NIH Open to Closer Collaboration With Institutional Repositories

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 11:24:25 -0500

In his "Analysis of Comments and Implementation of the NIH Public
Access Policy," Dr. Raynard Kington, Acting Director, National
Institutes of Health (NIH), writes that
      "direct feeds from [institutional repositories (IRs)
      are]... worthwhile... but... raise important technical
      and logistical challenges regarding author approval,
      copyright permissions, quality control, and formats for
      electronic transfer. The NIH remains open to closer
      collaboration with institutional [repositories] and will
      consider this issue as the Policy matures."

It is virtually certain that all technical and logistical challenges
to designating Institutional Repositories (IRs) as NIH's preferred
locus of direct deposit (followed by "direct feed" to PubMed Central
(PMC)) can be successfully met (and most already have been: see
below). The benefits of NIH/institutionalcollaboration on direct
feeds will be enormous, and will far exceed the current reach of
the NIH mandate (which is now restricted to the 80,000 articles a
year resulting from NIH funding, no more, no less).

The NIH mandate touches the institutions of every one of NIH's
fundees. If the NIH mandate preferentially encourages its fundees to
deposit their NIH-funded output in their own respective IRs (with
direct feed to to PMC therefrom, instead of direct deposit in PMC, as
now), it will also motivate their fundees to deposit -- and motivate
their fundees' institutions to mandate the deposit of -- the rest of
their institutional output in their IR too, not just the NIH-funded
fraction of it. Not so if the 80,000 NIH articles must be directly
deposited institution-externally (in PMC): That has the exact
opposite effect, competing with and complicating, hence demotivating
institutional deposits and mandates. (And we must not forget that the
institutions are the universal providers of all research output:
funded and unfunded, across all disciplines.)

The "technical and logistical challenges" for "direct feeds" from IRs
to PMC have already been largely met:
      (1) The SWORD transfer protocol has already solved the
      problem of automatically exporting IR deposits to other

      (2) "Author approval" is not a problem at all: Authors
      are mandated by NIH to deposit, and NIH specifies the
      locus of deposit. Currently that designated locus is PMC.
      The recommendation here is that the preferred locus of
      deposit should instead be the author's IR, with the
      deposit then automatically ported by "direct feed" (via
      SWORD) to PMC. (Institutional deposit will in fact
      simplify deposit for authors, increasing their motivation
      to comply with the NIH mandate.)

      (3) "Copyright permissions" are not a problem either:
      Authors are mandated by NIH to deposit and NIH specifies
      the locus of deposit. If copyright is not an issue with
      PMC deposit, it is even less of an issue with direct
      institutional deposit in the fundee's own IR. (Publisher
      embargoes can be -- and are -- implemented by IRs just as
      they are by PMC.)

      (4) "Quality control" is not a problem either. Authors
      are mandated by NIH to deposit their final, refereed,
      revised draft, and NIH specifies the locus of deposit.
      The IR deposit can be exported by "direct feed" (via
      SWORD) to PMC, where exactly the same quality controls
      can be performed as are now being performed by PMC. (The
      IR direct-deposit protocol can easily be made to conform
      to the PMC direct-deposit protocol: they are almost
      identical already.) 

      (5) "Formats for electronic transfer" is not a problem
      either. The SWORD protocol does the electronic transfer,
      and the format for deposit of the author's final,
      refereed, revised draft is exactly the same.

It is very welcome and timely news that NIH's Acting Director is
"open to closer collaboration with institutional archives." The
sooner a collaborative deposit policy, with IR deposit and direct
feed to PMC can be adopted and announced, the sooner its potentially
enormous knock-on effects will begin to make themselves felt in
helping to wake the "slumbering giant" -- the US and global network
of universities and research institutes, not only the NIH-funded
ones, but all of them: the universal providers of research, worldwide
-- to create their own IRs (if they don't have them already) and to
mandate the deposit of all of their own research output into them,
not just NIH-funded research.

This global enabling effect of the NIH mandate for accelerating and
facilitating universal OA should also be cited in the defense of
NIH's historically invaluable public access policy against
the Conyers Bill's attempt to overturn it.

(And the other research funding councils worldwide, too, should be
encouraged to consider the enormous potential OA gains -- at no loss
-- from stipulating IR deposit rather than institution-external
deposit in their own OA policies as well.)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Thu Feb 19 2009 - 16:25:35 GMT

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