Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 8 Mar 2008 12:06:47 +0000

On Sat, 8 Mar 2008, Atanu Garai/Lists wrote:

> Dear Colleagues
> This question is very basic. Institutions all over the world are
> developing their own repositories to archive papers written by staffs. On
> the other hand, it is very much feasible to develop thematic and
> consortia repositories wherein authors all over the world can archive
> their papers very easily. Both the approaches have their own pros and
> cons. However, having few big thematic (e.g. subject based) and/or
> consortia (e.g. Indian universities archive) repositories is more
> advantageous than maintaining hundreds of thousands small IRs, taking
> cost, management, infrastructure and technology considerations. Moreover,
> knowledge sharing and preservation becomes easier across the
> participating individuals and institutions in large IRs. If this
> advantages are so obvious, it is not understandable why there is so much
> advocacy for building IRs in all institutions?

Not only are the advantages of central repositories (CRs) over institutional
repositories (IRs) not obvious, but the pro's of IRs vastly outweigh
those of CRs on every count:

(1) The research providers are not a central entity but a worldwide
network of independent research institutions (mostly universities).

(2) Those independent institutions share with their own researchers a
direct (and even somewhat competitive) interest in archiving, evaluating,
showcasing, and maximizing the usage and impact of their own research
output. (Most institutions already have IRs, and there are provisional
back-up CRs such as Depot for institutionally unaffiliated researchers
or those whose institutions don't yet have their own IR.)

(3) The OAI protocol has made all these distributed institutions'
repositories interoperable, meaning that their metadata (or data) can all be
harvested into multiple central collections, as desired, and searched,
navigated and data-mined at that level. (Distributed archiving is also
important for mirroring, backup and preservation.)

(4) Deposit takes the same (small) number of keystrokes institutionally
or centrally, so there is no difference there; but researchers normally
have one IR whereas the potential CRs for their work are multiple. (The
only "global" CR is Google, and that's harvested.)

(5) The distributed costs of institutional self-archiving are certainly
lower than than maintaining CRs (how many? for what fields? and who
maintains them and pays their costs?), particularly as the costs of a
local IR are low, and they can cover all of an institution's research
output as well as many other forms of institutional digital assets.

(6) Most important of all, although research funders can reinforce
self-archiving mandates, the natural and universal way to ensure that IRs
(and hence harvested CRs) are actually filled with all of the world's
research output, funded and unfunded, is for institutions to mandate
and monitor the self-archiving of their own research output, in their
own IRs, rather than hoping it will find its way willy-nilly into
external CRs.

This topic has been much discussed since in the American Scientist
Open Access Forum. See the topic threads "Central vs. Distributed
Archives" (since 1999) and "Central versus institutional self-archiving".

See also:

    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.

    Harnad, S. (2008) Optimize the NIH Mandate
    Now: Deposit Institutionally, Harvest

    Harnad, S. (2008) How To Integrate
    University and Funder Open Access Mandates.

Stevan Harnad

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
    BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
    a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
    in your own institutional repository.

> Thank you for reflecting on this issue.
> Best
> Atanu Garai
> Online Networking Specialist
> International Secretariat:
> 150, route de Ferney
> CH-1211 Geneva 2
> Switzerland
> Tel: 41.22791.6249/67
> Fax: 41.22710.2386
> New Delhi Contact:
> Tel: 91.98996.22884
> Email:
> Web:
Received on Sat Mar 08 2008 - 12:18:57 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:14 GMT