Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Richard Poynder interviews Catherine Candee

Richard Poynder, Changing the paradigm, Open and Shut, January 18, 2006. An interview with Catherine Candee, director of publishing and strategic initiatives in the Office of Scholarly Communication at the University of California (UC). My excerpt is long but the full interview is much longer and covers many other highly relevant topics. Read the whole thing if you can. Excerpt:

RP: Your job grew out of the so-called scholarly publishing crisis did it?

CC: Very much so. We faced a situation in which spiralling serials costs were literally killing the University of California. Today we spend about $27 million a year on licensed content. However, while my job certainly grew out of the scholarly publishing crisis it was also a response to the development of new technologies.

RP: You mean in the sense that the Web has allowed the University to respond to the scholarly publishing crisis in ways that would not otherwise have been possible?

CC: Exactly. In 2000, for example, we launched the eScholarship program, which was created to exploit technologies that can help us reduce the cost of scholarly materials, especially journals....The journal pricing issue drove us in the library to seek new solutions; but it wasn’t journal pricing that drove faculty to try new things. In the end, therefore, the eScholarship Repository grew out of the opportunistic use of new technology by faculty, and the decision by UC library to establish new ways of helping faculty....

RP: Certainly most agree that an important role of an institutional repository is to allow a university to make its peer-reviewed papers freely available on the Web, and thus "open access". As it happens, UC is being very proactive in this regard. It has, for instance, introduced a metadata harvesting program designed to track down papers published by faculty, and it then asks the authors to deposit postprints of those papers in the eScholarship repository. How does the program work?

CC: What we are doing is harvesting citations. We then send them to faculty members saying that the listed works may be eligible for inclusion in the eScholarship repository. It is a way to alert them to the repository, and to the fact that they have content that could be placed in it.

RP: How do they then deposit the postprint?

CC: The message sent to faculty is clickable, and when they click on the link it brings them directly into the repository, where the citation data for the paper automatically fills out the repository metadata fields for them. This, by the way, is the one case where we allow authors to put their content in directly themselves. However, we also allow them to use a proxy — so they can legally assign someone else to put their papers in for them. The aim is to make the process as easy as possible, because time is the biggest constraint when it comes to getting faculty to participate.

RP: And you have contracted bepress to do rights clearance on the papers?

CC: Right. After the papers are submitted we pay bepress to check the rights on them. That was a concession to the fact that bepress' business would be threatened if they got sued for allowing something illegal to be put into the repository. This part of the process is both onerous and expensive, and we hope we will not need to do it at some point in the future....

RP: When you ask faculty for a postprint is it a request or a demand?

CC: It is not a demand. Clearly, incentive is the single biggest issue for getting content in. Awareness is another issue, so we are just starting some market research to discover what percentage of UC faculty even know about the repository. I suspect it is less than half.

RP: So you still have work to do in publicising the repository?

CC: We do. While we are very excited that we have more than 200 departments participating in the repository we have no idea what percentage of the faculty know about it; and we have no idea what percentage would participate if they did know — because there is no overriding incentive for them to do so today. We need to understand the situation....

RP: What is the likely timing for a decision [on the recent white papers proposing various OA-related policies for the U of California]?

CC: As I understand it, the aim is to get things passed and through the system before next fall.

RP: If it does go ahead would you envisage a postprint mandate following behind it?

CC: Yes.