Re: Repositories: Institutional or Central?

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2009 10:44:56 -0500

On Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 5:46 AM, Peter Millington
<> wrote:

      Following the LOCKSS principle, I personally support both
      institutional and central repositories. Depositing in
      both may also help to disseminate research more widely.

Let 1000 flowers bloom, but not by asking their creators -- currently
loath to plant even one unless mandated -- to deposit their seeds
multiply. One deposit is enough. The rest is what (to mix metaphors)
automatized harvesting is for.

And the natural and optimal locus for that one-time implantation is
the creator's own Institutional Repository (IR), since institutions
are the source of all the planet's research, across all disciplines,
across all nations, and whether funded or unfunded. 

The rest is all a matter of automatized harvesting, whether for the
purposes of global search, subject-based collections,
grant-fulfillment, preservation, data-mining or what have you.
Being Devil's advocate however, I can understand why research
funding agencies would want to stipulate specific central
repositories [CRs] in their OA mandates.

Being Logic's and Practicality's advocate (and also universal OA's,
rather than just the funder's fraction), I have to point out, again,
that once mandators stipulate convergent IR deposit, the rest is just
a matter of software-based harvesting. IRs can provide funder
metadata fields (as EPrints does). The fulfillment conditions for the
grant can stipulate that the deposit must be automatically exported
by the IR to the funder's designated CR, whatever that may be.

The point that is not being appreciated in all this effluence of
enthusiasm for multiple deposits willy-nilly is that currently most
research is not being deposited anywhere at all. That's what the
mandates -- both funder and institutional -- are for. And the
universal providers of all research are the institutions. The funders
just fund a portion. But their extremely welcome, timely and valuable
deposit mandates can do a lot more than just ensure that their own
funded portion is deposited -- if the designated locus of deposit is
each fundee institution's own IR rather than some
institution-external CR, for that will motivate each institution to
deposit -- and mandate the deposit of -- all the rest of its output
in its own IR too. 

Not so if deposit is mandated institution-externally. 

(And please don't cite the possibility of automatised back-harvesting
from the CRs to the IRs as the symmetric remedy, because the
fundamental fact this fallacy overlooks is that most IRs are lying
fallow today, and are as unmotivated to back-harvest as they are to
deposit or mandate deposit: That's what funder mandates stipulating
IR deposit are in a position to jump-start, at long last -- if only
we first grasp the logic, as well as the practicality, of the
      If you are serious about policing compliance, it is much
      simpler for a research funder to monitor a central
      repository than a myriad of institutional repositories.

Its also easier for a funder to communicate with fundees at a single
email address rather than a myriad of institutional addresses. But in
fact the solution is much the same in both cases. Each fundee has on
record with the funder his institution and his institutional email
address. By the same token, he can add the URL (or DOI) of the IR
locus of deposit of each of the published articles he lists as having
been outputs and outcomes of the grant funding. (And, as noted,
automatized export, import, or harvesting can be done on the basis of
those data, and IR metadata tags.)

None of this calls for direct central deposit of articles by the
fundee, and all good sense militates against it.

 Of course for institutional mandates it is the other way

This sounds like the "symmetry" fallacy again: No, it is not true
that there is any functional, practical or logical symmetry between
(1) the hypothetical back-harvesting to their own IRs -- by
unmotivated, nonmandating institutions -- of the funded fraction of
their own institutional research output, deposited
institution-externally in mandated funder CRs (or other CRs scattered
across the planet) and (2) funder-mandated direct deposit in the
institutions' own IRs to motivate institutional deposit mandates for
all the rest of the institutions' research output.

The underlying rationale for this fundamentally important but subtle
strategic point about locus-of-direct-deposit (for funder mandates
especially) deserves to be carefully thought through, rather than
dismissed with vague assumptions about harvesting symmetry and
letting 1000 flowers bloom....
Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Feb 13 2009 - 15:45:37 GMT

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