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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Questions about institutional responsibilities for complying with the NIH policy

T. Scott Plutchak, Questions for the ARL Public Access meeting, T. Scott, January 25, 2008. 

Later this month,  ARL is hosting a "small planning meeting to better understand what steps our institutions can take to more fully understand how the NIH policy can be successfully and smoothly implemented on campus" with invited reps from a few universities and from NIH.  This is a very good thing (although I kinda wish they had done this months ago).  Here are some of the things that I hope get discussed at the meeting:

  1. Primary responsibility for compliance is with the investigator.  What are the institution's responsibilities for insuring that investigators comply?
  2. If there is not 100% compliance, will there be sanctions of any sort at the institutional level?
  3. Who is responsible for figuring out what the level of compliance at an individual institution is?  Does the institution need to develop a tracking mechanism?
  4. Should ARL (or some appropriate group) develop a standard addendum that can be used by authors submitting to journals that do not automatically submit to PMC, or does that need to be addressed at the institutional level?
  5. Does the institution bear any responsibility for correcting mistakes? (E.g., the author submits a draft of the article that is not the final draft, the author fails to get the appropriate permission from the journal, the author submits a .pdf of the actual published article instead of their final manuscript, etc.)
  6. If an article has multiple authors from multiple institutions, is there any consensus as to who is responsible for submission of the article, or do the authors have to work that out among themselves?
  7. If corrections are made to the published article after the author's final manuscript has been submitted to PMC, who is responsible for seeing that those corrections are also made to the author's manuscript?

And although it's probably out of the scope of the meeting, I'm very curious to see what happens next for the open access movement.   Since the policy achieves few (if any) of the initial goals of the movement, what will be the next steps for those who are committed to "freeing" all of the world's scientific literature?  Or isn't that any longer the goal?

Comment.  Good questions.  I'm only puzzled by the final paragraph.  The NIH policy is a major advance for the OA movement and should result in free online access to 80,000 peer-reviewed articles per year, a bigger bump than we will ever get from any other single institutional policy.  As I put it in this month's issue of SOAN:

Measured by the ferocity of opposition overcome and the volume of literature liberated, it's the largest victory in the history of the OA movement....It's big for at least five reasons....

Freeing up all the world's scientific (and scholarly) literature is still the goal.  What comes next:  more OA through journals and archives; more policies from funding agencies and universities to encourage or require OA archiving; and more education, assistance, and incentives for publishing scholars.

Update. See Scott's response to my comments.