Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Voting v. acting

Dorothea Salo, Mandate Me! Caveat Lector, July 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Talk about open-access mandates in institutions has tended to irk me rather. I’d love an institutional mandate. I can’t create one. (On twenty-six campuses? All by myself? With no support from above, no institutional power, not even so much as a line in my job description to back me up? Of course I can’t.)

I’m scoffing a bit less, though, after reading this short Surowiecki piece on the discrepancy between the fuel-efficiency standards Americans vote for and the fuel efficiency of the vehicles they actually buy.

Perhaps that’s what’s going on with open access. Faculty are nominally in favor of the idea, but putting their articles where their opinions are could (they believe) entail career difficulties. If everyone has to do it because of a mandate, the playing field levels and they can comply without worry….

Comment.  I do believe this is one factor in the complex explanation of why researchers spontaneously self-archive at low rates (about 15%) but declare, at high rates (81%), that they would willingly comply with an institutional or funder mandate.  I like the fuel efficiency analogy, and once made a similar argument (SOAN for January 2002) using similar examples:

There are many…situations in which everyone wants to make a certain choice but no one wants to go first.  For example, all merchants in a town may want a day of rest (say, on Sundays), but the first to close on Sundays will lose customers to those who do not.  Or, all the states in the U.S. may want a relief fund for the poor, but the first to raise taxes first in order to provide one will lose businesses, hence taxes, to those that do not….[One solution is to] legislate so that all who want the outcome, but hesitate to go first, are compelled to move at the same time.  This is how towns provide a day of rest and how the U.S. federal government solved the circular hesitation of the states to adopt social security.