Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interview with Padmanabhan Balaram

K. S. Jayaraman, Open archives the alternative to open access,, July 9, 2008.  Excerpt:

Padmanabhan Balaram, director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India and editor of India's leading science journal, Current Science, tells K. S. Jayaraman why he favours 'open archives' as the way forward for scientific publishing....

What is the solution?

One proposal is open access. But I want to argue for 'open archives'.

Open access requires the publisher to make an electronic version of the paper freely available. But open archives are electronic repositories maintained by a scientist's institution that anybody in the world can access for free.

If I publish a paper in Nature, for example, it can be made freely available in my institute's repository after six months. Some journals let archived papers be made available immediately. Because of the increasing power of Internet search engines, open archives will become a valuable resource to scientists....

So what do you propose for developing country scientists?

Since the question of who pays for open access journals is unresolved, scientists should go ahead and promote open archives. The IISc already has over 10,000 articles in its institutional repository, and that will soon rise to 20,000....

I think every institution should be encouraged to set up the repository. This is a problem-free model I want to promote. There may be a few glitches at start, but the next generation of scientists will be comfortable with it.

One issue that is yet to be resolved, however, is copyright. I argue that we should be permitted to put in the repository the full text article as it appears in a journal. For this, countries such as India should have a law specifying that the copyright for articles published with publicly-funded research always vests with the authors and their institutions.


  • I fully support Balaram's recommendation for institutional repositories.  But he speaks as if OA were one thing and "open archives" were an "alternative".  But open archives deliver OA.  It's true that repositories are an alternative (or supplement) to journals, but it's not true that repositories are an alternative to OA.  It's a mistake to think that only journals can deliver bona fide OA.
  • OA archiving creates no copyright problems at the roughly two-thirds of TA journals which consent in advance to allow it.  For the remaining journals, some funder and university policies completely solve the copyright problem.  For example, both the NIH and Harvard policies require researchers (grantees and faculty, respectively) to retain the right to comply with the OA mandate, even if they transfer all other rights to a publisher.  Consequently, the OA archiving they require is authorized by the copyright holders and publishers never even acquire the rights they would need to deny permission or claim infringement.  (Also see my earlier comments on Balaram's earlier discussion of OA and copyright.)