Re: A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 16:26:57 +0000

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2008 13:34:24 -0500
From: Gavin Baker <gavin -->

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> "A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy" (Oct 2004)
> ...Now NIH's has indeed instantly become by far the most important of the
> Green OA self-archiving mandates to date in virtue of its size and scope
> alone, but it still hasn't got it right!
> The upgrade from a mere request to an Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access
> (ID/OA) mandate was indeed an enormous improvement, but there still
> remains the extremely counterproductive and unnecessary insistence on
> direct deposit in PubMed Central. This is still a big defect in the NIH
> mandate, effectively preventing it from strengthening, building upon
> and complementing direct deposit in Institutional Repositories,
> and thereby losing the golden (or rather green!) opportunity to scale
> up to cover all of research output, in all fields, from all institutions,
> worldwide, rather than just NIH-funded biomedical research. A completely
> unnecessary, dysfunctional, self-imposed constraint (in much the same
> spirit as having requested self-archiving instead of mandating it for
> the past three lost years).

I think it's possible to square IR deposit with the legislative language
adopted, as follows:

"...[the NIH] shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH
submit *or have submitted for them*..." (emphasis mine)

The NIH, understandably and fairly, wants a central database of its
sponsored research. If the NIH is reasonable, it won't care how the
manuscripts get there. Authors might choose to deposit in their
institutional repository; then, either their IR pushes the manuscript to
PMC, or PMC harvests the manuscript from the IR. So long as the
manuscript arrives at PMC in a timely fashion, it shouldn't matter from
the author's point of view where it's first deposited.

I don't know whether PMC currently has the technical ability to do this.
But it could be done, and it should be. Once the technical ability
exists, the agency policy should clearly state that authors can deposit
in their IR if they choose, and how to get harvested into PMC. This
doesn't run afoul of the legislation or require amending it. (Similarly,
institutions should configure their repositories to automatically
harvest their authors' deposits in funder databases.)

> Even the benefits of the NIH's excellent decision to mandate immediate
> deposit -- thereby offloading the 12-month embargo onto the date of
> Open-Access-setting rather than the date of the deposit itself -- are
> lost if the deposit is required to be made directly in PubMed Central,
> rather than in each author's own Institutional Repository (and thence
> harvested to PubMed Central): With direct IR deposit, authors can use
> their own IR's "email eprint request" button to fulfill would-be users'
> access needs during any embargo).

If this feature doesn't currently exist in PMC, perhaps it could be
suggested to PMC's maintainers.

> The hope is that -- recognizing that similar mistakes have been made
> in the past, and that that has cost dearly in years of lost OA, and
> recognizing that the remedy is ever so simple, with no loss, only gain
> ("deposit institutionally, harvest centrally") -- the NIH will still
> have the sound sense, in the euphoria over the passage of the mandate
> itself, to optimise its mandate now, so it can do the maximal good in
> the minimal time, across all fields and institutions, worldwide.

I think it was wise to require that all NIH-sponsored research end up in
one database. We know there are authors whose institution still doesn't
have an IR; direct deposit in PMC is the best option for them currently.
As long as PMC, and the policy, are configured to permit harvesting from
IRs in lieu of direct deposit, I think it's the best of both worlds.

Gavin Baker
gavin --
Received on Sat Jan 05 2008 - 16:39:16 GMT

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