Re: D-Lib article about Cornell's Institutional Repository

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 16:34:47 +0000

Critique of:

    Institutional Repositories: Evaluating the Reasons for Non-use
    of Cornell University's Installation of DSpace.
    PM Davis & MJL Connolly. D-Lib Magazine 13(3/4) March/April 2007

> D & C:
> Problem: While there has been considerable attention dedicated to the
> development and implementation of institutional repositories [IRs], there has
> been little done to evaluate them, especially with regards to faculty
> participation.

On the contrary. Little has been done to develop IRs apart from
creating them, and many surveys and analyses have evaluated faculty
non-participation and identified how and why to remedy it: by mandating
deposit. (See Sale and Swan references at the end of this posting.)

> D & C:
> Results: Cornell's DSpace is largely underpopulated and underused
> by its faculty.

This is most decidedly true!

    Cornell's Copyright Advice: Guide for the Perplexed Self-Archiver

> D & C:
> [The only] steady growth [is in] collections in which [Cornell] university
> has made an administrative investment, such [as] requiring deposits
> of theses and dissertations into DSpace.

This passage states the problem (empty IRs) and the solution (mandating
deposit), but the article itself ignores this obvious and already known
outcome, and instead goes on and on about the many groundless (and
easily answered) reasons faculty cite for not depositing unless it is

The D & C article also wrongly imagines that the primary purpose of
IRs is preserve digital content, rather than to maximise research usage
and access by supplementing paid journal access with free access to the
author's final draft:

    Against Conflating OA Self-Archiving With Preservation-Archiving

> D & C:
> Cornell faculty have little knowledge of and little motivation
> to use DSpace.

Correct. And in that respect Cornell faculty are exactly like faculty
at all other universities worldwide that have IRs but no deposit mandate:

        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.

> D & C:
> Many faculty use alternatives to institutional repositories, such as their
> personal Web pages and disciplinary repositories,

If all or most faculty were indeed spontaneously despositing their
peer-reviewed articles on their personal Web pages or in central
disciplinary repositories (CRs) (like Arxiv), there would be no problem:
100% Open Access (OA) would already be upon us, for IRs could easily
fill themselves by simply harvesting their faculty's output from their
web-pages and CRs.

The trouble is that -- except where mandated -- most faculty are *not*
depositing their articles on their Web pages today, and only a few
sub-disciplines are depositing in CRs. Hence OA is only at about 15%

> D & C:
> [CRs] are perceived to have higher community salience than one's affiliate
> institution.

Right now, the only two CRs with any appreciable content -- Arxiv and
PubMed Central -- certainly do have "higher community salience" than
IRs, since IRs are mostly empty. But Institutions need merely mandate
depositing and the "salience" of their IRs will sail, along with the
size of their contents:

All IRs are OAI-compliant and interoperable. Researchers' institutions
cover all of research output space. Hence researchers' own IRs are the
natural and optimal locus for direct deposit. Institutions also have a
proprietary interest in showcasing, monitoring, evaluating and storing
their own research output -- as well as in maximizing its research
impact. Hence both funders and institutions should mandate direct
deposit in the researcher's own IR. (CRs can then harvest therefrom,
if they wish.)

    Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

> D & C:
> Faculty gave many reasons for not using repositories:
> redundancy with other modes of disseminating information

There is no "redundancy" with OA's target content: peer-reviewed journal
articles. Those users who can afford paid access, have paid access. Those
who do not, have no access. The purpose of OA self-archiving in IRs is
to *supplement* the existing paid access, providing free access to the
author's final draft, self-archived online, for those would-be users
who do not have paid access to the journal's proprietary version.

(The authors of this article, D & C, as we shall see, draw precisely the
conclusions from their article that they have themselves put into it, in
the form of assumptions, often incorrect ones.)

The purpose of maximizing research access is to maximise research impact
(download, usage, applications, citations, productivity, progress).

> D & C:
> the learning curve [for depositing articles online]

A non-problem, cured by a few moments of instruction, plus a mandate:

    Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy: A Study of the
    Time and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving

> D & C:
> confusion with copyright

A non-problem, already completely mooted by the
Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access Mandate:

    Generic Rationale and Model for University Open Access Self-Archiving
    Mandate: Immediate-Deposit/Optional Access (ID/OA)

Only the depositing itself is mandated; setting access to the deposit
as Open Access versus Closed Access is recommended but optional.

> D & C:
> fear of plagiarism

An old canard, cured by referring to Self-Archiving FAQ:

> D & C:
> having one's work scooped

Another old canard:

> D & C:
> associating one's work with inconsistent quality,

Yet another old canard:

> D & C:
> concerns about whether posting a manuscript constitutes "publishing".

One of the oldest canards of them all:

> D & C:
> Conclusion: While some librarians perceive a crisis in scholarly
> communication as a crisis in access to the literature, Cornell
> faculty perceive this essentially as a non-issue.

Librarians' journal affordability problems helped draw attention to the
research accessibility problem, but the affordability and accessibility
problems are not the same, nor are their solutions.

Cornell faculty are right to regard the affordability problem as not their
problem. The accessibility problem, however, *is* their problem, both from
the point of view of Cornell researchers' own lost access to the work of
researchers at other institutions (in journals that Cornell cannot afford
to subscribe to) and, even more important (as most researchers at other
institutions are not sitting as pretty as Cornell for subscriptions),
from the point of view of Cornell researchers' lost research impact
(owing to the access problems of would-be users at other institutions).

> D & C:
> Each discipline has a normative culture, largely defined by
> their reward system and traditions. If the goal of institutional
> repositories is to capture and preserve the scholarship of one's faculty,
> institutional repositories will need to address this cultural
> diversity.

The target content of OA IRs is peer-reviewed journal articles. If
there are any disciplines that do not care about maximising the usage
and impact of their peer-reviewed journal article output, then there are
indeed reasons to examine discipline differences. If not, then what is needed
is not discipline-difference studies but pandisciplinary deposit mandates.

> D & C:
> most faculty host their digital objects on a personal website, where
> their long-term preservation is not secure. If institutions truly value
> the content created by their faculty, they must take some responsibility
> for the long-term curation of this content.

OA IRs are for supplementary access-provision and usage-maximisation,
not for preservation. (What needs preservation is the journal published
version, not the author's OA draft.)

    Against Conflating OA Self-Archiving With Preservation-Archiving

But of course IRs can and will preserve their contents, to make sure
their supplementary access provision perdures.

> D & C:
> There are two opposing philosophical camps among those who work to
> justify institutional repositories: one that views IRs as competition
> for traditional publishing, the other that sees IRs as a supplement
> to traditional publishing.

There are indeed two opposing views of what IRs are for, but the
opposition is certainly not about whether IRs compete with or supplement
traditional publishing. It is about whether IRs are primarily for OA
content (i.e., peer-reviewed research) or for other kinds of content
(e.g., "grey literature"). (There is also some related confusion about
whether IRs are primarily for supplementing access or for digital

Among OA advocates there is no divergence whatsoever on the fact that OA
IRs (Green OA) *supplement* journal publishing; they are not a
*substitute* for it, nor a competitor to it.

(There is competition between subscription-based publishing and Gold OA
publishing, but that is an entirely different matter, having nothing to
do with IRs or Green OA.)

Here is a core example of how the authors of this article first make
incorrect assumptions, and then simply proceed to derive their
inevitably incorrect consequences:

> D & C:
> In 1994, Stevan Harnad wrote his Subversive Proposal for Electronic
> Publishing, in which he argued that all academics should make their
> research articles publicly available through open repositories
> This collective effort would help to reduce the power wielded by
> publishers who have built economic barriers to limit scholars'
> access to the literature.

(1) From the very outset, the Subversive Proposal was to *supplement*
traditional publishing with (what we have since come to call) Green OA
self-archiving of the author's peer-reviewed final draft. Self-archiving
was never proposed as a *substitute* for peer-reviewed journal publication
-- as a google search on "harnad supplement substitute" will repeatedly

Latent in the Subversive Proposal -- a Green OA supplement proposal
-- was, of course, the possibility of an eventual transition to Gold
OA publishing. But that is and was always treated as a hypothetical
possibility, whereas Green OA self-archiving (which eventually led to the
first OA IR software, EPrints, and eventually to the OA IR movement) was
proposed as a concrete, practical action, within reach of all researchers
-- a practical action that has since been widely tried, tested, and
confirmed empirically to work, and to deliver the enhanced research
usage and impact for which it was intended.

(2) Davis & Connolly have also completely conflated the explicitly
stated purpose of the Subversive Proposal -- which was to maximize
research access and usage -- with the library community's struggle with
the journal affordability problem. Green OA self-archiving is not about
"reducing publisher power" nor about changing economics. It is just
about maximizing research access.

> D & C:
> In opposition, Clifford Lynch views IRs as supplements, not primary
> venues for scholarly publishing, and warns against assuming the
> role of certification in the scholarly publishing process.

All OA IR advocates view IRs as supplements: a way to provide free access
to the author's peer-reviewed final draft, accepted for publication by
the "primary venue" (the journal) -- not as a substitute form of peer
review or certification or publication.

> D & C:
> [Lynch] argues that "the institutional repository isn't a journal,
> or a collection of journals, and should not be managed like one"

Preaching to the choir: No one thinks IRs are journals.

> D & C:
> Lynch fears that viewing IRs as instruments for undermining the
> economics of the current publishing system discounts their importance
> and reduces their ability to promote a broader spectrum of scholarly
> communication.

IRs are not "instruments for undermining the economics of the current
publishing system" they are instruments for maximizing the access and
impact of currently published research articles.

> D & C:
> Institutional repositories may better serve to disseminate the so-called
> "grey literature": documents such as pamphlets, bulletins, visual
> conference presentations, and other materials that are typically
> ignored by traditional publishers.

The idea that IRs should focus on the grey (unpublished) literature
instead of the OA Green literature remains just as off-the-mark
and wrong-headed today as on the day it was first mooted:

    "Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives"

> D & C:
> DSpace was not conceived as competition to commercial publishers,
> but as a resource to capture, preserve and communicate the diversity
> of intellectual output of an institution's faculty and researchers
> It was designed specifically to deal with a wide range of content
> types including research articles, grey literature, theses, cultural
> materials, scientific datasets, institutional records, and educational
> materials, among others.

More's the pity that DSpace does not now, nor did it ever, have its
priorities straight. The #1 priority for IRs is and always has been
(or ought to have been!) OA.

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"

> D & C:
> On May 1st, 2005, a policy was enacted that recommended, not
> required, that all researchers receiving grant monies from
> the National Institutes of Heath deposit final copies of their
> manuscripts in PubMed Central (PMC), a free digital archive of
> biomedical and life sciences journal literature. PMC offers many
> valuable services to authors, such as indexing in Medline (the
> primary literature index for the biomedical and life sciences),
> as well as dynamic links to the published version of their article.
> After eight months, the participation rate remained a dismal 3.8%.
> Lack of awareness of the policy was not cited as contributing
> to the low compliance rate. On December 14th, 2005, Senator Joseph
> Lieberman introduced the CURES Act (S.2104), which would require
> (not recommend) mandatory deposit of final manuscripts

The NIH Public Access Policy failed for three reasons (in order of priority):

    (1) because it was not a mandate, but merely a request,

    (2) because it allowed deposit to be delayed (up to a year) rather
    than immediate,

    (3) and because it insisted upon central deposit, in PMC, instead
    of local deposit (in the fundee's own IR, harvestable by PMC).

The remedy for this was pointed out in advance to NIH (but went unheeded):

    "A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy"

The remedy -- the ID/OA mandate -- has since been taken on board by the
EURAB recommendations:

    "EURAB's Proposed OA Mandate:
    Strongest of the 20 Adopted and 5 Proposed So Far"

and has just been adopted by University of Liege:

the first, let's hope, of many adopters, including the US's omnibus Federal
Research Public Access Act (FRPAA):

    How to Counter All Opposition to the FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate

> D & C:
> Cornell's DSpace is largely underpopulated and underused by its
> faculty. Its complex organization is seen at comparable institutions,
> but may discourage contributions to DSpace by making it appear
> empty. In addition, faculty have little knowledge of and no
> motivation to use DSpace.

The only thing Cornell's DSpace is missing is the ID/OA mandate:

    Generic Rationale and Model for University Open Access Self-Archiving
    Mandate: Immediate-Deposit/Optional Access (ID/OA)

in place of:

    Cornell's Copyright Advice: Guide for the Perplexed Self-Archiver

> D & C:
> Each discipline has a normative culture, largely defined by their reward
> system and inertia. If the goal of institutional repositories is to
> capture and preserve the scholarship of one's faculty, IRs will need to
> address this cultural diversity.

No, the remedy is not to delve into disciplinary diversity. It is to promote
what all disciplines (indeed all of research) have in common, which is the
need to maximize the usage and impact of their peer-reviewed research findings
-- by mandating Green OA.

        Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction.
        JISC Technical Report.

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

        Swan, A., Needham, P., Probets, S., Muir, A., Oppenheim,
        C., O'Brien, A., Hardy, R., Rowland, F. and Brown, S. (2005)
        Developing a model for e-prints and open access journal content
        in UK further and higher education. Learned Publishing 18(1)
        pp. 25-40.

        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.

        Sale, A. The Impact of Mandatory Policies on
        ETD Acquisition. D-Lib Magazine April 2006,

        Sale, A. Comparison of content policies for institutional
        repositories in Australia. First Monday, 11(4), April 2006.

        Sale, A. The acquisition of open access research
        articles. First Monday, 11(9), October 2006.

        Sale, A. (2007) The Patchwork Mandate
        D-Lib Magazine 13 1/2 January/February

        Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated
        online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives: Improving
        the UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst making it cheaper and
        easier. Ariadne 35 (April 2003).

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Thu Mar 15 2007 - 17:45:09 GMT

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