From Father Christmas to all the little boys and girls wishing for Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 22 Dec 2007 20:43:07 -0500

On Sat, 22 Dec 2007, [anonymous] wrote:

Dear Father Christmas,
   My wish goes towards allowing any researcher free access to
current scientific information -- and when I say free, I mean without
any constraint of fees, subscription, copyright. And what would be
better than having open archives/repositories?
   But I know this is pure utopia.
   Even you, Father Xmas, are you on Open Access?
   Since you are a creation of human intellect, someone must have an
exclusive copyright on you, so is it even allowed to quote you
without permission?
   How to get out of this dilemma? Recently, in France and Germany,
lawmakers wrote a new law, punishing anybody intending to infringe
copyright with enormous fines...
   My fellow European scientists are afraid and no longer dare to
express their ideas. Father Xmas, give us some suggestions to be
discussed in our Forum, but do not tell anybody else: we don't want
to be prosecuted...


Dear little boys and girls everywhere who yearn for Open Access:

Yes, there is a way that you can have the Open Access you say you so
fervently desire. But Father Christmas cannot give it to you, any
more than Father Christmas can give you big muscles, if that is what
you yearn for. All Father Christmas can do is tell you how you
yourselves can build the big muscles you desire (by exercising daily
with increasing weights). And for Open Access it is exactly the same:
It depends entirely on you, dear children, each and every one of you.

Nor can you build big muscles from one day to the other. If you try
to lift too heavy a weight, too early, you only cause yourself muscle
strain. So don't insist on too much overnight. Start with one simple
fact that is easy to assimilate:

There is nothing, either physical or legal that prevents you from
depositing your own final, peer-reviewed drafts (postprints) of all
your own current research journal articles in an OAI-compliant
repository: Nothing. Not copyright. Not technology. Not cost. Not
expertise. No point in writing to Father Christmas to wish that,
because it it is already entirely in your own hands:

Your institution has no Institutional Repository yet? Then deposit
your postprint in a central repository, like CogPrints or Depot or
Arxiv or HAL or PubMed Central for the time being.

The journal in which it is published does not yet endorse immediate
OA self-archiving? Then set access to the deposit as Closed Access
rather than OA for the time being, for as long as the journal
embargoes access. But do the deposit now.

That's all. If all the little boys and girls did that before
Christmas this year, on Christmas day all the current research
worldwide would be visible worldwide, 62% of it already Open Access
(because 62% of journals already endorse immediate OA

For the remaining 38% deposited in Closed Access, the metadata
(author, title, journalname, date etc.) would be immediately visible
worldwide, so any user who wanted to access the full-text could
immediately email the author to request an eprint by email. That is
not immediate 100% OA, but it is almost-immediate, almost-OA. Many
Repositories already have a button whereby eprints can be requested
and sent semi-automatically: one keystroke from the requester, one
keystroke from the author.

If all of you deposited all your current postprints before Christmas,
boys and girls, all Repositories would soon have that button. And the
growth of the OA muscles in this way, worldwide, keystroke by
keystroke, would soon hasten the natural and well-deserved death of
the remaining publisher-embargoes. (Yes, dear children, it is within
the spirit of Christmas to speak about the "death" of evil things,
such as plagues, hunger, war, injustice, and research access

So, dear little boys and girls, there are some things for which
wishing or writing a letter to Santa Claus is not quite enough. Time
to start exercising your little fingers. And if you find doing the
keystrokes for depositing all your current articles before Christmas
too low an ergonomic priority -- first, congratulations for having
published so much at such a young age!

And second, instead of just writing to St. Nick, I suggest writing to
the Principal, Rector, Vice-Chancellor or Provost of your school, to
make known to them your fervent desire for OA, pointing out also your
faintness of will about doing the keystrokes as long as you feel you
would be doing those dactylographics alone. Father Christmas
understands that as little researchers, you are already so busy and
overloaded that you cannot take the time to exercise your fingers in
this way while your school gives you so much other homework to do.

So if you all write to your Principal asking that the school itself
should make this digital muscle-building part of its standard
athletic curriculum for all its pupils -- making the keystrokes
mandatory for all of you -- then that mandate will ensure OA
self-archiving its proper place in your hierarchy of priorities. The
rewards will be felt in your year-end marks (if you don't mind Father
Christmas talking about such unpleasant matters at a time we should
be thinking of toys rather than toil!), because self-archiving builds
the citations as surely as it builds muscles.

So don't worry about reforming copyright law. Copyright law is the
Cheshire Cat's smile, suspended in thin air, without you. It will
reform itself in due course, if you just do what is already within
your own hands (and always has been, ever since the dawn of the
online era), now, on the night before Xmas.
Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy: A Study of the Time
and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving. 

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

Your faithful old

Kris Kringle
Received on Sun Dec 23 2007 - 01:44:51 GMT

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