Re: Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 23:20:55 +0100

On Wed, 11 Aug 2004, Heather Morrison wrote:

> as we move towards global sharing of information, there probably is no
> one model that will fit either all disciplines, or all countries. Within
> the next few years, I fully expect that universities around the world
> will have created their institutional repositories or archives. For now,
> however, many of these projects are still in the planning. However,
> with PubMedCentral, we can have OA right away.

Agreed about the mix of both. (OAI moots the difference.)

But the number of institutional archives is growing much faster
worldwide than the number of central archives:

And there is a good reason for this: Institutional archives, being
local, and simpler, are incomparably easier and cheaper to create and
maintain. Moreover, institutions share in the motivation for and the
benefits of OA with their own institutional researchers. Central archives
do not.

If we have learned anything from network ecology, it is that online
information growth and development are distributed and anarchic,
not central and uniform. Meanwhile, the OAI protocol provides all
the uniformity needed to make all the distributed OAI archives --
institutional and central -- interoperable, as if they were all one
global virtual-archive.

> Researchers in France (and soon, the UK) who have good institutional
> repositories to work with, in the event they are recipients of NIH
> funding, should submit identical copies of their papers to both
> PubMedCentral and the local IR.

But if there is one thing we have learned from the sluggish history of OA
so far, it is that if you wait for authors to self-archive spontaneously
(i.e., to do what they "should" -- even when the "should" is strongly
in their own interests), then you have a long wait ahead of you!

That is why it has become evident that a self-archiving mandate from
authors' institutions and research-funders -- a natural extension
of their existing publish-or-perish mandate -- is needed in order to
get authors to do the right thing for themselves (and their institutions
and funders, and for research itself).

So that's why it's important to get the mandate right: The more powerful
and general mandate, the one that will propagate across all institutions
and disciplines, is the UK Mandate: Institutional self-archiving.

Yes, central archives can (and should!) harvest the metadata, the
full-texts, or both, form those institutional archives. But that would
all follow quite naturally from an Institutional self-archiving mandate.

The reverse, however, is not true: Mandating central self-archiving for
particular funded research in a particular discipline and archive will
*not* propagate across disciplines and institutions. It will cover all
and only its own mandate. Nor is the process of distributed institutions
harvesting their own content back from central archives as natural or
straightforward as central archives harvesting from distributed ones
(though with OAI, either is possible).

But the main point is that mandated institutional self-archiving will
*drive* the spread of self-archiving across disciplines and institutions,
whereas mandated central discipline-specific self-archiving will not. If
the US keeps its mandate central, it will be a much bigger opportunity
lost for OA (but of course still far better than no self-archiving
mandate at all!)

> I see no reason why harvesting of documents themselves, not just
> metadata, could not be automated in the very near future, to facilitate
> this process.

It can, will, and is being! But the natural direction to harvest is
from the distributed local institutional archives to global, central
ones, not vice versa. Even more important, the way to propagate the
practise across disciplines is to do it within universities
(institutions), because universities have all the disciplines, and
having done it in one, they will naturally do it in the others too.
Central discipline-based archives are monads, and their individual
practises do not propagate across disciplines.

> Plus, of course, centralized search tools, whether OAIster or PubMed,
> can search documents that are archived in a distributed fashion.

That too. All that's wanting is that 100% OA corpus. So let's not put the
central cart before the distributed horse!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Aug 11 2004 - 23:20:55 BST

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