', and that institutional researchers aren't clear
> what OA IRs are for, or why OA IRs should exist, or have any idea why
> immediate OA should be so urgent? That seems to imply that the reasons and
> the urgency aren't coming from the community at large, but instead arise
> from a parochial and evangelical model of scholarly communication.

The reasons and the urgency derive from the fact that non-OA research is
losing research impact with every day it fails to be made OA. This is an
empirical fact of which most researchers are not yet aware -- but the OA
community is working hard to get the message out:

The message alone is not enough, however, as the Key Perspectives surveys
commissioned by JISC (and since replicated by others) have shown. The message
has to be backed up by a self-archiving mandate of the kind the RCUK, CERN,
the Wellcome Trust and several universities have already adopted (and the US
FRPAA and the European Commission have proposed to adopt) -- just as
publishing itself had to be backed up by a (publish-or-perish) mandate:

Portraying and promoting IRs as warehouses for curating and preserving
digital content beclouds the picture for OA in particular, hence that
is the reason the OA IR agenda and the DL IR agenda need to be kept
distinct and separate.

It is neither parochial nor evangelical to make the logical and factual
point that OA target content is published journal articles. And that
the problem facing those articles is not long-term digital preservation
but immediate research access. And that not even the same documents
are at issue when the research access (1) and digital preservation (2)
problems are conflated:

The (1) OA access-document, the author's final draft, in the hands of the
author is *not* the document that is in need of large-P Preservation, but
merely a supplement, for those would-be users who cannot afford access
to the (2) preservation-document, the publisher's proprietary XML/PDF
(in the hands of its subscribing libraries) and the document that *is*
in need of large-P preservation.

(OA IRs too, of course, provide small-p preservation, to make sure OA is
provided tomorrow too, not just today.)

    "preservation vs. Preservation" (Mar 2006)

> It's easy enough to ignore the preservation question if you aren't asking
> people what they want. The fact is that the academic community as a whole
> doesn't understand why preservation isn't part of what IRs do.

The trouble is that IRs are trying to do too many things (at least 5)
at once (confusing researchers about their purpose, and thereby failing
to attract OA content):

    "The 5 distinct aims for institutional repositories

    I. (RES) self-archiving institutional research output (preprints,
    postprints and theses)

    II. (MAN) digital collection management (all kinds of digital

    III. (PRES) digital preservation (all kinds of digital content)

    IV. (TEACH) online teaching materials

    V. (EPUB) electronic publication (journals and books)

    "As long as we keep blurring or mixing these 5 distinct aims, the
    first and by far the most pressing of them, RES -- the filling of
    university eprint archives with all university research output,
    pre- and post-peer-review, in order to maximize its impact
    through open access -- will be needlessly delayed (and so will
    any eventual relief from the university serials budget crisis)."

        "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?" (Jun 2003)

    "Richard [Poynder] has proposed that it might be time for a
    parting of paths between the Generic Digital Curation/Preservation
    IR movement and the OA IR movement, and he might be right. One
    has a diffuse, divergent goal, the other a focused, convergent --
    and urgent and immediately reachable -- goal, one that might now
    be hamstrung if it is subsumed under the diffuse, divergent goal
    of the other."

        "Poynder Again on Point on Institutional Repositories" (Mar 2006)

Stevan Harnad

> > Researchers need not, will not, and should not deposit their published
> > articles in their own IRs for the sake of digital preservation. That is
> > pure nonsense and is adding to the frustrating delay in the filling of
> > OA IRs with their OA target content.
> >
> > OA IRs can also be used for digital preservation and content curation, but 
> > we
> > would *all* be far better off if we did not hear another word about 
> > digital
> > preservation and content curation until the OA IRs are first successfully 
> > filled
> > to the brim with their intended OA target content, at long last.
> >
> ....... 
Received on Fri Aug 04 2006 - 15:51:40 BST

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