Re: Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 15:33:24 +0000

On Tue, 18 Mar 2003, Christopher Gutteridge wrote:

> we are planning a University-wide eprints archive. I am
> concerned that some physicists will want to place their items in both
> the university eprints service AND the arXiv physics archive. They may
> be required to use the university service, but want to use arXiv as it
> is the primary source for their discipline. This is a duplication of
> effort and a potential irritation.

This is a very minor technical problem (the interoperability of multiple
OAI Archives containing the same paper) and part of another, slightly
less minor problem, namely, version-control, within and across OAI
Archives (the coordination of multiple versions and revisions of the
same paper, within the same or different OAI archives), plus the
optimization of cross-archive OAI search services:

I recommend that this be discussed with the pertinent experts in oai-tech
or oai-general. It is not a general archiving or open-access matter, and
can only confuse researchers (needlessly). For them, self-archiving is
the optimal thing to do, institutionally in the first instance, but also
in a central disciplinary archive if/when they wish; and they should
not worry any further about it. (What is needed, urgently, today, is
universal self-archiving, and not trivial worries about whether to do it
here or there or both: OAI-interoperability makes this into a non-issue
from the self-archiver's point of view, and merely a technical feature
to sort out, from the OAI-developers' point of view.)

> Ultimately, of course, I'd hope that disciplinary archives will be replaced
> with subject-specific OAI service providers harvesting from the institutional
> archives. But there is going to be a very long transition period in which
> the solution evolves from our experience.

A very long transition period from what to what? Right now, most OAI
Archives, whether institutional or disciplinary, are either (1)
non-existent, or (2) near-empty! The transition we are striving for is
from empty to full archives (and let us hope it will not be too long!),
not from disciplinary to institutional archives!

What Chris has in mind is only one, exceptional, special case,
namely, the Physics ArXiv, a disciplinary archive (but the *only*
one) which is, since 1991, well on the road to getting filled in
certain subareas of physics (200,000+ papers) (although even this
archive is still a decade from completeness at its present linear
growth rate: see slide 10 of )

Chris is imagining that if/when the institutions of those physicists
who are already self-archiving in ArXiv adopt an institutional
self-archiving policy like the one in Chris's own department -- -- then some of those
physicists may wonder why/whether they should self-archive twice!
(A tempest in a teapot! The real challenge is getting all the *other*
disciplines to self-archive in the first place. Don't worry about those
physicists who are already ahead of the game. They are not the

> What I'm asking is; has anyone given consideration to ways of smoothing
> over this duplication of effort? Possibly some negotiated automated process
> for insitutional archives uploading to the subject archive, or at least
> assisting the author in the process.

No need! First, because the "duplification of effort" is so minimal (the
centrally self-archiving physicists being such an infinitesimal subset
of all that needs to be self-archived -- namely, 2,000,000 articles per
year, across disciplines, not just 200,000 across 10 years, in one
discipline!). And second, because the technical problem (of duplicate
self-archiving) is so soluble, in so many obvious ways!

> This isn't the biggest issue, but it'd be good to address it before it
> becomes more of a problem.

It is such a small issue that it does not belong in a general discussion
of open access and self-archiving for researchers. It belongs only in a
technical discussion group for developers and implementers of the OAI
protocol. The only issue for the research community is how to get the
OAI Archives created and filled, as soon as possible; and I think it
is becoming apparent that institution-based self-archiving is the most
general and natural route to this goal, for the many reasons already
discussed in this thread.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Mar 18 2003 - 15:33:24 GMT

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