Re: Role of arXiv

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2010 20:13:48 -0400

On 2010-10-13, at 7:02 PM, Okerson, Ann wrote:

> HMMMM, We see huge value in robust subject repositories that
> present readers with tools and content appropriate to their
> disciplines. My not-so-secret hope has been that subject
> repositories will thrive and endure, and will not depend on the
> existence of thousands of institutional repositories.

For this secret hope to be realized, there has to be a way to get all of OA's target content -- the c. 2.5 million articles per year published in the planet's peer reviewed scholarly and scientific journals, across all disciplines -- deposited in one or the other (i.e., in at least one central or institutional repository).

Now, institutions worldwide (universities and research institutions) are the universal providers of *all* that target OA content, whether funded or funded, across all disciplines. Virtually every author of every one of those annual 2.5 million articles has an institutional affiliation. Each author shares with his institution a joint interest in showcasing and maximizing the visibility, access, uptake, usage, applications and citations of their joint research output. The researcher's institution (and employer) is also in the position to mandate that that research output be deposited in the institutional repository, in order to provide those benefits to the author and the institution, just as the researcher's institution already mandates publishing (or perishing) in the first place.

In contrast, a "discipline" has no interests (except perhaps a maze internally competitive ones), and no power to mandate anything -- neither publishing nor OA. Moreover, how many disciplines are there? and how many subjects? and does an author/article falling into several need to be deposited in several central repositories? How many? And if not, which? And why? If central collections are the place to *search* (and they are), why on earth should they be the place to *deposit*? Do we deposit in google, and other search engines? No, they harvest. From not thousands of sites, but hundreds of millions of them. So should central OA repositories. (The planet only has about 10,000 universities and research institutions...)

Whereas the author's own institution should host and archive the deposits; the central harvesters need only harvest the metadata. And many different central harvesters can harvest, mix and match the same metadata. But the author need deposit only once: In his own IR.

Funders can help. But not by foolishly mandating institution-external deposit for that small fragment of an institution's research output that they happen to fund. Institutions are the universal providers of *all* research output (funded by different -- sometimes multiple -- funders, and some of it unfunded). Funders should encourage and reinforce institutional OA mandates by specifying that the (preferential) locus of mandatory deposit for their fundees is in their own institutional repositories.

One locus of deposit, convergent rather than divergent, collaborative rather than competitive, mandated by both institutions and funders: in the author's own IR. Then harvest and search centrally as, "robustly" as you please.

No point hoping for a preferred kind of repository if you haven't a hope (or a viable plan) for getting it filled the target content.

A word to the wise.

Stevan Harnad

> Ann Okerson/Yale Library
> ------------------- Message requiring your approval ------------------
> From: Stevan Harnad <>
> To: "Liblicense-L_at_Lists. Yale. Edu" <>
> Subject: Re: Role of arXiv
> [SNIP]
> No one wants Arxiv to disappear, but I'll bet that within a
> decade Arxiv will just be an automated harvester of deposits from
> authors' own institutional repositories, not a locus of direct,
> institution-external deposit. In the age of Institutional
> Repositories, it is no longer necessary -- nor does it make sense
> -- for authors to self-archive institution-externally. It is also
> a needless central expense to manage deposit centrally. It makes
> much more sense to deposit institutionally and harvest centrally.
>> My understanding is that arXiv is funded by a combination of
>> support from Cornell, a large government grant, and
>> contributions from other research universities. If this
>> funding were to disappear (I heard it was threatened a year or
>> two ago), would arXiv be resurrected by the community?
> Once all universities have IRs and IR self-archiving mandates,
> there will be no need to fund repositories for
> institution-external deposit. Harvesting is cheap. And each
> university's IR will be a standard part of its online
> infrastructure.
> [SNIP]
Received on Thu Oct 14 2010 - 01:25:54 BST

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