Author self-archiving and legacy retrodigitization and archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 03:28:56 +0100

On Sun, 30 Apr 2006, [identity deleted] wrote:

> Dear Professor Harnad,
> I am the Editor of [journal & publisher name deleted]
> You may have heard of a [topic-specific] archive called X.
> The journal has been invited to join that archive, but it will
> cost at least 20,000 to re-digitize our back issues (50 years worth),
> so it is a huge commitment.

That's not *re*-digitizing (as the issues were not digital 50 years ago)
but *digitizing*, simpliciter. And it is well worth doing, for the sake of
scholarship and further inquiry, if someone has the 20,000 to pay for it.

> I wonder if you might be willing to give me any guidance in relation
> to some specific questions I might need to ask before making a final
> decision. For example, is the Open Access Initiative likely to make
> archives such as X redundant?

They will certainly become redundant for current and future issues,
but the back-issue (legacy) access problem is a different, one-off
problem that will not be solved by forward-going OA self-archiving. Many
individual authors can and of course will scan, OCR and self-archive
their own older articles, but this cannot be counted upon to capture
all of the legacy content systematically, so some concerted back-issue
retrodigitization will be unavoidable.

> (X currently has a PPV and also produces a CD-Rom every 4 years or so).

Pay-Per-View is of course not OA, and anathema to OA, but some of it
will no doubt be unavoidable -- absent generous subsidies -- until the
costs of the retro-digitization are recovered.

> I have no idea whether the X archive
> is digitized in a version compatible with the OAI- presumably this is
> a question I should be asking.

OAI-compliance (where OAI means not Open Access Initiative but the Open
Archives Initiative, with its OAI metadata harvesting protocol for making
archives interoperable) is a big functional benefit, and not too hard to
provide; but you will have to find out whether X is indeed OAI-compliant.

> We are keen to be included in X precisely because it is the only
> archive [dedicated to this topic] currently available, but with the
> publishing and archiving scene changing so fast it is very difficult
> to anticipate future developments for a journal such as ours which does
> not have a wealthy institutional base.

Making a journal's legacy content accessible online is a journal's
decision to make, and the constraints of cost-recovery dictate how and
where they do it. PPV is not OA, but if/when it ever becomes a question
of making the papers OA, the (living) authors could deposit them in
their own institutional IRs. In OA space there is absolutely no reason
any more that related or thematic content should be deposited in a
single archive. OAI-compliance means it can be distributed across a
global spectrum of IRs and can then be harvested and searched as if it
were all in one archive.

In general, each author's own local institutional IR is the most natural
place to self-archive his articles. The researcher's institution is the
primary research provider, shares the researcher's interest in and the
benefits of maximizing usage and impact. And the practice generalizes
and scales to cover all of OA space.

Stevan Harnad
> If you would be willing to talk to me about this, I would be very grateful

Happy to talk, even happier to email, so it can be shared with others
who may have the same questions.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon May 01 2006 - 11:53:39 BST

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