Can repositories solve the access problem?

March 2, 2013

The progressive RCUK policy on open access has recently come under fire, particularly from humanities scholars, for favouring Gold OA over Green. For various reasons — and I won’t, for now, go into the question of which of these reasons are and aren’t sound — they favour an approach to open access where publishers keep final versions of their papers behind paywalls, but drafts are deposited in institutional repositories (IRs) and people who want to read the paper can have access to the drafts.

It’s appealing to think that this relatively lightweight way of solving the access problem can work. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced it can, for several reasons. I’ll discuss these below, not so much with the intention of persuading people that Gold is a better approach, but with the hope that those of you who are Green advocates have seen things that I’ve missed and you’ll be able to explain why it can work after all.

two-classes

1. Two-class system

Most fundamentally, I worry that Green OA creates a two-class system which I can’t approve of. It does this in two ways.

First, it necessarily creates two classes of papers: author’s draft and publishers’ final versions. These will differ in some respects, and it’s hard in general to know what those respects are. Of course pagination will differ — which means you can’t cite page-numbers reliably. But other changes are possible as well. For example, Matt and I have a paper in press now for which a whole additional figure — an important one — was added at the proofing stage. In our case, the paper will be OA anyway, but if it were not then the authors’ manuscript would be a poor substitute.

And by implication, Green OA creates two classes of researchers — a potentially harmful division between those privileged few who have the “proper” papers and an underclass who have only manuscripts. (It doesn’t help that for stupid historical reasons, our manuscripts are often butt-ugly: double-spaced, line-numbered, all the figures at the end instead of where they’re needed, etc.)

Admittedly, the two-classes-of-researcher problem is not created by Green OA: it already exists, in a worse form where the underclass doesn’t have access to any version of the paper. But whereas Gold OA solves this problem (everyone has exactly the same access to PLOS and PeerJ papers), Green doesn’t.

(To me, it’s obvious that democratising access is a good thing. But now that I’ve made the notion explicit, I can’t help the uncharitable thought that there may be those out there who want to maintain a two-class system — to retain a notion that they are “in” while others are “out”. I hope I’m wrong, and I’m certainly not accusing Green OA advocates of having this motivation. It just seems like it might be implicit in some of the broader struggles over access. Anyway, let’s not confuse this separate potential problem with access with the actual problems with Green OA I’m addressing in this post.)

money-up-in-flames

2. Expense of continuing subscriptions

I find it baffling that people keep talking as though Green OA is cheaper than Gold. It isn’t, at all. As I’ve shown previously, the cost to the world of a paywalled paper (aggregated across all subscriptions) is about $5333. There is no reason to think that will change under the Green model, in which we continue to give the final and best version of our work to publishers.

By contrast, even the publisher-influenced Finch estimates typical Gold APCs as £1500-£2000 (about $2270-$3030), which amounts to 43%-57% as much. (Conveniently, the midpoint of the Finch range, £1750, is about $2650, which is almost exactly half of what we pay by the subscription model.

But the true cost of Gold OA is much, much less. Follow the link for the detail, but one credible banner figure starts with the observation that half of all Gold OA articles are published at no cost to the author and that the average APC of the other half is $906, to arrive at a true average APC of $453 — about one twelfth of the cost for a paywalled article.

So for purely pragmatic financial reasons, Green seems like a silly path. There’s a very short-term saving, sure, as we avoid paying APCs. But we have to look further ahead than the next five years.

delayed-lock

3. Embargoes

Now there is nothing intrinsic to Green OA that means embargoes must be in place. It’s perfectly possible, and manifestly desirable, that no-embargo Green-OA mandate should be enacted, requiring that authors’ final manuscripts become available immediately on publication. But for whatever historical reasons (and I admit I find this baffling) there are few or no Green-OA mandates that do this. Even the best of them seem to allow a six-month delay; twelve months is not uncommon (and Michael Eisen worries that the new White House policy with further establish twelve months as the norm.

I will have more to say about embargoes in a subsequent post. (SPOILER: it’s not going to be pretty.) But for now it suffices to say that any system that makes research freely available only a year after it’s published is wholly inadequate. Not to mention stupid. Stupid and inadequate.

So if Green OA is going to be the solution we need, it has to break free from embargoes.

by-nc

4. Non-open licences

Similarly, there is no intrinsic reason why Green OA should mean non-open licences and Gold OA should mean truly open (BOAI-compliant) open access. And yet history has brought us to a point where is often how things are. For example, the RCUK policy (even before its progressive erosion got properly under way) says of its Gold arm that “The CC-BY license should be used in this case”, but contains weasel words in its Green arm:

the journal must allow deposit of Accepted Manuscripts that include all changes resulting from peer review (but not necessarily incorporating the publisher’s formatting) in other repositories, without restrictions on non-commercial re-use.

This just won’t do. It’s not open access. To quote Heather Piwowar’s pithy statement once more, “We do basic research not only to know more, but to do more”. Non-commercial licences impede the use of research, and that’s not to the benefit of wider society. (I won’t labour this point now, because I’ll have more to say on non-commercial clauses in a subsequent post.)

So as with embargoes, if Green OA is going to be the solution we need, it has to break free to its habitual acceptance of non-commercial clauses.

teapot choc3

5. Practical failings

On top of the fundamental problems already discussion (two-class system, expense of continuing subscriptions, embargoes and non-open licences), the repository system as it exists today suffers from a suite of practical problems that render it pretty inadequate.

  • Many institutions don’t even have an IR; or if they do it doesn’t work.
  • Many scholars aren’t associated with an institution and so don’t know where they should reposit their manuscripts. (That this is overlooked is a symptom of an unfortunate elitist tendency among academics.) [UPDATE 4th March: thanks to Neil Stewart, whose comment below points out Open Depot as a solution to this.]
  • The use of IRs involves an institution-by-institution fragmentation, with different user interfaces, policies, etc.
  • For whatever reasons, many scholars do not bother to reposit their manuscripts in institution repositories.
  • Even when mandates are in place, compliance is often miserable, to the point where Peter Suber considers the 80% NIH compliance rate as “respectable”. It really isn’t. 100% is acceptable; 99% is respectable.
  • Many IRs have abject search facilities, often for example lacking the ability to restrict searches to papers that are actually available.
  • Many IRs impose unnecessary restrictions on the use of the materials they contain: for example, Bath’s repo prohibits further redistribution.
  • There is no central point for searching all IRs (at least not one that is half-decent; I know about OAIster).
  • The quality of metadata within most IRs variable at best
  • Use of metadata across IRs is inconsistent — hence many of the problems that render OAIster near-useless.

… and, I am sure, many more that I’ve not thought of right now.

Could these issues be addressed? Yes, probably; but ten years have unfortunately not done much to resolve them, so I don’t feel all that confident that the next ten will.

Do the IR advocates have a plan for solving these problems? Because they are much more political/sociological than technical, and those always seem to be the hardest ones to solve.

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30 Responses to “Can repositories solve the access problem?”

  1. Mark C. Wilson Says:

    No doubt Stevan Harnad will be along soon, but I will take the chance to comment first. I have been concerned about 1) for a long time. I think that 2) is perhaps misleading. Presumably if bundling can be solved, then sufficient uptake of Green will impose substantial downward price pressure on subscriptions, and the chance of dropping them altogether will be taken. If this in turn spreads then the subscription model will die, and some kind of Gold model will take over. So Gold should be the end result.

    My main complaint about the current Gold offerings is the price – I am still strongly of the opinion that they are an order of magnitude too high. Of course, I am a mathematician, and, essentially, we don’t have money. I am still pretty sure that good “Diamond/Platinum” journals (Gold with author fee approaching zero) are possible, and they need to be explored more. With luck, increasing competition among Gold offerings will drive down prices.

    3), 4), 5) are certainly relevant in the short term, but if the above scenario comes to pass, they probably won’t be.


  2. Great text, I agree.

    I have wrote a similar blog entry in German some days ago:

    http://archiv.twoday.net/stories/285824796/

    Summary:

    Green is OA for the poor

    1) The scholar needs access IMMEDIATELY

    2) The format problem generates costs if the scholar believes that he needs the version of record.

    3) No libre OA

    And two minor points.

  3. petermurrayrust Says:

    Full agreement Mike,
    I admire the effort you put in to reporting this in a systematic manner while the “Green” advocates are often reluctant to analyze the minuses of Green as well as the pluses.
    Another serious negative of Green is that it legitimizes current publishing practice and treats the publisher as an equal co-partner. In many cases they aren’t – they make Green as difficult to create as possible. And some will fight to the death rather than allow Green


  4. Can you quantify “many” in the first two bullet points under #5? Also why you don’t accept “Google” as a central point for search, or why there should be a central point for IR search when there isn’t for publisher search?

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Can you quantify “many” in the first two bullet points under #5?

    No. I’d welcome any data anyone has.

    Why you don’t accept “Google” as a central point for search [...]

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to enshrine any for-profit corporation as a single central point of control. But assuming you meant third-party crawler-based search-engines in general, I would find that approach tolerable — though far from optimal, as such engines nearly always work only on text, so that they wouldn’t be able to support searches like “studies on stegosaurs published between 1990 and 1995″.

    But my sense is that not all repositories expose all their content for crawling anyway. If anyone has any data on this, I’d be happy to see it.

    [...] or why there should be a central point for IR search when there isn’t for publisher search

    I’d hope we can aspire to a higher goal than “no worse than what publishers do”.


  6. Google isn’t an acceptable answer because it doesn’t support a way for people to build on the search results, add value, and apply the results in new and innovative ways. Google search results can only be used on Google’s website manually, or embedded as-is in other websites.

    Neither Google not Google Scholar offer an API — for love nor money, as far as I can tell, point me to it if I am wrong — that would let us do a Google Search and then sort/filter/enhance the results to add value and use in research and scholarly tools.

    Totally unacceptable as a search solution for the scholarly literature.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. PLOS and PMC searches to not have this problem, they offer open apis with broad reuse terms.


  7. BTW great post, Mike, thanks for articulating these issues so clearly.

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Heather. This one gave me no pleasure at all to write, but I think the questions need asking.


  9. Hi Mike, thanks for an interesting post. Full disclosure: I am an IR manager, so am invested in Green OA. I’m not going to comment on points 1 – 4 because I agree these are issues, what I would say about them is that Gold OA is problematic principally because of publisher double dipping. I don’t expect publishers’ subs costs to come down any time soon.

    I will comment on point 5, though, as follows.
    – Can you give an example of a repository that “doesn’t work”? What does “not working” in this context mean? I know Bristol has had problems, are they being sorted out now?
    – For unaffiliated scholars. there’s Open Depot http://opendepot.org/, a green repository for anyone to use.
    – Fragmentation is an issue, yes, one effort to address this is JISC’s UK RepNet project http://www.repositorynet.ac.uk/blog/ More does need to be done though.
    – Scholars not depositing is also an issue, yes, despite my and colleagues’ efforts. The evidence shows that mandates do work with this though, Harnad is right on that one!
    – Can you give an example of an IR with this “bad” search functionality you mention? Search within IRs could be improved IMO, but there are some pretty sophisticated advanced search menus associated with many IRs that allow to e.g. identify full text only (my IR is full text only so this shouldn’t be a problem for us!)
    – Re-use rights are tricky, and the legal picture is murky (though I would love to have it clarified)- I don’t think repositories are in a position to effectively re-licence papers they hold as CC-BY or similar, though perhaps this is something IRs should do as a condition of submission.
    – On central search: Google Scholar. If you don’t like the big G (understandable enough) I would recommend Base Search, an excellent OA search engine http://www.base-search.net/
    – On metadata: could bang on about this for a long time, but most (all?) IRs use Dublin Core and OAI-PMH. Most (all?) IRs allow re-use of their metadata in a variety of formats (XML, RDF, as a CSV file etc. etc.) and if they don’t do this, they should.

    Finally, on your answer to Les Carr: IRs should certainly expose all their metadata to Google (and Bing, Baidu etc.) Google does pretty well at identifying IRs as good sources of research information, and the structured metadata does help with Google crawling. I would be interested to see an example of Google failing to crawl repository metadata.

    Okay that’s probably enough! Final thought: IRs aren’t perfect, certainly, but then what method of OA currently is?


  10. re: GreenOA, I have one interesting thing to add from the recent Institute of Historical Research meeting on Open Access:

    ‘The Finch Report, open access and the historical community’
    Friday 1 March 2013, Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London

    Whilst some of the historians were still harping on that they ‘need’ 36 month embargoes for their journals (with a admitted lack of hard supporting evidence for this), it emerged that Cambridge University Press currently operate a 0-month embargo for pre-prints and 12-months for archiving the final version. This was revealed by Daniel Pearce (Commissioning Editor, HSS journals, CUP).

    I raised this matter at the end to the panel. Their whole argument seemed to rest on the assertion that an embargo length of anything less than 36 months would ‘imperil’ their journals as subscriptions *might* be cut.

    Yet CUP and many other journals in HSS are *currently* operating very successfully, and have been for years, with embargoes of much less than 36 months! Oh the irony…

    Even more astoundingly, it was Daniel Pearce (again) who leapt-in to defend the panel from my point, stating (I paraphrase) “we only allow these short-embargo lengths at the moment because virtually no-one is using institutional repositories. If more historians did actually self-archive their works we’d increase our embargo lengths to protect our journals.”

    Now, I have to admit I haven’t exactly been brilliantly positive about ‘GreenOA’ in the past. But the above quote particularly horrifies me — a publisher on Friday afternoon, nakedly admitted that as soon as the ‘green route’ to OA actually starts to become effective the publishers *will* move to block it & dilute its utility.

    That’s the most frightening thing of all about the ‘green route’ in my opinion. It only works as a patchy solution and I doubt it could achieve 100% gratis access to all scholarship on its own. At an institutional level, early, strong mandates like the University of Liege can achieve very high compliance. But as more and more self-archiving mandates come-in, the publishers are unfortunately well within their rights to block, delay or confound this approach, if it actually gains traction. Sure, the publishers can’t block the self-archiving of pre-submission manuscripts but as stated in the post, these are 2nd class inferior versions in many disciplines.

    That’s why I’m glad RCUK has a preference for gold. The green route would seem to be a rather risky strategy to me if pursued entirely on it’s own. A mixed strategy of gold & green allows us an alternative route to use if publishers starting blocking the green route.

  11. Mike Taylor Says:

    Right. A very fundamental problem with Green is that it relies on the benevolence of publishers. And publishers have shown again and again that they are not benevolent. I am actually rather glad that Daniel Pearce said what he did in a public forum. Because we’ve all known or suspected it for a long time, but now we don’t have to speculate any more.


  12. I don’t think publishers would be likely to withdraw well-established green archiving rights, personally, since it would be another PR disaster for them. Though if they did I don’t think authors would stop posting to ArXiv, SSRN, RePEc and IRs anyway.

  13. brembs Says:

    Well done! These are exactly the points why I don’t see myself as pushing for green, even though I champion libraries as publishers.

    The only thing that occurred to me as potentially contentious is the cost argument (#2): If you assume that in the short term, no subscriptions will be cut, gold is more expensive than green, as the APCs add up on top of subscriptions, while green doesn’t cost anything in addition (other than perhaps $7 per article for hosting/bandwidth and such).
    It gets a lot more complicated once you assume that existing subscription journals convert to a gold model. Then you might be entitled to expect that total subscription costs might drop, but what happens to big deals? What happens if most publishers migrate via expensive hybrid, as some are already doing? What happens if repositories become more functional and subscriptions are being cut because of availability in repositories? So once gold or green are starting to make a dent in subscriptions (and one can argue all day about how likely and how soon either gold or green would be able to do that), the cost argument becomes non-trivial and I wouldn’t dare to make a prophecy without some solid modeling or forecasting.

    So the section 2 “expense of continuing subscriptions” probably contains an argument that doesn’t carry the same weight as the other ones, in my eyes, and might actually be used to argue the opposite, at least in the short term.

  14. brembs Says:

    Oh, and Mike, you actually forgot a point (Ross’s comment reminded me of it): green will only ever work if you mandate and enforce it…

  15. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Bjorn. Some good and important points there. I’d agree with most of them; but I think this past is wildly inaccurate and optimistic: “green doesn’t cost anything in addition (other than perhaps $7 per article for hosting/bandwidth and such)”. The figure of $7 presumably comes from arXiv. But they get massive economies of scale that IRs can’t possibly approach. Based on staff costs alone, I am sure that each IR deposit costs at least one order of magnitude more than arXiv’s $7, probably much more. (I’d be interested to hear estimates from repo managers.)

  16. brembs Says:

    Correct, my figure comes from arXiv, but the (at least from my vantage point) ease with which IRs are being established in virtually all libraries (again, from my vantage point), argues against high costs. Moreover, you can’t look at current costs and then divide it by the number of articles in the IRs, you need to divide by articles that would be there not only if mandates were actually enforced, but also if all back-issue articles which are covered by the mandates were automatically deposited there, i.e., if green OA were actually carried out as planned. Then arXiv would be small (and hence expensive) compared to the sum of all IRs. Which reiterates point #6 (which you forgot): green only works if mandated and enforced :-)


  17. Hmmm that’s a tricky one. We have around 1,400 papers made OA in the 18 months the service has been live at City (1,400 papers that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise be OA, it’s worth noting), and on that basis it would make things look expensive, particularly given infrastructural start-up costs.

    However the IR does a lot of other stuff and provides other services as well: we run a CRIS as well as an open access repository, auto-transfer of papers to other archives (e.g. RePEc), copyright advice, embargo management (yes I know it’s annoying this should happen at all, but at least we can manage it on academics’ behalves), re-use of data for other systems, advice on social media usage, download metrics, advice on funder mandates, advice on university policy, bibliometrics, research data management, open access journal publishing using the repository infrastructure… the list foes on. On top of that I do a bunch of other librarian stuff which contributes to our service more generally. So I don’t think a “per paper” cost would really reflect the work the repository team does across the university more generally.

  18. Paul Vierkant Says:

    Thanks Mike for this post. Concerning point 5 our recent study of open access repositories in Germany indicates that the metadata quality of IR is not very high. http://de.slideshare.net/paulvierkant/looking-at-open-access-repositories-from-3-different-perspectives or for an infographic of the whole study see: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:kobv:11-100204211


  19. [...] gave an answer to this in a comment on Mike Taylor’s blog and it got a bit of twitter pickup, so reposting my comment here for this audience.  Summary:  no [...]

  20. Stevan Harnad Says:

    ORGANIC HAUTE CUISINE

    — MT: “[Green OA] necessarily creates two classes of papers: author’s draft and publishers’ final versions.”

    Actually what Green OA does is provide access to the author’s draft for those who don’t have access to the publisher’s final version. The difference between night and day for those who have no access at all.

    No “class” differences. Just a remedy for the difference between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

    http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/self-faq/#23.Version

    — MT: “pagination will differ — which means you can’t cite page-numbers reliably.”

    Negligible loss. Cite by section heading and paragraph number. (Pages numbers are obsolescent anyway.)

    — MT: “I have a paper in press now for which a whole additional figure… was added at the proofing stage.”

    Add the figure to your author’s draft.

    (As Green grows, authors will learn to be more attentive about the needs of the Have-Nots among their potential users in a Green world: scholarly practice will adapt to the medium, as it always does.)

    — MT: “[Green OA] creates two classes of researchers… those privileged few who have the “proper” papers and an underclass who have only manuscripts…. Gold OA solves this problem… Green doesn’t.”

    Gold solves it at a hefty price, not just in terms of having to double-pay Gold fees over and above existing subscription fees (which already pay for Green) out of scarce research funs, but also in restrictions on authors’ free choice of journal, based on journal economic model instead of journal quality and track-record.

    The RCUK Gold-preference mandate also encourages publishers to offer hybrid Gold OA and to extend Green embargoes beyond RCUK limits (to force RCUK authors to pick and pay for Gold), thereby making it harder for Have-Not nations who cannot afford Gold to mandate and provide Green. It also locks in journals’ current revenues and modus operandi — and does so even if journals offer a full subscription rebate on all Gold OA revenue.

    Mandatory Gold also engenders author resentment and resistance.

    In contrast, mandatory Green (if *effectively* mandated, with compliance verification and linked to research evaluation, as HEFCE has proposed for REF) provides OA for the Have-Nots (about 60% immediate-OA and about 40% Button-mediated Almost-OA for embargoed deposits) at no extra cost, with no constraint on authors’ free choice of journals.

    Again, no “class” differences. Just a remedy for the difference between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

    — MT: “Green OA is[n't] cheaper than Gold. …the cost to the world of a paywalled paper (aggregated across all subscriptions) is about $5333. …no reason to think that will change under the Green model…”

    There is indeed reason. It’s on the (hybrid) Gold model that RCUK is perversely reinforcing that current overall publisher revenues will be locked in — with double-dipping too, for sure, but even if all Gold payment is given back as a subscription rebate, total amount paid to publishers remains unchanged.

    In contrast, universal Green will force cost-cutting and downsizing by making subscriptions unsustainable:

    Harnad, Stevan (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In, Anna, Gacs (ed.) The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. , L’Harmattan, 99-105. http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/265753/

    ABSTRACT: What the research community needs, urgently, is free online access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output. Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs. With 100% Green OA, the research community’s access and impact problems are already solved. If and when 100% Green OA should cause significant cancellation pressure (no one knows whether or when that will happen, because OA Green grows anarchically, article by article, not journal by journal) then the cancellation pressure will cause cost-cutting, downsizing and eventually a leveraged transition to OA (Gold) publishing on the part of journals. As subscription revenues shrink, institutional windfall savings from cancellations grow. If and when journal subscriptions become unsustainable, per-article publishing costs will be low enough, and institutional savings will be high enough to cover them, because publishing will have downsized to just peer-review service provision alone, offloading text-generation onto authors and access-provision and archiving onto the global network of OA Institutional Repositories. Green OA will have leveraged a transition to Gold OA.

    — MT: “By contrast, even the publisher-influenced Finch estimates… almost exactly half of what we pay by the subscription model.”

    What those rosy estimates (based on a fantasy of universal conversion of publishers to pure Gold, under pressure from the RCUK mandate!) overlook is the double-payment that must continue while UK subscriptions remain the only way for UK institutional users to access subscription content.

    — MT: “the true cost of Gold OA is much, much less… half of all Gold OA articles are published at no cost to the author and that the average APC of the other half is about one twelfth of the cost for a paywalled article”

    Yes indeed, but that cost-free Gold half is unfortunately not the mainstream international journals that are really at issue in all this, for UK authors and users. And it’s that half that is spuriously lowering the average price of APCs well below what the UK Must-Have journals are charging, especially for hybrid Gold.

    Mike, I think you too will eventually come to realize that the only way to attain what we both want — which, is not just embargoed Gratis Green, but an end of embargoes, as much Libre OA as users need and researchers want to provide, license reform, publishing reform, and Gold OA at a fair, affordable, sustainable price — is by first taking the compromise step of universally mandating immediate deposit of the author’s draft in the author’s institutional repository, and then letting Nature take its course.

    The only thing standing between us and what we all want is keystrokes. Until we mandate those, there will be little OA of any sort: Gratis or Libre, Green or Gold, immediate or embargoed.

    — MT: “there is nothing intrinsic to Green OA that means embargoes must be in place. It’s perfectly possible, and manifestly desirable, that no-embargo Green-OA mandates should be enacted, requiring that authors’ final manuscripts become available immediately on publication. But for whatever historical reasons (and I admit I find this baffling) there are few or no Green-OA mandates that do this. Even the best of them seem to allow a six-month delay; twelve months is not uncommon”

    Let me unbaffle you then, Mike:

    It’s pushback from publishers, who then intimidate authors as well as institutional lawyers — while also lobbying and intimidating politicians. The result is that no one dares mandate un-embargoed Gratis Green (let alone unembargoed Libre Green), and most authors wouldn’t dare provide it even if it were mandated.

    Solution: mandate immediate deposit (no exceptions) and allow (minimal) embargoes on the allowable length of the embargo on access to the deposit.

    That will ensure that the Have-Nots at least gain 60% immediate OA + 40% Almost-OA (Button-mediated).

    And then let Nature take its course. Once the keystrokes are being universally done, what you seek will not be far behind.

    But it will take much longer if you delay (embargo!) the universal adoption of the ID/OA compromise mandate by over-reaching instead for what is not within reach, rather than first grasping what is already fully within reach.

    That is called letting the “best” get in the way of the better. And in doing so, you are playing into the hands of the publisher lobby, which is also using embargoes (of their own making) along with license restrictions as an excuse for delaying OA as long as possible, and making sure it only happens on their terms, preserving their current revenue streams and modus operandi.

    — MT: “Similarly, there is no intrinsic reason why Green OA should mean non-open licences and Gold OA should mean truly open (BOAI-compliant) open access. And yet history has brought us to a point where is often how things are.”

    Once again: Grasp first what is within immediate reach and the rest will come. Join Finch instead, in deprecating Green, and you will get next to nothing.

    — MT: “Many institutions don’t even have an IR; or if they do it doesn’t work.”

    Most research-active institutions in the UK (and Europe, and the US and Canada and Australia) have an IR, but it doesn’t “work” without an (effective) Green OA mandate from funders and institutions.

    Any any institution is a just piece of free software, some space on a server and some sysad start-up time away from having an IR.

    — MT: “Many scholars aren’t associated with an institution and so don’t know where they should deposit their manuscripts.”

    Few researchers are unaffiliated, but for them there is, for example, OpenDepot http://opendepot.org

    (which is still just as empty as IRs — for want of mandates)

    — MT: “The use of IRs involves an institution-by-institution fragmentation, with different user interfaces, policies, etc.”

    Most IRs are highly interoperable. Mandate Green OA and they will be even more so.

    (And distributed local deposit with central harvesting is not “fragmentation”: it’s the way of the Web! No one deposits directly in Google. The rest is down to metadata, interoperablity, and harvesting. But there’s no incentive to enrich those while the OA content itself is still so impoverished — for lack of mandates.)

    — MT: “For whatever reasons, many scholars do not bother to deposit their manuscripts in institution repositories.”

    You have just casually mentioned OA’s #1 problem for the past 20 years!

    But what you forget to say is that even fewer scholars bother to publish in a Gold OA journal.

    (With Green deposit, the only deterrent is keystrokes, but with Gold OA there’s price and journal choice restrictions as further deterrents.)

    The remedy is of course mandates. But mandates have to be adopted, and complied with. And that’s why they have to have all the parameters you are lamenting: Gratis, Green, author draft, embargoed. That’s the immediately reachable path of least resistance for mandate adoption and compliance.

    But you have stop thinking of what you’d ideally like to have, and think practically about how to get it, not spurning approximations and compromises only to end up with next to nothing.

    — MT: “Even when mandates are in place, compliance is often miserable, to the point where Peter Suber considers the 80% NIH compliance rate as “respectable”. It really isn’t. 100% is acceptable; 99% is respectable.”

    There it is again: Reality for the last 20 years has been at 10-40% OA, and you are dismissing as “miserable” a tried and proven means of generating at least 80%!

    I don’t wish my 20 miserable years trying to reach OA on anyone, but maybe a dose would not do you any harm, Mike, to help you appreciate the difference between principled armchair wish-lists and practical delivery.

    We don’t have another decade to waste on ineffectual over-reaching. (And that’s what’s been holding OA up for the past two decades too.)

    (Your questions here are almost all a litany or repetition of the 38+ causes of Zeno’s Paralysis in this 15-year-old list. I could almost answer them by number! http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/self-faq/#38-worries )

    — MT: “Many IRs have abject search facilities, often for example lacking the ability to restrict searches to papers that are actually available.”

    No one (except maybe institutional administrators and window-shopping prospective-students or staff) searches at the IR level!

    IR metadata (and/or full-texts) are harvested (or imported/exported) at the central harvester/search-engine level (Scirus, BASE, MS Academic Search, Google Scholar) and that’s the level at which they are searched.

    The central harvester-level search capabilities can be enriched greatly, and they will be, but there’s absolutely no point doing that now, with the sparse OA content that there is in IRs (or in any repository) today. Without mandates to provide that content, nuclear-powered search (and text-mining) capabilities would be spinning wheels.

    (And in case you imagine that the solution is direct deposit in institution-external repositories: far from it. That just makes the problem of mandating OA worse, forcing authors to deposit willy-nilly in institution-external repositories — Arxiv, PMC, EuroPMC, etc. — and prevents institutions from being able to monitor compliance with deposit mandates, whether institutional or funder mandates.)

    — MT: “Many IRs impose unnecessary restrictions on the use of the materials they contain: for example, Bath’s repo prohibits further redistribution.”

    Most IRs are sensible (though they all make craven — and sometimes excess — efforts to comply with publisher copyright conditions and embargoes).

    Once Green OA mandates become sufficiently widespread, IRs will get their acts together. For now, the essential thing is to get papers deposited. Once that is being done, globally, everything else we seek will come, and probably surprisingly quickly.

    But not if we continue to carp at minor details like Bath’s overzealousness, as if they were symptoms of ineffectiveness of the Green mandate strategy. They are not. They are simply symptoms of ineffective institutional policy, easily fixed under pressure from other IRs that are doing it right.

    — MT: “There is no central point for searching all IRs (at least not one that is half-decent; I know about OAIster).”

    As above: IR metadata (and/or full-texts) are harvested (or imported/exported) at the central harvester/search-engine level (Scirus, BASE, MS Academic Search, Google Scholar) and that’s the level at which they are searched.

    The central harvester-level search capabilities can be enriched greatly, and they will be, but there’s absolutely no point doing that now, with the sparse OA content that there is in IRs (or in any repository) today.

    Without effective mandates to fill the IRs, central search is not much more “decent” than IR-level search: the OA content is simply far too sparse.

    — MT: “The quality of metadata within most IRs [is] variable at best”

    Without mandates to provide the content (and motivate the metadata enrichment) rich metadata on impoverished content are no help.

    — MT: “Use of metadata across IRs is inconsistent — hence many of the problems that render OAIster near-useless.”
    Scirus, BASE, MS Academic Search, Google Scholar and OAIster are all equally useless without the full-text content. The motivation to enrich and conform the IR metadata will grow with the content, not just as an end in itself.

    — MT: “Could these issues be addressed? Yes, probably; but ten years have unfortunately not done much to resolve them, so I don’t feel all that confident that the next ten will.”

    There is in reality only one issue: Getting the keystrokes to be mandated. That’s what’s held us up for 20 years, while we ran off in every direction except the one that would get us to our goal.

    It is time to pool efforts toward getting institutions and funders worldwide to adopt the Green OA mandates that will get us there. For that we have to stop focussing on fixing frills that are useless until and unless we first get the content deposited, and stop insisting on organic haute cuisine before we have even taken care of the famine of the Have-Nots:

    “I have a feeling that when Posterity looks back at the last decade of the 2nd A.D. millennium of scholarly and scientific research on our planet, it may chuckle at us…. [T[here is[n't] any doubt in anyone’s mind as to what the optimal and inevitable outcome of all this will be: The Give-Away literature will be free at last online, in one global, interlinked virtual library, and its QC/C expenses will be paid for up-front, out of the S/L/P savings. The only question is: When? This piece is written in the hope of wiping the potential smirk off Posterity’s face by persuading the academic cavalry, now that they have been led to the waters of self-archiving, that they should just go ahead and drink!“

    Harnad, S. (1999) Free at Last: The Future of Peer-Reviewed Journals. D-Lib Magazine 5(12) December 1999 

    http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december99/12harnad.html


  21. for those interested, these issues will be front and center @ http://www.force11.org/beyondthepdf2

  22. julien colomb Says:

    “But we have to look further ahead than the next five years.”
    Five years is so much longer than what I have to focus my attention on! My postdoc contract ends in february. If I get my next grant, it will be for 3 years. More than 5 years? Who can afford that?

  23. Mike Taylor Says:

    I understand, Julien, that you as an individual might be forced by circumstances to think short-term. But we as a society have to do better than that.


  24. Thanks for the post and the opportunity for discussion, Mike.

    As a colour-blind Open Access advocate – inasmuch as this is possible these days – I think solving technical issues in repositoryland plays a role as important as mandates in making Green OA a successful choice.

    Most technical issues mentioned in the post (and subsequent comments) are being dealt with right now: we have forthcoming tools for ensuring automatic content transfer into IRs (the Repository Junction Broker, http://edina.ac.uk/projects/RJB_summary.html) that will partially remove some of the keystroke issues out there. There are aggregation platforms (both at metadata and full-text level) that will enable full-text mining and allow IRs to increase indexing rates of their content by search engines. Initiatives for repository metadata enhancement and harmonisation such as RIOXX are under way in the UK, http://rioxx.net/. Tools for monitoring Open Access mandate compliance (either Green or Gold, either funder or institutional mandates) at institutional level are being designed.

    We have two big examples of successful implementation of strong OA policies in Europe: ORBi repository at U of Liège and the RepositóriUM at Universidade do Minho, both aiming to shortly achieve 90% coverage of their institutional research outputs. But both institutions happen to be run by Open Access advocates, which is far from being the rule. From my (limited) background as IR manager, what you have in most institutions -if lucky- is a bunch of OA-friendly researchers and a huge wall of unawareness of Open Access by most scholars.

    OA policies and persistent efforts by IR managers are gradually changing this, but technical issues mentioned in the post are easy to argue as a major repository setback by anti-OA advocates when discussing OA mandates at high-level research management meetings. The Finch report and RCUK Open Access policy, one-sided as they may be, must be acknowledged for having usefully stirred up the OA debate at institutional level and helping to fight the large unawareness of OA, see “Could the so-called Gold Rush actually result in Green [OA] reinforcement?”, http://ukcorr.org/2012/12/17/could-the-so-called-gold-rush-actually-result-in-green-reinforcement/

  25. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks for that, Pablo, it’s encouraging to read about these developments.

  26. David Marjanović Says:

    I am still pretty sure that good “Diamond/Platinum” journals (Gold with author fee approaching zero) are possible, and they need to be explored more.

    Acta Palaeontologica Polonica is one with author fee = 0: it’s an investment by the Polish taxpayer, an investment in basic research.

    I understand, Julien, that you as an individual might be forced by circumstances to think short-term. But we as a society have to do better than that.

    I agree, but it’s not just Julien; it’s all professional scientists who don’t have tenure (or an industry job). That’s a lot of people, all of whom have a stake in open access.

    My postdoc ends with 31 January 2014, and I have (as yet) no idea what comes next.


  27. […] shot. Nor are librarians likely to be of much use, after the fact of publication — since they seem to have mostly failed to apply even their own metadata standards to open content, and open repository metadata is […]


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