Re: Open Access: The Next Step

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2007 15:17:54 +0000

On Wed, 21 Feb 2007, Andrew A. Adams wrote:

> There remains a lot to be done to institute IR deposit mandates. However, we
> appear to be finally seeing real progress on this.

Yes, with 21 OA Self-Archiving Mandates adopted (10 funders, 8
institutions, 3 departments) and 7 more proposed (6 funders, 1 multiple
institutions) real progress is at long last beginning to be made:

Departmental Mandates (3)
    Laboratoire de psychologie et neurosciences cognitives
    University of Southampton Department of Electronics and CS
    University of Tasmania School of Computing

Funder Mandates (10)
    Arthritis Research Foundation
    Australian Research Council
    Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
    Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Executive Health) Department
    Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
    Medical Research Council (MRC)
    National Environmental Research Council (NERC)
    National Health and Medical Research Council
    Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)
    Wellcome Trust

Institutional Mandates (8)
    Bharathidasan University
    Brunel University School of Information Systems Computing
    CERN: European Organization for Nuclear Research
    National Institute of Technology, Rourkela
    Queensland University of Technology
    Universidade do Minho
    University of Tasmania
    University of Zurich

Proposed Funder Mandates (6)
     Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
     European Commission
     European Research Advisory Board (EURAB)
     European Research Council (ERC)
     Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)
     National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Proposed Multi-Institutional Mandates (1)
     European Universities Association (EUA)

> I would like to start a policy debate on how we follow this up. Current
> mandates focus on new material, possibly including the back catalogue of
> publications by academics in post, although this might be tricky for both
> legal (mandating deposit of material published while at a previous
> institution) and practical (lack of easy availability of suitable electronic
> copies) reasons.

It is extremely important to see and agree that OA's overwhelming first priority is
*current* research output, forward-going, as of the date of the mandate. To do that
is to do the doable, and prepare the way for the much less straightforward cases of
(1) retroactive legacy research articles, (2) publications other than peer-reviewed
journal articles, (3) pre-peer-review preprints, (4) data, (5) other kinds of

Please let us not lose our grip and momentum on the primary target of the OA
movement now, by diffusing and defocussing our aims and efforts. We have already
lost far too much time on distractions.

> While in many disciplines, such as medicine, the availability of very recent
> material is of the greatest importance and need, material in all disciplines
> remains highly useful. In other disciplines, particularly in mathematics,
> arts and humanities, older material can be equally, or even more, useful than
> current material. For example, my own PhD thesis (1997) required the
> referencing of works from the 30s and 50s as well as material from the 80s
> and 90s.

Nothing is stopping those who can and wish to deposit older material from doing so.
But the mandates are focussed on the mandatable, which is also OA's primary target:
current, forward-going peer-reviewed research articles.

> So, the question I believe we should begin to consider is how we will provide
> "Open Access to the Past". I think the major issues here are:

Please let us consider the question elsewhere, until we have safely made sure that
research is 100% "Open Access to the Present (and Future)". The last thing we need
now is more distractions and diffusion.

> - Obtaining electronic copies of material;
> - Producing Meta-data from lower quality electronic copies;
> - Copyright issues;
> - Retired authors and deceased authors;
> - Co-author issues.

All worthy targets, but for naught, if they make us take our eye off the ball, now
that it's at last in motion.

> So, while the fight for open access to the present and future is not yet won,
> we should begin to consider open access to the past as well.

No. Until the fight for open access to the present and future is won, we should
focus all energy, effort and attention on winning it, not continue to run off in
all directions, as we have for over a decade, while getting no place fast.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Feb 21 2007 - 15:59:55 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:48:46 GMT