Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 18:00:25 +0000

  "Trends in Self-Posting of Research Material Online by Academic Staff"
   Theo Andrew supplies a case study from the University of Edinburgh.

This is a survey preceding a series of SHERPA eprint self-archiving
projects to be implemented at Edinburgh.

    "Prior to the implementation of these projects at the University of
    Edinburgh, it was decided that a baseline survey of research material
    already held on departmental and personal Web pages in the

The main conclusion of this advance survey was that:

    (1) "an unexpectedly high volume of research material (over 1000
    peer-reviewed journal articles) exists online in the domain"


    (2) "there is a direct correlation between willingness to self-archive
    and the [prior] existence of subject-based [non-Edinburgh]

It is perhaps unsurprising that the Edinburgh disciplines that are the
most advanced in self-archiving are the ones that are also most advanced
globally, having their own central, discipline-based archives (elsewhere).
That said, 1000 is still a small number (relative to Edinburgh's annual
output), and now going on to establish departmental eprint archives at
Edinburgh will further promote self-archiving at Edinburgh, especially
if Edinburgh and the UK Research Funding Councils adopt a systematic
open-access policy along the lines of the Berlin Declaration:

The article goes on to note:

    "The big problem is that this material is widely dispersed and
    therefore not easily found. This is not very useful for the wider
    dissemination of scholarly work. Also, personal Web sites tend to
    be ephemeral..."

This refers to the 1000 articles self-archived at Edinburgh *before* the
forthcoming Edinburgh eprint archives are implemented. The upcoming
archives will presumably be OAI-compliant --
-- thereby solving the problem of dispersal and interoperability that
besets arbitrary websites.

As these self-archived articles will be duplicates of the published
version, self-archived in order to provide immediate open access, the
primary preservation problem will not be theirs; it will be the problem of
the producers and purchasers of the publishers' proprietary version. The
self-archived versions in the Physics ArXiv, for example, have
lasted twelve years now, and been successfully retrofitted for
OAI-compliance. There is every reason to belief that the growth of
self-archived content itself will be the best guarantor that we will
see for its perennity.

Oddly, there is no reference in this article to Edinburgh's own
most important existing eprint archive, already OAI-compliant,
and containing 10% of Edinburgh's current self-archived articles: (There seems to be some confusion
of its contents with those of a non-Edinburgh archive -- -- which overlaps with it in subject

There is also no reference to any prior usage surveys, such as:

It is unfortunate that the title refers to "self-posting" whereas the
more widely used term "self-archiving" throughout the text itself: Why
proliferate needless and confusing synonyms? [The title may have been been
an unwise editorial suggestion that the author should have declined!])

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: Complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
    Posted discussion to:

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2: Publish your article in a suitable open-access journal
            whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1: Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable toll-access
            journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Fri Oct 31 2003 - 18:00:25 GMT

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