Making Visibility Visible: OA Metrics of Productivity and Prestige

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 22:06:52 +0100

On Fri, 20 Jul 2007, Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> SHi
> Yes, of course, mandates and content are the no. 1 priority. But that
> doesn't mean we should ignore anything else that might help facilitate
> more of both. We have enough content in IRs now for improved visibility to
> be an issue, and it's an issue that will become more acute as content
> continues to grow.

We don't have enough content in IRs now, and for what we do have, google
provides the visibility. What's needed, urgently, is increased content,
not improved visibility.

Yes, mandates are the no. 1 priority; but the reason they are still so
slow in coming is because we keep getting distracted and diverted to
priority no. 2, 3, 4... instead.

> > SHa:
> > IRs do not need "to do more to be highly visible." Their problem is
> > not their invisibility, it is their emptiness. And Steve ought to
> > know this, because his own department's IR is anything but invisible
> > -- for the simple reason that it has content; and it has content
> > because self-archiving is mandated!
> SHi:
> My point is not about one single IR, or any single IR, but about services
> that reveal IRs collectively. It's services that allow us to have
> effective IRs - OAI and interoperability and all that. And I didn't say
> they are invisible, but that they could and should be more visible. It's
> not just about search, it's about awareness and currency as well. Arxiv
> has that, IRs as a whole do not.

Arxiv has content (in one field); IRs as a whole do not (in any field).

The IRs' problem is not the visibility of what little they have, but how
little they have.

If we keep on distracting the attention (of what I am increasingly
coming to believe is a research community suffering from
Attention-Deficit-Disorder!) toward the non-problem of the day -- this
time the "discoverability/visibility" problem -- instead of staying
focused on the only real, persistent problem -- of providing that missing
OA content -- then we are simply compounding our persistent failure to
reach for what is already long within our grasp.

It is not sufficient to *say* that mandates are the no. 1 priority. We
have to actually *make* them the no. 1 priority, until they are actually
adopted. Then we can move on to our other pet peeves. Right now the
ill-informedness, noise and confusion levels are still far too high to
justify indulging still more distractions.

> SHi:
> I'm not arguing for central repositories, but others are. Critically, some
> mandates require them, e.g. Wellcome, while the UK RC mandates are more
> open. So the best we can say is that the most important mandates so far
> are ambivalent about subject vs IR. In that case some authors affected by
> the mandates have a choice, and this is a challenge to IRs now in which
> IRs can help their cause with better services.

Mandating CR deposit instead of IR deposit is simply a fundamental
strategic and practical error, and can and should be dealt with as such,
not as a fait-accompli motivating a detour into yet another irrelevancy

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

And there is no point touting nascent IR functionalities that purport
to remedy IRs' non-existent "visibility" problem when IRs' only real
problem is their non-existent content -- for which mandates, not IR
visbility-enhancements, are the solution. We don't solve -- or even
contribute to the grasp of -- a real problem by diverting attention to a
non-problem and its solution, as if it were all or part of the solution
to the real problem. (There has already been far too much of that sort
of wheel-spinning in OA for 13 years now and we need to resist another
spell of still more of the same.)

There is, however, something that we *can* do that is not only
complementary to mandates, but an incentive for adopting them --
and it just might serve to redirect this useless fuss about
"visibility" in a more useful direction:

No, there is no problem with the visibility of the 15% of articles that
are already being deposited in IRs to their would-be users webwide, but
there definitely *is* a problem with the visibility of that visibility
and usage to the *authors* of those articles -- and especially to the
authors of the 85% of articles that have *not* yet been deposited (and
to the institutions and funders of those authors who have not mandated
that they be deposited).

I am speaking, of course, of OA metrics -- the visible, quantitative
indicators of the enhanced visibility and usage vouchsafed by
OA. It is not enough for a few of these metrics to be plumbed, and
then published in journal articles and postings -- as admirably
indexed by Steve Hitchcock's very useful bibliography of the
effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact:

We have to go on to make those metrics directly visible to self-archivers
and to non-self-archivers alike, immediately and continuously, rather
than just in the occasional published study -- and not only in an absolute
but a comparative context.

Those are the kinds of visibility metrics that Arthur Sale at U. Tasmania,
Les Carr at Southampton, and Leo Waaijers at SURF/DARE have been working
on providing.

And the biggest showcase and testbed for all those new metrics of
productivity and prestige, and of OA's visible effects on them, will
be the 2008 UK Research Assesment Exercise (although I rather hope
OA will not wait that long!). Then universities and research funders
(worldwide, not just in the UK) will have a palpable sense of how much
visibility, usage, impact and income they are *losing* (and losing to
their competitors), the longer they delay mandating OA self-archiving...

    Harnad, S. (2007) Open Access Scientometrics and the UK Research
    Assessment Exercise. In Proceedings of 11th Annual Meeting of the
    International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics 11(1), pp.
    27-33, Madrid, Spain. Torres-Salinas, D. and Moed, H. F., Eds.

Some of the absolute visibility metrics are
already implemented in Southampton's EPrints IRs: and U. Tasmania's Eprints IRs:;id=264;

A clever adaptation of Tim Brody's citebase, across IRs, could provide
the comparative picture too.

Stevan Harnad

> At 21:03 18/07/2007, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > On Wed, 18 Jul 2007, Steve Hitchcock wrote:
> >
> > > Until recently I would have thought that David
> > > was overstating the case about the limitations of
> > > discovering papers in IRs, but now I tend to
> > > agree. There is no conspiracy with journal
> > > publishers. Simply the services available have
> > > not kept up. Where is Web 2.0 for IRs?
> >
> > Nope, the problem is not with the findability of the OA content (in IRs
> > or anywhere). It is with the absence of (85% of) it. Don't blame
> > services for failing to find absent content!
> >
> > > There are problems with identifying full-text
> > > availability and versioning/duplication in IRs.
> >
> > Nope again: The problem is not plenty of content yet too many
> > versions/duplicates of it. (If that were the problem, it would
> > quickly and easily be solved!) The problem is the absence of
> > *any* version of (85% of) the content!
> >
> > > To overcome this we need better OAI and better
> > > services. There is work going on that will offer
> > > some opportunities but it needs to be focussed by
> > > recognising the problems we are dealing with.
> >
> > Better OAI and services are always welcome, but they will not
> > solve the real problem, which is absent OA content. That is
> > the (*only*) real problem we are dealing with (and dancing
> > around, in all directions, instead of solving it.)
> >
> > > One of the principal reasons for introducing IRs
> > > was the lack of takeup of the subject model
> > > beyond Arxiv, and the explicit link with the
> > > author's institution.
> >
> > Lack of takeup up in the sense of failure to self-archive,
> > not in the sense of preferring to self-archive here, rather than
> > there. IRs were introduced so all institutions could provide OA
> > to their own research output (in all subjects).
> >
> > > Now the situation may be
> > > different. Most recent research funder OA
> > > mandates are open about subject repositories vs
> > > IRs (although where they are less open about this
> > > mandates tend to favour subjects).
> >
> > The fact that some funder mandates favour central repositories is a big
> > strategic error, and not one to be admired, encouraged or emulated,
> > but one to be steered firmly in a more sensible, thought-through
> > direction: IRs. (The same is true with the ill-considered mandates that
> > allow
> > deposit to be embargoed, instead of requiring immediate deposit and only
> > allowing Open Access-setting to be embargoed: That too is not to be
> > cited
> > as a rational law of nature but as a silly, short-sighted decision by
> > a few of the first funding mandators, to be corrected before it hardens
> > into common practice.)
> >
> > > If subject
> > > repositories exploit the inherent advantage of
> > > visibility in a given field they could claim more
> > > content.
> >
> > "Subject" repositories have no inherent advantage of visibility in a
> > given field if they are empty. And if they happen to have content
> > (beyond the 15% spontaneous baseline) as Arxiv did, then their
> > advantage is not because of their centrality but because of their
> > content! That very same content would have had the very same
> > visibility if it had been deposited in IRs and harvested by OAIster
> > or Google Scholar or Citebase or Citeseer -- or, for that matter,
> > Arxiv!
> >
> > If someone has the hypothesis that having subject content in
> > subject-based central repositories will help generate more OA
> > self-archiving -- or more OA self-archiving mandates -- then let them
> > harvest IR (and other) OA content metadata into subject-based
> > meta-repositories. Let them not confuse the issue by recommending
> > direct central self-archiving (again) after it has already failed.
> >
> > > Of itself that isn't a problem for those
> > > fields covered by mandates, but what about the
> > > rest?
> >
> > Isn't the answer obvious: Mandate the rest too! Not subject by subject
> > but institution by institution, for all of an institution's subjects.
> > And funders should mandate *institutional* self-archiving too. Then, if
> > you wish, harvest the IR content metadata into subject-based
> > meta-repositories.
> >
> > > IRs remain important, and have to do more
> > > to be highly visible, or they risk becoming
> > > secondary sources, as David suggests, with the
> > > consequences that follow.
> >
> > Both David and Steve are missing the crux of the matter: There is
> > little spontaneous self-archiving, either way, except in physics and
> > computer science (for cultural and historical reasons). In physics,
> > spontaneous self-archiving happens to have been much more substantial,
> > and central. In computer science spontaneous self-archiving happens to
> > have
> > been much more substantial, and distributed (and harvested by Citeseer,
> > and now Google Scholar). Both cases are exceptional solely because they
> > are providing high volumes of content spontaneously (unmandated); not
> > for any other reason (one being central and the other distributed).
> >
> > IRs do not need "to do more to be highly visible." Their problem is
> > not their invisibility, it is their emptiness. And Steve ought to
> > know this, because his own department's IR is anything but invisible
> > -- for the simple reason that it has content; and it has content
> > because self-archiving is mandated!
> >
> > With too many of the (still few) funders foolishly mandating central
> > self-archiving instead of Institutional Self-Archiving, it remains
> > for the sleeping giant -- the universities, the primary providers of
> > *all* research, in *all* subjects, whether funded or unfunded -- to set
> > the right example, by mandating self-archiving in their own IRs. Then
> > funders will catch on and reinforce institutional self-archiving by
> > requiring their fundees to self-archive in their IRs too. And then,
> > if they wish it, central, subject-based repositories can harvest from
> > the IRs willy-nilly, as they see fit.
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
> >
> > um.html
> >
> >
> > If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
> > to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access
> > journal
> >
> > OR
> > BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal
> > if/when
> > a suitable one exists.
> >
> > AND
> > in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
> > in your own institutional repository.
> >
> >
> >
Received on Fri Jul 20 2007 - 22:12:38 BST

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