Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving: 6 Mantras

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2008 13:08:59 +0000

On Sun, 9 Mar 2008, Andy Powell wrote:

> You can repeat the IR mantra as many times as you like... it doesn't
> make it true.

I'd settle for a substantive reply to the substantive points, empirical
and logical (however repetitive they may be)...

> Despite who knows how much funding being pumped into IRs globally (can
> anyone begin to put a figure on this, even in the UK?),

Plenty of figures have been posted on how much money institutions have
wasted on their (empty) IRs in the eight years since IRs began. People
needlessly waste a lot of money on lots of needless things. The amount
wasted is of no interest in and of itself.

The relevant figure is: How much does it actually cost to set up an OA IR
and to
implement a self-archiving mandate to fill it. For the answer, you do not
have to go far: Just ask the dozen universities that have so far
done both: The very first IR-plus-mandate was a departmental one
(at Southampton ECS) but the most relevant figures will come from
university-wide mandated IRs, and for that you should ask Tom Cochrane
at QUT and Eloy Rodrigues at Minho.

And then, compare the cost of that (relative to each university's
annual research output) with what it would have cost (someone: who?) to
set up subject-based CRs (which? where? how many?) for all of that
same university annual research output, in every subject) willy-nilly
worldwide, and to ensure (how?) that it was deposited in its respective

(Please do not reply with social-theoretic mantras but with precisely
what data you propose to base your comparative estimate upon!)

> most remain
> largely unfilled and our only response is to say that funding bodies and
> institutions need to force researchers to deposit when they clearly
> don't want to of their own free will. We haven't (yet) succeeded in
> building services that researchers find compelling to use.

We haven't (yet) succeeded in persuading researchers to publish of their
own free will: So instead of waiting for researchers to wait to find
compelling reasons to publish, we review and reward their research
performance for publishing ("publish or perish").

We also haven't (yet) succeeded in persuading researchers to publish
research that is important and useful to research progress: So instead of
waiting for researchers to wait to find compelling reasons to maximise
their research impact, we review and reward research performance on the
basis not just of the number of publications, but publication impact

Mandating that researchers maximise the potential usage and impact
of their research by self-archiving it in their own IR, and reviewing
and rewarding their doing so, seems a quite natural (though long
overdue) extension of what universities are all doing already.

> If we want to build compelling scholarly social networks (which is
> essentially what any 'repository' system should be) then we might be
> better to start by thinking in terms of the social networks that
> currently exist in the research community - social networks that are
> largely independent of the institution.

Some of us have been thinking about these "social networks" since the
early 1990's and we have noted that -- apart from a very few communities
where they formed spontaneously early on -- most disciplines have not
followed the examples of these few communities in the ensuing decade and
a half, even after repeatedly hearing the mantra (Mantra 1) urging them
to do so, along with the empirical evidence of its evidence beneficial
effects on research usage and impact (Mantra 2).

Then the evidence from the homologous precedent and example
of (a) the institutional incentive system underlying publish-or-perish
as well as (b) research metric assessment, was reinforced by Alma Swan's
JISC surveys that found that (c) the vast majority of researchers report
that they would not do it spontaneously of their own accord if their
institutions and/or funders did not require it (mainly because they
were busy with their institutions' and funders' other priorities), 95%
of them would self-archive their research if their institutions and/or
funders were to require it -- and over 80% of them would do so *willingly*
(Mantra 3). And then Arthur Sale's empirical comparisons of what
researchers actually do when such requirements are and are not
implemented fully confirmed what the surveys said that the research
(across all disciplines and "social networks" worldwide) had said they
would and would not do (Mantra 4).

So I'd say we should not waste another decade and a half waiting for the
fabled "social networks" to form spontaneously so the research community
can at last have the OA that has already been demonstrated to be
feasible and beneficial to them.

> Oddly, to do that we might do well to change our thinking about how best
> to surface scholarly content on the Web to be both 1) user-centric
> (acknowledging that individual researchers want to take responsibility
> for how they surface their content, as happens, say, in the blogsphere)
> and 2) globally-centric (acknowledging that the infrastructure is now
> available that allows us to realise the efficiency savings and social
> network effects of large-scale globally concentrated services, as
> happens in, say, Slideshare, Flickr and so on).

It is odd indeed that all these wonders of technology, so readily taken
up spontaneously when people are playing computer games or blabbing in
the blogosphere have not been systematically applied to their ergonomic
practices, but the fact is that they have not been, and we have waited
more than long enough. That systematic application is precisely what
the now-growing wave of OA self-archiving mandates by funders (such
as RCUK and NIH) and universities (such as Southampton and Harvard)
is meant to accelerate and ensure.

> Such a change in thinking does not rule the institution out of the
> picture, since the institution remains a significant stakeholder with
> significant interests... but it certainly does change the emphasis and
> direction and it hopefully stops us putting institutional needs higher
> up the agenda than the needs of the individual researcher.

Individual researchers do not work in a vacuum. That is why we have
institutions and funders. Those "research networks" already exist. As
much as we may all admire the spontaneous, anonymous way in which (for
example) Wikipedia is growing, we also have to note the repeatedly voiced
laments of those academics who devote large portions of their time to such
web-based activities without being rewarded for it by their institutions
and funders Mantra 5. OA self-archiving mandates are precisely the bridge
between the existing canonical "social networks" and reward systems of
the scholarly and scientific community -- their universities and research
funders -- and the new world that is open before them.

It is time we crossed that bridge, at long last (Mantra 6).

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.
Received on Sun Mar 09 2008 - 13:27:40 GMT

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