Forging An OA Alliance With R&D Industries and Mobilizing University Mandates

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 17:23:42 +0000

The fully hyperlinked version of the following commentary is at:

    Napoleon Miradon has written a very insightful and informative
    commentary on Richard Poynder's powerful and timely article about the
    Brussels EU Conference and Petition: "Open Access: The War in Europe".
    Poynder analyzed the dynamics of the interaction between the Open
    Access (OA) movement, the European Commission, and the publishing
    industry lobby. Miradon suggested ways in which the OA movement
    could lobby legislators more successfully. Here, I suggest how
    (1) a strategic alliance with the R&D Industry as well as (2)
    direct action by universities will help further accelerate progress.
    Many thanks for M. Miradon's remarkable analysis and valuable advice
    in his commentary on Richard Poynder's rousing article about the
    struggle for Open Access to European Research.

(M. Miradon, I do not know who you are, but I infer you are a present or
formal EC official with a great deal of experience with EU politics and
a certain sympathy for OA. The OA movement is indeed indebted to you for
your insights and insider information.)

The "OA movement" is really just a loose federation of mostly academics.
It is not skilled or experienced in the area of political lobbying,
alas. Some sectors (SPARC US and Europe, perhaps) might be in a position
to become more sophisticated in lobbying, but the individual OA
activists, being employed academics -- researchers first and activists
only second -- are not.

The lobbying wings of industries are paid professionals. We have none of
those. There is a hope, though, namely, a strategic alliance (perhaps
mediated by EURAB) between the academic-researcher OA activists and the
vast R&D industry that applies the fruits of research. The R&D
industries are far bigger than the publishing industry. They need to be
explicitly mobilized to our side (because they too have a strong
interest in open access to research, not for themselves directly [which
they can easily afford to pay] but for all researchers worldwide [who
cannot]: It is researcher-to-researcher access and
collaborative/cumulative research progress that supplies R&D industries
with the research findings for their R&D applications.

But let me make a parallel point: OA is (fortunately) not doomed to wait
for legislation, and for lobbying and convincing legislators, in order
to prevail. Let us not forget for a minute that if researchers
themselves had any sense, we would already have 100% OA, for we would
simply self-archive spontaneously. We are too sluggish, busy and
confused. Fine, so we need mandates from our research funders and
institutions (who are merely busy and confused). Part of their confusion
is that they cannot mandate (Green) OA because of something or other
having to do with the publishing industry. (It is as vague as that!)

So the problem falls into the laps of legislators, who must mandate the
researchers' funders and institutions to mandate the researchers to move
their fingers. But legislators have not only laps, but bottoms, which
they must protect -- from the many lobbying interests to which they are

So lobbying becomes the name of the game, for the legislative route.

But there is a parallel route, and it has already been engaged in the UK
(first) and to an extent also in Europe and Australia: This is the
research funding councils (RCUK, ERC, ARC), who can take a cue from the
inclinations and interests of the research community, and proceed with a
Green OA mandate even if the legislators are deadlocked. And they have
begun. And so have individual universities and research institutions.
See ROARMAP. And in that sector OA activists can be effective (and have
been) without having to learn to navigate the corridors of legislative

So, in my view, the Brussels meeting was a way to display the will of
the research community: the EC petition did that, and now it has given
birth to a US petition too. Petitions, of course, will not generate
mandates either. But they will help the OA movement "lobby" funders and
universities directly, to mandate. Indeed, funders, universities,
research institutions, academies and societies, and R&D industries are
signing the petitions, officially, as organisations. There remains but a
small step to point out that these organisations need not petition the
legislators to mandate them to mandate: They can mandate directly

That is the next step: There was already a logical gap in 2002, between
researchers (34,000) signing the PLoS petition to publishers, demanding
OA, yet not moving their fingers to deposit their own papers. There is
now a second logical gap in research funders and institutions signing
the EU and US petitions to legislators to mandate Green OA globally,
while they do not go ahead individually and mandate OA locally, for
their own funding body or their own university!

The gap between fingers signing petitions, fingers adopting mandates and
fingers depositing papers will be bridged now. It has become too
glaringly obvious to be ignored, with all these somber OA declarations,
initiatives and manifestos, signed, but no practical action taken!

We will keep pursuing the indirect legislative route for global
mandates, yes, but we will also publicise and accelerate the direct
research-community route of divide and conquer: Local mandates are fully
within our own hands, especially at the university level.

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

Stevan Harnad

PS The request to present the petition to the commissioner in public at
the Brussels meeting was denied, but it was nevertheless presented (in
private), the presentation was photographed (by Leslie Chan) and the
photos were presented at the last session of the meeting, publicly, in
Alma Swan's stirring Powerpoint series.
Received on Sun Mar 18 2007 - 17:49:20 GMT

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