Re: Excerpts from FOS Newsletter

From: Roy Tennant <roy.tennant_at_UCOP.EDU>
Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 10:24:27 -0700

On Friday, May 24, 2002, at 01:40 PM, Peter Suber wrote:

> Excerpts from the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
> May 23, 2002
> [text deleted]

> There are two primary paths to FOS: open-access journals and
> self-archiving...

Knowing full well what I may be in for, I want to take issue with the
term "self-archiving", which Stevan and others are apparently using as
an umbrella term for activities that I think should now be split apart.
When "self-archiving" is used, I tend to think of and other
repositories where the author is indeed depositing their own paper. But
this term seems much less useful to describe repositories that are
institutionally sponsored, and for which the depositing process may be
out of the hands of the author (performed by a staff member, for
example). I'm beginning to find this latter model much more compelling
in many instances than true "self-archiving".

It may appear that I'm splitting hairs, but I think not. By depicting
only two primary paths to free online scholarship you run the very real
risk of turning away those who have no interest in spending a lot of
time and effort to do what is required to "self-archive". And despite
Peter's enthusiasm (see below) this process can still, in some cases, be
both time consuming and painful.

> If you want to deepen the discussion, focus on why self-archiving isn't
> spreading more rapidly than it is. Creating an archive is now painless
> with free software, maintaining an archive takes minimal effort, hosting
> one takes server space that any university could donate without
> noticing,
> and the benefits are immediate and cumulative.

As someone who has created several, I can tell you that creating an
archive is far from painless. There is free software to be had,
certainly, but the out-of-the-box interface requires a good deal of work
to both brand it and make it sufficiently understandable as to be
moderately usable. Once it is usable, the garden variety faculty member
(mostly the people NOT on this list) will nonetheless find it difficult
to understand and time-consuming to use. If you don't believe me,
perhaps you will believe the experiences of the authors of this article: when they say "The software has a self-archiving facility but our experience of
this is that it is rather long winded and requires a certain amount of
IT literacy. Some users may well be put off." That has been our
experience as well.

Even should the interface be dead simple, a number of faculty will
nonetheless find other reasons not to do it. Therefore, our model is to
use existing organizational structures within the university to do the
depositing. That is, we target staff at university "organized research
units" (institutes or centers) and academic departments for training in
depositing the papers of their associated faculty. Our premise is that
most faculty shouldn't ever have to know how to do it, just as many do
not need to know or care about how what it takes to put their papers up
on their institute's web site. So far it appears that this model will
allow us to scale up this service fairly rapidly and minimize our
support overhead.

Therefore I think it does the effort to free online scholarship a
disservice to conflate staff-supported institution-based repositories
with "self-archiving". Were I a faculty member with interests other than
freeing online scholarship (of which I assure you there are many) I
would find the term "self-archiving" off-putting. I would wonder why on
earth I should take over a task that had never been mine to begin with.

All of this is not to take away from the useful work being done by
Stevan, Peter, and many others. We are, after all, advocating many of
the same things. So please take this message in the spirit in which it
is intended -- to try to tease out differences and nuances in the model
that has so far been put forward and bring them to light.

These are my personal comments, and are not intended to necessarily
represent the views of my employer, the eScholarship initiative of the
California Digital Library.
Roy Tennant
Received on Tue May 28 2002 - 18:24:27 BST

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