Don't Just Advocate Keystrokes: Advocate Keystroke Mandates

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 21:36:18 +0000

On Tue, 27 Nov 2007, Talat Chaudhri [tac] wrote:

> To be clear, we will seek a university mandate in Aberystwyth, but
> expect that compliance will only follow if backed up by adequate and
> ongoing advocacy. I have also seen this morning a report of only 4% of
> mandates succeeding, so I feel that I am receiving rather mixed messages
> on this.

I think you might be mixing up the messages a bit! The 4% refers to
the level of compliance with the NIH *request*, which was not a mandate
at all. That policy has now failed resoundingly, and the NIH Bill that
passed the Senate was intended to *upgrade* that failed policy from a
request to a mandate.

For the success rate of mandates, please do have a look at the Arthur
Sale references posted earlier.

> I am not sure that lobbying parliaments to force funding bodies
> to comply is the best first step, since, as you pointed out yourself,
> funding bodies are increasingly going in this direction themselves (in
> Britain, anyway), so it is clear that developing a voluntary code works
> to this extent.

There may again be a bit of a mix-up here: Funding bodies adopt mandates
because of the efforts of OA advocates. The Alliance for Taxpayer
Access in the US lobbied hard and very effectively for the passage of
the NIH act.

The UK was wiser: The parliamentary Select Committee decided after its
first round of hearings to recommend mandating Green OA self-archiving.
The government foolishly decided not to implement its recommendation,
but six of the seven UK Research Councils wisely went ahead and
implemented it anyway. Now all that's left is the 7th UK funding council
(EPSRC) plus the UK universities (to cover all the research that's
unfunded or funded elsewhere).

So the upshot is: Advocacy and lobbying are needed for all mandates --
funder and university. Only when mandates are well on the road to being
universal can we rest...

(None of this has anything to do with "developing a voluntary code," by
the way. Mandates are needed because of the abject failure of voluntarism:
Advocacy is needed (1) for self-archiving, (2) for adopting self-archiving
mandates, and (3) for complying with mandates here. All are welcome, but
(2) is the most important. The only thing that definitely is insufficient
is relying on voluntarism; time has already proved that that's hopelessly

> However, despite the six out of seven funding bodies
> requiring green OA, we do not yet see substantial compliance from
> academics as a result.

I wonder where you are drawing that conclusion from? Have you seen
data on UK deposit rates of research in the mandated areas since
September 2006? (I expect it's proceeding apace, helped also by RAE
pressure; but a complementary mandate from the UK universities would
clinch it.)

> We now need a growth in awareness amongst the
> authors, as well as among the funders. In short, inclusivity and rewards
> tend to breed co-operation, whereas mere legal directives are generally
> less well received. So the mandate from Brussels might not actually have
> changed the immediate situation much, except perhaps in terms of
> publicity.

Counterfactual conditionals are notoriously hard to test, but all the
existing evidence seems to contradict this one. There is every reason
to expect that a Brussels mandate to its funding councils will help,
and would have helped, just as all other mandates have helped.

And, as noted, research is already being rewarded on the basis of its
research impact (metrics), so OA generates its own rewards.

> I take the point that not all research is funded, as I come from an arts
> background myself, where it is less frequently so. Here the need for
> advocacy is even stronger, as we have no carrot to offer except web
> hits.

But universities presumably still evaluate scholarly performance. The
carrots are employment, promotion, salary, and RAE income. The metrics
are the evidence of being deserving of the carrots. And OA is a way to
enhance that evidence of deservingness. And mandates are the way to
ensure that enhancement.

> On the other hand, we can hope, as you point out, that the new
> metrics system will offer a greater carrot, if it lives up to
> expectations and if it takes OA archiving properly into account. How
> this system will work has been left to some extent deliberately unclear.

All HEFCE need do is to declare that it will be harvesting both
publications and metrics from the Institutional Repositories. (And all
universities need do is mandate deposit in them.)

> I feel that the position of OA repositories is not yet strong enough to
> deliver our message adequately to legislators, which may be the reason
> why the initiative in the EU Parliament failed. As very few repository
> managers are full time, often engaged in other library or IT work,
> professional representation remains weak. At a recent UKCoRR meeting,
> only three members (where roughly half the total members were present)
> were full-time, including myself.

Repository managers can't mandate deposit. Only VCs and department heads

> In answer to the reply made by Prof. Charles Oppenheim, I reiterate my
> case study of a member of staff here being unaware that the funding body
> for his research required OA archiving, in which he would have failed
> because he did not read the agreement and therefore risked losing
> further grants. Clearly funding bodies can't penalise the vast number of
> academics in his position at the outset without engaging in some
> publicity and advocacy themselves in the beginning. They can usefully
> give the impression that they will do so, however, as it may in any
> event advance the cause of OA.

I am sure RCUK councils will be spelling out the deposit requirement in
their criteria -- they are so good at spelling out all their other

> To summarise, we are all approaching the issue from much the same point
> of view, but it is jumping the gun to think we can find a simple legal
> solution out of the box without doing the necessary work in talking to
> our audience first. Yes, something useful could have been done in
> Brussels, possibly. However, not enough ground work has been done, so I
> reiterate that the time is *not* in fact ripe as suggested. Most
> repositories are embryonic, without proper policy or software
> frameworks, some with almost no content on which to build. We need to
> act in our own universities by going out and speaking to the academic
> staff, not spend increasing amounts of time discussing the niceties of
> the matter here, fiddling while Rome burns. If some of you wish to spend
> your time lobbying parliaments instead, there is room for all kinds of
> contributions. However, we cannot expect everybody to do so, without any
> kind of professional representation.

I agree that university advocacy is now more important than funder
advocacy in the UK: But what's needed is university mandates! EU
funder mandates might have helped hasten university mandates (but it
could also work vice versa). The only thing that has already been
demonstrated to be insufficient is voluntarism, no matter how fervently
encouraged and promoted.

And the only thing university repositories are missing is content!
Mandate that, and the rest will take care of itself.

> In the meantime, for my own small part, I will go back to advocacy, and
> handling the latest submissions in my repository, which on a collective
> basis, between us all, will exponentially drive the growth of OA
> repositories. As you say, Stevan, it is a matter of making sure that the
> keystrokes are actually made.

Bravo Talat -- but don't stop at advocating keystrokes: Advocate
keystroke mandates too!

Chrs, Stevan
Received on Wed Nov 28 2007 - 03:10:04 GMT

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