Re: Open access jeremiads, archivangelism and self-archiving mandates

From: Alma Swan <a.swan_at_TALK21.COM>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2006 20:49:18 +0100

George Porter wrote:

> Why are there so few institutional repositories up and running?

There ARE few IRs in the context of the number of research-based
institutions in the world, but the numbers are now increasing - at an
average rate of one repository being established per day over the last
twelve months. There is also some evidence that this rate has been
increasing of late. The reasons given are various, but the two main ones are
(i) the requirement for a vehicle for providing open access, and (ii) that a
repository is the natural development for institutions wishing to take
stewardship of their digital intellectual resources. Given those reasons, we
can presumably expect the growth in the number of repositories to continue
since neither reason is likely to decline in importance in the foreseeable

> Why are the existing institutional repositories generally not well filled
with the intellectual output of their respective institutions?

Researchers do not spontaneously and voluntarily self-archive their output
in great numbers. We know why: first of all it is because (still) many of
them are not familiar with what repositories are and their purposes (even if
there is one up and running in their own institution). Then, when these
things are explained, they tell us that the main reasons for not
self-archiving are: worries about the time it will take, worries that it
will be a difficult process, worries that they will infringe an agreement
with their publisher. When we ask those who HAVE self-archived, we find that
it takes very little time (a few minutes), it is not difficult, and we
already know that the vast majority of journals permit self-archiving of
articles. All these issues have been studied and documented (see 1 and 2).
This leaves the single most important reason for researchers not acting -
general inertia.

When asked, 95% of researchers say they would self-archive if required to by
their employer or funder. That is what they SAY they would do. Do they do
it, if this is actually the case? Yes, in exactly the numbers predicted. The
empirical evidence from those institutions that have mandatory policies
demonstrate this unequivocally: over 90% compliance at the ECS repository in
Southampton, and at CERN; a rapidly-climbing compliance curve for Queensland
University of Technology; the same at the University of Minho. The
comparative data drawn together by Arthur Sale for Australian universities
with differing repository implementations demonstrates with absolute clarity
the effect of a mandatory policy (see 3).

Library advocacy and activism is crucial, but it alone cannot achieve the
result that mandatory requirement to self-archive does. It is, then, no
wonder, that there is now a move in this direction. Several institutions are
about to impose mandatory policies (not to mention four UK Research Councils
and probably the NIH) and we shall be monitoring the content of their
repositories with interest. Some of these repositories are already in
existence, others are to be born-mandated.

Is it a terrible thing to require researchers to do something they would
otherwise not bother to do? Are they required to write up a report at the
end of each grant period? Are they required to publish their results? Are
these things infringements of their academic liberty, or reasonable
performance monitoring procedures? Those of us who pay our taxes happily and
generously so that researchers can push back the frontiers on our society's
behalf probably think it is fair to ask for a public record of what is
achieved with our contributions. But that's not the crux of the matter. The
answers to those questions above lie with the researchers themselves: they
comply with such current requirements on research reporting and publishing,
and 95% of them would comply, as well, with a third requirement - to make
their results available to all other researchers in order that the
effectiveness and efficiency of scholarly endeavour may be maximised.

Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd
Truro, UK

1. Swan, A. (2006) The culture of Open Access: researchers' views and
responses, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and
Economic Aspects, chapter 7. Chandos, Oxford. pp 52-59.

2. Swan, Alma and Brown, Sheridan (2005) Open Access self-archiving:
pp1-104. An author study. Published by JISC.

3. Sale, Arthur (2006) Comparison of IR content policies in Australia. First
Monday 11(4).
Received on Sun Aug 20 2006 - 22:51:06 BST

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