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Friday, January 04, 2008

More on the OA mandate at the NIH

Stevan Harnad, Optimize the NIH Mandate Now: Deposit Institutionally, Harvest Centrally, Open Access Archivangelism, January 2, 2008.  Excerpt:

The January issue of Peter Suber's SPARC Open Access Newsletter is superb, and I recommend it highly as a historical record of the milestone reached by the OA movement at this pivotal moment. There is no question but that the NIH Green OA self-archiving mandate is the biggest OA development to date, and heralds much more.

There remains, however, an important point that does need to be brought out, because it's not over till we reach 100% OA, because mistakes have been made before, because those mistakes took longer than necessary to correct, and because a big mistake (concerning the locus of the deposit) still continues to be made.
First, a slight correction on the chronometric facts:

Peter Suber wrote:  "If NIH had adopted an OA mandate in 2004 when Congress originally asked it to do so, it would have been the first anywhere. Now it will be the 21st."
Actually, if the NIH OA mandate had been adopted when the House Appropriations Committee originally recommended it in September 2004, it would have been the world's third Green OA self-archiving mandate, not the first. And Congress's recommendation in September 2004 was the second governmental recommendation to mandate Green OA self-archiving: The first had been the UK Parliamentary Select Committee's recommendation in July 2004.

(1) The Southampton ECS departmental mandate was (as far as I know) the very first Green OA self-archiving mandate of all; it was announced in January 2003 (but actually adopted even earlier). QUT's was the second OA mandate, but the first university-wide one, and was announced in February 2004. (See ROARMAP.)

(2) The UK Parliament's Science and Technology Committee Recommendation to mandate Green OA self-archiving was made in session 2003-04 and published in July 2004 (i.e., before September 2004, when the US House Appropriations Committee made its recommendation)....

Now NIH's has indeed instantly become by far the most important of the Green OA self-archiving mandates to date in virtue of its size and scope alone, but it still hasn't got it right!

The upgrade from a mere request to an Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) mandate was indeed an enormous improvement, but there still remains the extremely counterproductive and unnecessary insistence on direct deposit in PubMed Central. This is still a big defect in the NIH mandate, effectively preventing it from strengthening, building upon and complementing direct deposit in Institutional Repositories, and thereby losing the golden (or rather green!) opportunity to scale up to cover all of research output, in all fields, from all institutions, worldwide, rather than just NIH-funded biomedical research: an altogether unnecessary, dysfunctional, self-imposed constraint (in much the same spirit as having requested self-archiving instead of mandating it for the past three lost years)....

[W]ith direct IR deposit mandated by NIH, each of the world's universities and research institutions can go on to complement the NIH self-archiving mandate for the NIH-funded fraction of its research output with an institutional mandate to deposit the rest of its research output, likewise to be deposited in its own IR. This will systematically scale up to 100% OA....

"Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?"

Comment.  Just two quick notes on the history:

  1. Stevan is right that OA mandates at Southampton ECS and Queensland U of Technology preceded the first Congressional call for an OA mandate at the NIH, and those universities deserve immense credit.  I meant that the NIH would have been the first funder mandate.  Apologies for not making that clearer.  For details on the early history of OA mandates, see my Timeline.
  2. The House Appropriations Committee first called for an OA mandate at the NIH on July 14, 2004.  But that call was not packaged into a report from the full House until September of that year.  The U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee issued its groundbreaking OA recommendations on July 20, 2004.