Re: Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 15:35:38 +0000

On Tue, 18 Mar 2003, Thomas Krichel wrote:

>cg> What I'm asking is; has anyone given consideration to ways of smoothing
>cg> over this duplication of effort? Possibly some negotiated automated process
>cg> for insitutional archives uploading to the subject archive, or at least
>cg> assisting the author in the process.
> This is not a pressing concern as much as it appears, because
> discipline-based archives have, arXiv apart, not that much stuff.

Thomas gives exactly the correct answer to Chris!

> It is better,
> within an institution, to proceed department by department and
> listen to what the academics want (and these wants will be
> different in each department), rather than setting up one
> archive that is supposed to satisfy everybody's needs at the
> risk of satisfying nobody's.

Of course. Institutional self-archiving does not imply one single
university archive, but an OAI-interoperable network, parametrized to
suit any special needs of each discipline. (That's certainly how Chris's software is being designed: )

> it is best to listen to academics telling you
> what their needs are, rather than setting up procedures around
> a central institutional archive, The latter is what Clifford Lynch wants.
> I don't think that it will work.

What is needed is institutional self-archiving, distributed across its
departments interoperably, but customized to the different needs of the
different disciplines.

>cg> Ultimately, of course, I'd hope that disciplinary archives will be
>cg> replaced [by] subject-specific OAI service providers harvesting
>cg> from the institutional archives.
> I would put this in different way, I'd say that there should be more
> interoperability between institutional archives and disciplinary
> aggregators. Such aggregators don't have a prime function of
> archiving contents but to put the archival contents into
> relations with personal and institutional data and
> document-to-document metadata such as citations. Rather
> than marking up the documents content in the institutional
> archive with subject classification data, it should be marked
> up with aggregator data... n the longer run, we need an extension
> to the OAI protocol to support this on a larger scale.

No problem. This is certainly something the OAI developers can address.
But it has nothing to do with what Chris was worrying about (dupicate
self-archiving in disciplinary and institutional archives); and it seems
to agree about the primacy of institution-based archiving (but
distributed across, and adapted to, the institution's departments and

> Faculty should be given the choice [between disciplinary and
> institutional self-archiving]. They should not be required
> to do either one. arXiv have been doing a tremendous job at
> archiving. You are not going to replace them. But arXiv really
> only covers a small set of disciplines well.

This seems to contradict what was said before! It would be impossible
to implement an effective, systematic institutional self-archiving
policy if it were optional whether researchers self-archive in their
institutional archive or in a central disciplinary archive (even though
OAI-interoperability makes the two alternatives completely equivalent
from an open-access point of view). Let me count the ways:

(1) Institutions can mandate self-archiving, disciplines cannot.

(2) Most disciplines do not have disciplinary OAI Archives at all.

(3) All institutions have (just about) all disciplines.

(4) There are many other potential uses for institutional research
archives (apart from open access).

(5) OAI-interoperability guarantees that institutional and disciplinary
self-archiving are equivalent from the open-access point of view, but
aggregating institutional packages out of distributed disciplinary
OAI archives is harder (though it is not clear how much harder) than
aggregating disciplinary packages out of distributed institutional
OAI archives.

(6) But it is not the equivalence or ease of aggregation that is relevant
at this point (with most archives non-existent or near-empty) but what
is the most promising and natural way to reach universal open access.
(Return to (1) above.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Mar 18 2003 - 15:35:38 GMT

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