Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, March 28, 2008

More on what universities can do to promote OA

Stevan Harnad, Peter Suber's Talk at Harvard's Berkman Center: "What Can Universities Do to Promote Open Access?" Open Access Archivangelism, March 27, 2008.

Summary.  Seven supplemental points based on Peter Suber's excellent talk (and the audience discussion) on "What Can Universities Do To Promote Open Access?" at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

(1) Journals vs. books: OA is only about author give-away work. Peer-reviewed journal articles are all, without exception, author give-aways, but most scholarly books are not. OA can only be mandated for give-away work. (Once OA for journal articles prevails, more authors will undoubtedly want the same for their monographs too.)

(2) Versions and Citability: The canonical version of a journal article is the final, peer-reviewed, accepted version (the "postprint"). That is what researchers need, though not necessarily in the form of the publisher's PDF. What is cited is always the published work. Researchers are infinitely better off if those who cannot afford the publisher's official PDF can always access the author's self-archived postprint.

(3) First OA Self-Archiving Mandate: Queensland University of Technology's was the world's first university-wide OA self-archiving mandate, as Peter notes, but the very first OA self-archiving mandate of all was that of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton University.

(4) Prior Evidence of Probability of Compliance With OA Self-Archiving Mandates:  Swan & Brown's author surveys found that 95% of authors would comply with an OA self-archiving mandate (over 80% willingly) but authors were not asked whether they would comply with a copyright-retention mandate. The same is true of Arthur Sale's data on actual mandate compliance rates.

(5) Deposit Mandates vs. Copyright-Retention Mandates: NIH's is not a copyright-retention mandate. It is a no-opt-out deposit mandate plus a no-opt-out requirement to negotiate with the 38% of journals who don't endorse immediate OA, so as to be able to make the deposit OA within a year. Harvard's is a copyright-retention mandate, with opt-out.

(6) Mandate Implementation Mechanisms: There are no sanctions on deposit mandates, as Peter notes; there are administrative incentives and contingencies: The IR is made the official locus for submitting publications to be assessed for performance review.

(7) Peer Review, Journals and Repositories: Journals provide peer review; IRs provide access to peer-reviewed postprints. The issue of IRs providing peer review is a red herring (raised by others, not Peter)....


  • Re #1.  Stevan and I disagree about this.  For more on my position, see e.g. my interview with Richard Poynder (October 2007, p. 40):  

    RP: Where do you draw the line (if any) between what scholarship does and does not need to be free online, and why?

    PS: For me it depends on the consent of the author or copyright holder, not the genre of the writing. The open access movement has a good reason to focus on the genre of journal articles more than the genre of books. But the common formulation of this reason is incomplete. It's true that journals don't pay authors for their articles. This economic fact matters, but mostly because it allows scholarly authors to consent to open access without losing revenue....So relinquishing revenue is only relevant when it leads to consent, and consent suffices whether or not it's based on relinquishing revenue. It follows that if authors of royalty-producing genres like books consent to open access, then we'll have the same basis for OA to books as we have for OA to journal articles....

  • Re #2.  I agree with Stevan on this and didn't discuss the subject in my Harvard talk.
  • Re #5.  I haven't watched the Harvard video.  I don't think I said that the NIH policy was merely a permission mandate; and if I did, then I erred.  I meant to say that it was both a deposit mandate and a permission mandate.  Of course it requires deposit in PMC.  But it also requires NIH grantees to retain key rights.
  • Re #6.  In my talk, I discussed various incentives including the idea that performance reviews should only consider articles on deposit in the IR.  I devoted a slide to that idea, pointing to four institutions already putting it into practice.  I recommended the policy explicitly to Harvard, and to all universities in general.