Re: Changes in publisher policies on repository deposit?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 09:32:28 -0400

On 2-Jun-09, at 8:05 AM, Peter Suber wrote:

      [Forwarding from Fred Friend via the JISC-Repositories
      list.  --Peter Suber.]

      To all repository managers:
      Rumours are spreading that Elsevier staff are approaching
      UK Vice-Chancellors persuading them to point to PDF
      copies of articles on Elsevier's web-site rather than
      have the articles deposited in institutional
      repositories. It appears that the argument being used is
      that this will be a cheaper option than maintaining
      full-text within repositories. If these reports are true,
      my guess is that Elsevier are using these arguments to
      undermine deposit mandates.

Here is my prediction:

      (1) Yes, Elsevier and other publishers would be happier
      if researchers did not deposit their final drafts in
      their institutional repositories, and if their
      institutions and funders did not mandate that they do so.
      Hence it is not at all surprising that they may be trying
      to persuade UK VCs to link to PDFs at Elsevier's website
      instead of having their researchers deposit their own
      final drafts in their own institutional repositories.

      (2) But UK VCs presumably still have some autonomy and
      judgement of their own. So whereas they will understand
      why it might be in publishers' interest if universities'
      research output were held at publishers' websites rather
      than in the university's own repository, they will also
      see quite clearly why this would not be in the interest
      of their universities, or their researchers, or research
      assessment, or research itself. 

      (3) So the attempt at persuasion will prove unpersuasive.

So please let us not again stir up groundless and distracting
anxieties about this. Let publishers try to persuade whomever they
wish of whatever they wish. The interested parties will make their
own decisions, according to their own interests.

What UK VCs should be (and are) doing is persuading their own
researchers to provide Open Access to their own research output, in
their own repositories, by adopting university Open Access
self-archiving mandates, as 83 institutions and funders worldwide
have already done. UK has the world's highest concentration of these
mandates, and two more are about to be announced (stay tuned).

Elsevier (and the majority of other publishers), despite their
efforts at VC persuasion, and despite the familiar doomsday
scenarios to the contrary, remain on the side of the angels insofar
as OA self-archiving is concerned, endorsing authors depositing their
final drafts in their institutional repositories.

Let us concentrate on accelerating OA mandate adoption and not worry
about how publishers might be trying to decelerate it: The outcome is
optimal (for research, researchers, their institutions, and the
tax-paying public that funds them) -- and inevitable.

      If Vice-Chancellors are persuaded to adopt this policy,
      it would only give repository access to an unsatisfactory
      version (PDFs will not enable re-use for research
      purposes) and access on Elsevier's terms. If this is
      Elsevier's strategy it would seem to negate their "green"
      status. Previous correspondence on this list has
      indicated a harder line on repository deposit by
      Wiley-Blackwell, and if Elsevier are also hardening their
      policy, mandates for repository deposit could lose much
      of their potential effectiveness in increasing access to
      research content.

There is no hardening of policies, the PDF issue is a red herring,
and green continues to be green. 
      It would be wise for repository managers to brief their
      senior university management on this issue. The threat to
      repository deposit also adds to the need for authors to
      be briefed on the use of a licence to publish retaining
      certain rights rather than ceding all control over their
      work to the publisher.

There is no threat to repository deposit; a green light to deposit
a postprint is sufficient for green OA and green OA mandates,
irrespective of whether the postprint is the author's final draft or
the publisher's PDF. 
      Any publishers reading this message should understand
      that dialogue on the issues above will be welcome, in
      particular clarification of any change in publisher

What is needed is not (still more!) dialogue with publishers but
self-archiving of postprints by the researchers -- and postprint
self-archiving mandates by researchers' institutions and funders.

Repository managers do far more for OA if they focus on helping their
institution to adopt self-archiving policies rather than if they
focus on how publisher may be trying to maximise their interests by
delaying or distracting from them.

Stevan Harnad
      Fred Friend (not writing on behalf of any organisation or
Received on Tue Jun 02 2009 - 15:04:31 BST

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