32nd Green Open Access Mandate: Kudos and Caveat

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2007 17:23:00 +0100

        ** Cross-Posted **

        Fully hyperlinked version:

The UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is now the 6th of
the 7 UK Research Councils to adopt a Green Open Access Self-Archiving

(That makes AHRC's the 18th funder OA mandate, in addition to 14
university and departmental mandates, 2 proposed multi-university
mandates, and 4 proposed funder mandates, for a total of 38 Green OA
mandates adopted and proposed worldwide so far.)

Like most of the mandates adopted so far, the AHRC has some needless,
easily-corrected flaws, but first, let us (with Dr. Johnson) applaud the
fact that it has been adopted at all: Bravo AHRC!

Now the mandate's completely unnecessary and ever-so-easily-corrected

In their anxiety to ensure that their policy is both legal and not
needlessly worrisome for publishers, AHRC (and many of the other funder
mandates, including yesterday's CIHR mandate from Canada) have allowed
an embargo period before the article is made OA, if the publisher

That is fine. But it is a huge mistake to allow the time at which the
article must be deposited to be dictated by the publisher's embargo.

The deposit should be required immediately upon acceptance for
publication, without exception. If there is no publisher embargo, that
deposit is also immediately made Open Access at that same time.
Otherwise it is made Closed Access for the duration of the embargo
period. (Only the bibliographic metadata are visible and accessible via
the web, not the article itself.)

It may seem pointless to require an article to be deposited immediately
if it cannot be made OA immediately. But the point of requiring
immediate deposit either way is to close a profound loophole that could
otherwise delay both deposit and OA indefinitely, turning the mandate
into a mockery from which any researcher can opt out at the behest of
his publisher.

The early mandators have been very progressive and helpful in having
adopted OA mandates at all, but now that mandates are spreading, it is
important to optimize them, and plug the needless loopholes. Otherwise
the mandates will suffer the same fate as the ill-fated NIH Public
Access Policy, which failed so badly that its self-archiving rate was
even lower than the spontaneous baseline for random self-archiving, in
the absence of any policy at all. (The proposed NIH policy upgrade to a
mandate is now one of the 4 pending funder mandate proposals).

    Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates:
    What? Where? When? Why? How?

    The Immediate-Deposit/Optional Access (ID/OA) Mandate:
    Rationale and Model

OA mandators (and those proposing or contemplating OA mandates): Please
consult the above links, as well as Peter Suber's critique below, and
then do the minor tweaks that are the only thing needed to transform
your policies into reliable, effective mandates, setting an example
worthy of emulation by others.

Stevan Harnad

Peter Suber in Open Access News wrote:

The UK Arts & Humanities Research Council announced its long-awaited OA
policy today. You can find it on the AHRC access policy page and in
Appendix 9 of its lengthy (111 pp.) Research Funding Guide for 2007/08:

It is the AHRC's position that authors choose where to place their
research for publication. It is for authors? institutions to decide
whether they are prepared to use funds for any page charges or other
publishing fees. Such funds could be part of an institution's indirect
costs under the full economic costing regime....

The AHRC requires that funded researchers:

   -- ensure deposit of a copy of any resultant articles published in
journals or conference proceedings in appropriate repository

   -- wherever possible, ensure deposit of the bibliographical metadata
relating to such articles, including a link to the publisher's website,
at or around the time of publication

Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that
current copyright and licensing policies, for example, embargo periods
and provisions limiting the use of deposited content to noncommercial
purposes, are respected by authors.

The final paragraph is emphasized (in bold type) in the Funding Guide
but not emphasized on the access policy page.


-- I applaud the mandatory language. But the policy is sketchy on most
other important details. It doesn't indicate which version should be
deposited or what counts as an appropriate repository. It urges
immediate deposit for metadata but doesn't do so for the text itself. It
gives no timetable for depositing the text and no maximum length for the
delay or embargo.

-- It gives nearly as much space to the exception as it does to the
policy, and creates the same gigantic loophole as the new CIHR policy
and the older ESRC policy. If publishers don't want their authors to
make any version of their articles OA, they only have to adopt a house
rule to that effect and suddenly the AHRC policy does not apply to AHRC
grantees who submit work that that publisher.

--The AHRC is the sixth of the seven Research Councils UK to announce
its OA policy. If this kind of mandatory language qualified by a
vitiating exception can be called a mandate, then it's also the sixth to
adopt a mandate. The other five are at the BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, and
STFC. The EPSRC is still deliberating. Of the six RCUK OA policies,
three allow authors to use grant funds for publication fees at fee-based
OA journals (MRC, NERC, STFC) and three do not (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC).

Peter Suber, Open Access News
Received on Thu Sep 06 2007 - 17:34:31 BST

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