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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inaccurate survey delays OA mandate at Swedish Research Council

At several of its 2008 board meeting, the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet, or VR) considered adopting an OA mandate for VR-funded research.  However, at its December 2008 meeting it decided to postpone the decision on the ground that not enough Swedish universities had institutional repositories.

The VR explained its decision in a press release on December 22, 2008.  Read it in Swedish or Google's English.  The decision was based on an October 2008 survey of Sweden's 42 universities by the Association of Swedish Higher Education (Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund, or SUHF), in which only 15 said they had IRs.  A few said they didn't have one and would soon.  Most, apparently, didn't respond. 

In today's issue of ScieComm, Ingegerd Rabow tells the rest of the story.  Excerpt:

...As a matter of fact, all Swedish universities, with the exception of the Karolinska Medical University, have repositories. The University Colleges have repositories (three are planning to set them up), except a couple of small institutions with very few research publications, and seven colleges specialising in music, theatre, art, and dance....As researchers at the Karolinska have the alternative to deposit in the PMC (PubMed Central), their lack of a repository could be solved in this way.  The Lund University Repository - LUP – has offered hosting services for those needing interim help while setting up IRs of their own, and/or for the remaining few, who might not feel the need to set up their own.

According to VR, their postponed decision will be reconsidered later on....

(In the rest of her article, Rabow describes a proposal for an EU-wide PubMed Central, modeled on UKPMC.)


  • This is the first time I've heard of a funding agency backing away from an OA mandate on the ground that not enough universities have IRs.  On the one hand, it shows a strong preference for institutional over central repositories.  But on the other, it exposes several potholes in the road to a policy.  VR could have launched a temporary or permanent central repository.  It could have taken advantage of Lund's willingness to serve as a universal Swedish repository.  It didn't have to trust a survey with such a low response rate.  Or it could have made two dozen phone calls to supplement the survey.  But at least it's willing to reconsider its decision in light of the new information, and it appears to be waiting only for the infrastructure before it adopts a mandate.
  • It also shows that the Depot, a universal repository for UK institutions without their own, could play a valuable European or worldwide role if it could find European or worldwide funding. 
  • Also see our past posts on the OA activities of the Swedish Research Council.