Harvard's Recommendations to President Obama on Public Access Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2010 07:39:40 -0500

    ** Apologies for Cross-Posting **

Professor Steven Hyman, Provost of Harvard, the first US University
to mandate Open Access, has submitted such a spot-on, point for
point response to President Obama’s Request for Information on Public Access
Policy that if his words are heeded, the beneficiaries will not only be US
research progress and the US tax-paying public, by whom US research is funded
and for whose benefit it is conducted, but research progress and its public
benefits planet-wide, as US policy is globally reciprocated.

Reproduced below are just a few of the highlights of Professor Hyman’s response.
Every one of the highlights has a special salience, and attests to the minute
attention and keen insight into the subtle details of Open Access that went into
the preparation of this invaluable set of recommendations.

[Hash-marks (#) indicate three extremely minor points on which the response
could be ever so slightly clarified -- see end.]
      “The public access policy should (1) be mandatory, not voluntary,
      (2) use the shortest practical embargo period, no longer than six
      months, (3) apply to the final version of the author’s peer-reviewed
      manuscript, as opposed to the published version, unless the
      publisher consents to provide public access to the published
      version, (4) [# require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open
      repository #] immediately upon acceptance for publication, where it
      would remain “dark” until the embargo period expired, and (5) avoid
      copyright problems by [## requiring federal grantees, when
      publishing articles based on federally funded research, to retain
      the right to give the relevant agency a non-exclusive license to
      distribute a public-access copy of his or her peer-reviewed
      manuscript ##]…

      “If publishers believe they cannot afford to allow copies of their
      articles to be released under a public-access policy, they need not
      publish federally funded researchers. To date, however, it appears
      that no publishers have made that decision in response to the NIH
      policy. Hence, federally funded authors remain free to submit their
      work to the journals of their choice. Moreover, public access gives
      authors a much larger audience and much greater impact…

      “If the United States extends a public-access mandate across the
      federal government, then lay citizens with no interest in reading
      this literature for themselves will benefit indirectly because
      researchers will benefit directly…. That is the primary problem for
      which public access is the solution…

      “It doesn’t matter whether many lay readers, or few, are able to
      read peer-reviewed research literature or have reason to do so. But
      even if there are many, the primary beneficiaries of a public-access
      policy will be professional researchers, who constitute the intended
      audience for this literature and who depend on access to it for
      their own work….

      “Among the metrics for measuring success, I can propose these: the
      compliance rate (how many articles that the policy intends to open
      up have actually been opened up); the number of downloads from the
      public-access repositories; and the number of citations to the
      public-access articles. As we use different metrics, we must accept
      that [### we will never have an adequate control group: a set of
      articles on similar topics, of similar quality, for which there is
      no public access###]….


Three suggestions for clarifying the minor points indicated by the hash-marks
      [#”require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open repository”

(add: “preferably the fundee’s own institutional repository”)
      [##”requiring federal grantees, when publishing articles based on
      federally funded research, to retain the right to give the relevant
      agency a non-exclusive license to distribute a public-access copy of
      his or her peer-reviewed manuscript” ##]

(add: “the rights retention and license are desirable and welcome, but not
necessary if the publisher already endorses making the deposit publicly
accessible immediately, or after the allowable embargo period”)
      [### "we will never have an adequate control group [for measuring
      the mandate's success]: a set of articles on similar topics, of
      similar quality, for which there is no public access" ###]

(add: “but closed-access articles published in the same journal and year as
mandatorily open-access articles do provide an approximate matched control
baseline for comparison”)
Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Jan 26 2010 - 12:42:15 GMT

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