Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Arthur Sale <ahjs_at_OZEMAIL.COM.AU>
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2008 09:20:32 +1100

I think there is some talking at cross purposes going on here. The
term `central repository' or CR is a misnomer and has led you astray,
because even so-called CRs are distributed repositories in the
context of global scholarly work. Better to talk about `subject
repository' or SR, to make it clear that the discussion is simply
about whether the world is divided up by subject or by institution
(or at the moment by both and neither).


Second point: a consortium of universities (even a whole country) can
establish a repository, which retains its IR characteristic of being
multi-disciplinary. It is an IR in style, and subject to exactly the
same benefits and disadvantages as a single institution IR. There are
many examples worldwide including Australia and the UK, so I hope
that this disposes of the small university problem cited in India.
Such repositories are collaborative IRs. There is no problem with
establishing such collaborative IRs.


The key issue in the discussion between SRs and IRs is that

(a)    Subjects and disciplines do not provide a unique partitioning
of world research. Categories overlap and are blurred. The domain is

(b)   SRs in general have no secure funding source.

(c)    SRs have no possibility of mandating deposit in that
discipline. If it occurs, great. If it doesn't, wring your hands.

(d)   IRs of all types have mandatory mechanisms available to them.

(e)   IRs of all types have secure access to the quite low level of
funds required to run them.

(f)     IRs do not in general overlap, because they are defined by
discrete entities. If the few thousand research universities in the
world had access to an IR, the world's research could be 100%


Summary - Any successful CR is to be applauded. However CRs do not
provide a scalable model for open access. Only IRs do.


Arthur Sale

University of Tasmania



From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
On Behalf Of Atanu Garai/Lists
Sent: Sunday, 9 March 2008 3:51 AM
institutional self-archiving


Thanks Stevan. These are key points that are coming to my mind.

Stevan Harnad wrote:

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.
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
advocacy for building IRs in all institutions?

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

This forum must have discussed this issue. Also, the objective of
posing this question should be made clear, so that you can find it in
the right context and spirit. At one point of time and still now, we
wanted to have disbursed information platforms and database. But with
the emergence of large digitisation projects, notably Google Books,
the advantages of having a centralised global databases are becoming
obvious. A choice between 'central repository' and 'IR' is a policy
decision for a university or group of universities and such a
decision is driven by number of factors. Again, the question is what
are the sequence of events and rationale that led the open access
community to select IRs as primary archiving mechanism over CRs.
Institutions should be able to make a choice of their own, but if you
want to advise the institutions what should be the key criteria to
advise them to go for own IRs, over the CRs.

(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,
showcasing, and maximizing the usage and impact of their own research
output. (Most institutions already have IRs, and there are
back-up CRs such as Depot for institutionally unaffiliated
or those whose institutions don't yet have their own IR.)

Points 1 and 2 are essentially dealing with the notion of
self-archiving mandate that the institution may or may not invoke for
its researcher. From an institutional point of view, the choice of CR
and IR will primarily be driven by management, impact and
effectiveness of the repositories. For universities which produce a
high number of research papers annually, creating IRs may be sensible
but there are universities in India that are producing only a handful
of research papers. My understanding is that for such universities
maintaining own repositories are less effective, even if we take cost
considerations alone. The issue  of  "a direct (and even somewhat
competitive) interest in archiving, evaluating,  showcasing, and
maximizing the usage and impact of their own research output" does
not conflict with the choice of having a CR (or rather global
repository). Independent institutions can have both mandated
self-archiving and archiving, evaluating, showcasing, maximizing the
usage etc. in CRs as well.

(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
navigated and data-mined at that level. (Distributed archiving is
important for mirroring, backup and preservation.)

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

Technology is not a constraint in making metadata interoperable,
though not without some compromise in the data quality. For full text
data, interoperability is challenged by copyright restrictions. These
dilemma are avoided intrinsically in CRs. On the other hand, large
scale CRs are having the opportunity to make full text search and
retrieval feasible. Volatility of harvested metadata from IRs is
avoided with the implementation of CRs.

(5) The distributed costs of institutional self-archiving are
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.

You may like to give some empirical data here to corroborate your
statement. Creating and maintenance costs of IR are minimal, but if
you want to advocate and popularise IRs, you will have a staff. There
are some figures that were submitted to UK parliamentary committee.
CRs adopt all these costs and institutions may or may not give the
CRs same amount of subscription costs. Preserving "as well as many
other forms of institutional digital assets" was not in the IR's
mandate but obviously CRs can also do that purely from tech point of

(6) Most important of all, although research funders can reinforce
self-archiving mandates, the natural and universal way to ensure that
(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.

Self-archiving and mandate is not a technological issue, it is a
regulatory one - hence, it can be done in IRs and/or CRs.
Atanu Garai
Online Networking Specialist
International Secretariat:
150, route de Ferney
CH-1211 Geneva 2
Tel: 41.22791.6249/67
Fax: 41.22710.2386
New Delhi Contact:
Tel: 91.98996.22884

Received on Sat Mar 08 2008 - 22:48:57 GMT

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