[BOAI] Institutional vs. Central OA Repositories: English translation of Prof. Rentier's posting

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2009 08:24:35 -0500

** Cross-Posted: Apologies if you receive more than one copy **

This is the English translation of yesterday's timely and incisive
analysis of what is at stake in the question of locus of
deposit (institutional vs. central) for open access self-archiving
mandates universities and research funders. It was written (and
translated into English) by Prof. Bernard Rentier, Rector of the
University of Liège and founder of EurOpenScholar. It is re-posted
here from Prof. Rentier's blog.

For more background on the important issues underlying the question
of institutional vs. central deposit mandates by institutions and
funders, click here.

Liège is one of the c. 30 institutions (plus 30 funders) worldwide
that have already adopted a Green OA self-archiving mandate.


      Repositories: Institutional, Thematic, or Central?
            Posted by Bernard Rentier in Open Access

            (Also recommended: a remarkable and very
            complete review of OA by Peter Suber.)

      The "Green Open Access (OA)" solution, providing free
      access to research publications in Institutional
      Repositories (IRs) via the Web, is certainly
      the best one, but sooner or later it will face a new wave
      of centralised thematic or funder repositories (CRs).

      The latest initiative comes from the very
      active EUROHORCs (European Association of Heads of
      Research Funding Organisations and Research Performing
      Organisations), well known for its EURYI prizes and its
      prominent influence on European thinking in the research
      area. EUROHORCs is working to convince the European
      Science Foundation (ESF) to set up, through a large
      subsidy from the EC, a centralised repository (CR) which
      would be both thematic (Biomedical) and local (European).
      The concept is inspired by PubMed Central, among others.

      The EUROHORCs initiative is very well-intentioned. It is
      based on an awareness that many of us share: It is of the
      utmost importance that science funded by public money
      should be made freely and easily accessible to the public
      (OA). But the initiative also reveals a profound
      misunderstanding about what OA and researchers' real
      needs are all about.

      The vision underlying the EUROHORCs initiative is that
      research results should be deposited directly in a CR.
      However, if research results are not OA today, this is
      not because of the lack of a CR to deposit them in, but
      rather because most authors are simply not yet depositing
      their articles at all, not even in an IR.

      Creating a new repository is hence not the solution for
      making research OA. The solution lies in
      universal deposit mandates, from both institutions and
      funding agencies. If this task is left to large funders
      such as the European Community, their central
      repositories will only contain publications of the
      research they have funded. From this it is easy to see
      that researchers will ultimately have to deposit their
      publications in as many repositories as there are funders
      supporting their research. Not only is this not
      practical, it is needlessly cumbersome.

      The obvious solution is that both research institutions
      and funding agencies should jointly require IR deposit.
      Once that systematic coordination has been successfully
      implemented, if CRs are desired, they can easily be
      created and filled using compatiblesoftware for exporting
      or harvesting automatically from IRs to CRs.

      What is worrisome is the needless double investment in
      creating two distinct kinds of repositories for direct
      deposit. This trend seems to rest on the naive notion
      that, in the Internet era, it is somehow still necessary
      to deposit things centrally. But in reality, the
      centralising tool is the harvester, and its search
      engine. Google Scholar, for example, is quite efficient
      in finding articles in any repository, institutional or
      central, yet no one deposits articles directly in Google
      Scholar. The perceived need for direct-deposit CRs is
      groundless, technically speaking. Such CRs even run the
      risk of serving as hosts for only the publications funded
      by a single funder. IRs guarantee OA webwide for all
      research output, in all disciplines, from all
      institutions, regardless of where (or whether) it has
      been funded.

      It is understandable that funders may wish to host a
      complete collection of the research they have funded, but
      nowadays that can easily be accomplished by importing it
      automatically from the more complete collections of the
      distributed IRs -- since institutions are the universal
      providers of all research output, funded and unfunded --
      as long as funders collaborate with institutions in first
      ensuring that all the IRs are filled with their own
      institutional research output.

      Besides, the OA philosophy is global. It cannot be
      reduced to a single continent. Science is universal.

      Giving priority to creating more CRs for direct deposit
      today is not only a waste of time: it is also
      counterproductive for the growth of convergent funder and
      institutional mandates. It would generate multiple
      competing loci of primary deposit for authors -- most of
      whom, we must not forget, are still not depositing at

      In conclusion, it seems far more efficient to focus first
      on filling IRs at this time; once that is accomplished,
      if it is judged useful, CRs can be configured to collect
      their data from IRs rather than being used as divergent
      points of direct deposits themselves.

      The potential success of OA, without conflicting head-on
      with publishers, rests on the deposit of authors' own
      final drafts of their published articles, through
      a one-time, simple action on the part of the author. All
      research is generated from research institutions: IRs are
      hence the natural locus for author deposit, providing
      optimal proximity, convenience and congruence with the
      mission of the author's own institution. The rest is
      merely technical: a matter of automated data transfer to
      external CRs.

      The EUROHORCs proposal is only worthwhile if it
      contributes to the secondary harvesting of data from
      primary IRs. Otherwise, it is missing the point of OA.

      ORBi wins its challenge

      U. Liège's IR "ORBi" (Open Repository and Bibliography)
      is fulfilling its promise: over 4,000 references have
      already been filed since November 26th and, in a happy
      surprise, 79% of these articles turn out to be full text.
      This is thus ahead of schedule for our institutionalGreen
      OA Mandate (announced in March 2007 to take effect in
      October 2009): "Whenever the university reviews faculty
      publications for promotion, tenure, funding, or any other
      internal purpose, the review will be based exclusively on
      full texts deposited in the IR."

      This graph shows clearly how the IR contents are growing.
      And yet a quick calculation also reminds us that we are
      still far from capturing the actual number of papers
      published yearly by our university authors.

    [ Part 2: "Attached Text" ]

To unsubscribe from the BOAI Forum, use the form on this page:
Received on Thu Feb 05 2009 - 19:30:42 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:39 GMT