[lis-e-resources] The Mandate of Open Access Institutional Repository Managers

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 12:30:20 -0400

SUMMARY: Open Access (OA) Institutional Repository (IR) managers need to remind themselves that their mandate is to see to it that their IRs are filled with OA's target content (peer-reviewed research journal articles) so as to maximize the accessibility, visibility, usage and impact of their institution's research output. Their mandate is not to seek or provide alternative "business models" for journal publishing.
In a UKSG Serials News posting,
"Are we nearly there yet? On the road to open access",
Graham Stone [GS], Repository Manager, University of Huddersfieldand Chair, UK Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) wrote:
GS: "Not too long ago, I took a phone call from an academic colleague from the Health Sciences regarding the submission of an article to Biomed Central. [The colleague] phoned me as I am the 'Repository guy' and [the colleague was] learning to play the 'Repository game', that is getting their work out there on open access and increasing their citations. [The colleague was] very impressed that so many people downloaded their last paper within days of it appearing in the Repository."
This upbeat-sounding paragraph is unfortunately a series of (familiar) misunderstandings and non-sequiturs about Open Access (OA) and Institutional Repositories (IRs):

(1) Biomed Central (BMC) is a gold OA (pay-to-publish) journal publisher.

(2) Publishing in a BMC journal has nothing to do with depositing an article in "the Repository."

Which Repository -- Huddersfield's? You don't need to publish in a pay-to-publish gold OA journal in order to deposit in a green OA Institutional Repository (IR) like Huddersfield's, nor in order to benefit from the increased downloads and citations that OA makes possible. All you do is publish in whatever journal you publish in, and deposit the final refereed draft in your OA IR as soon as it is accepted for publication

Or was the deposit in PubMed Central (PMC, not BMC)? Likewise no payment required.

(3) There is no "Repository game". There is just the research and publication game.

(Providing OA maximizes research access, usage and impact, and OA can be provided in two ways. I. "Gold OA": by publishing in an OA journal (of which the major ones require payment to publish); orII. "Green OA": by publishing in any journal at all -- whether subscription-based or OA -- and also depositing the final draft in your OA IR: no payment required. The "game" is merely ensuring that allpotential users have online access to your published articles, not just those whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it happened to be published.)
GS: "It struck me as very interesting that to [this colleague], the next stage of the 'game' was to consider switching from green to gold open access - providing someone would pay of course!"
The colleague sounds like a researcher who has just deposited an article for the first time in an OA repository (perhaps PMC, though it should have been Huddersfield's IR), and not a researcher who has just paid BMC for gold OA publication (otherwise the colleague would know who was paying!).
GS: "This is not the first time that this topic has come up in conversation in the past few weeks. At the recent LIBER conference at Aarhus University in Denmark discussion over dinner turned to open access. One comment from a colleague was that green open access could not be successful in the long run as this was a compromise, and 'compromises never work'."
How is providing OA to one's published article by depositing it in one's IR a "compromise"?

A compromise of what, with what, for whom?

Depositing an article in an IR consists of a few minutes' worth of keystrokes that maximize the access, usage and impact of one's article.

But perhaps the LIBER discussion was not among (1) researchers, discussing the problem of how to "get their work out there on open access and increase their citations" rather than continue to allow access to it to be restricted only to those researchers whose institutions can afford to pay for subscription access to the journal in which it happens to be published...

Perhaps the LIBER discussion was instead among (2) librarians, discussing the problem of how to afford to pay for subscription access?

Or perhaps the LIBER discussion was among (3) publishers, discussing the problem of how to guarantee current subscription revenue streams in a growing climate of demand for open access on the part of researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the research?

To repeat: In what sense is green OA self-archiving a "compromise"?

A compromise of what, with what, for whom?

Is a university repository manager a representative of the immediate interests of the university's researchers (and their institutions, funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the research), or of the interests of publishers and their present and future business models?

If librarians are to fulfill the role of repository managers, they need to re-think what they are doing, and why, and what it is that researchers and research need in the OA era.

An OA IR is not a buy-in collection of journal subscriptions: It is a give-away provision of access to an institution's published journal articles.
GS: "The road to open access is covered in gold and this is the way forward."
The way forward for whom? And according to whom? And in the interests of what?

Researchers can be mandated to provide green OA for their published work. (Without mandates, onlyabout 20% self-archive.)

And funds, if available, can be provided to pay for gold OA.

But publishers cannot be mandated to provide gold OA.

And the funds to pay for gold OA cannot be mandated while they are still tied up in paying for subscriptions (and the asking price for gold OA is designed to preserve publishers' current revenue streams, come what may).

The road to green OA is wide open, and traversing it is entirely in the hands of researchers (and their institutions and funders).

The road to gold OA is not wide open; it costs money, and it is in the hands of publishers, not researchers. And the potential money to pay for gold OA is currently tied up in institutions' subscriptions, which are being paid to publishers, by institution's libraries.

So how is the road to OA covered with gold, and how is it the way forward?
GS: "A few days earlier, Kurt de Belder from Leiden University in the Netherlands had laid out his vision of the future, which assumed that open access would be via the gold route and if Repositories existed, they would only contain grey literature."
Kurt de Melder is the director of Leiden University's library (and an advisor to several publishers). Does his golden vision (like the green vision) include a practical means (like the green vision's mandates) of getting us from here to there? Or is it all just a golden wish, waiting for publishers to convert to gold and release the subscription money to pay their asking price?

And while the institution's library keeps waiting for this to happen, is the access, usage and impact of the institution's research to continue to be denied to all but subscribing institutions, as now, while institutions' IRs (which already exist, by the way) be devoted instead to "grey literature" (whatever that means) instead of to refereed research (green OA)?

And meanwhile, visions aside, those who have their eyes wide open cannot help but notice that IRs (which already exist, remember) contain green content rather than just grey content, and that green deposit mandates can and do drive up the percentage green from the baseline 20% to 60% and approaching 100% within a few years.

What's missing, and needed (for those with eyes wide open to see) is more green OA mandates from institutions and funders -- not a-priori visions generated by pre-emptive gold fever (with no serious reflection on practical means and ends: visions of golden roads to OA, wide open and waiting).
GS: "Personally, and not as Chair of UKCoRR (UK Council of Research Repositories), I must admit that I am starting to agree with the gold only route, although I'm not sure I should."
If the Chair of UK's Council of Research Repositories is starting to agree (whether personally or ex officio) with the gold-only route, then perhaps it is time for the Chair to think of resigning, and allowing UKCoRR's direction to be set by those who understand the needs of research and researchers, the power of green OA IRs, and the urgent need for Green OA mandates.

Surely there is a "UK Council of Publishing Business Models" that could be joined instead, by those who have become afflicted by gold fever, forgetting about research and researchers' urgent immediate need for OA, and IRs' mission to provide it.
GS: "I have been espousing the virtues of green open access for nearly five years. At Huddersfield we have 26% full text in the Repository despite not yet having a mandate and our full text downloads are really taking off - 46,000 in the last 12 months."
If that 26% is 26% of Hudderfield's current yearly research output, then that deposit rate is somewhat above the global spontaneous (i.e., unmandated) baseline deposit rate of about 20%, but it is a far cry from what the deposit rate would be if Huddersfield were to adopt a mandate.

A repository manager espousing the interests of Hudderfield's researchers should be espousing the virtues of green OA mandates to Hudderfield's researchers and administration, not just the virtues of providing green OA spontaneously (although that is, of course, welcome too).

Well over five years' consistent experience (and surveys) worldwide have shown that most researchers will not deposit spontaneously but they will deposit (willingly) if deposit is mandated. In the past few years, it is not spontaneous deposit rates that have been picking up, but the deposit mandate adoption, and the resulting green OA.

This is not the time for repository managers to succumb to gold fever (which leads next to nowhere, and is not even part of their remit), resigning their IRs to warehousing "grey literature."
GS: "However, for some time I have had my doubts as to whether the championing of green open access was actually taking us down the right road. I could see that gold open access was a good business model. "
If we all commit to deposit, we don't need green OA self-archiving mandates.

But we don't all commit to deposit, even though it costs nothing. Only about 20% commit (26% at Huddersfield, perhaps because the IR manager has for five years espoused the virtues of deposit so persuasively).

But even fewer commit to gold OA, because it costs money, and the money to pay for it is still tied up in paying for subscriptions.

And there are no mandates to require researchers to pay for gold OA, nor to release the subscription money, nor to dictate publishers' business model, nor to set their asking price.

Besides, none of that is within an OA IR manager's remit. An OA IR manager is supposed to get his IR filled with OA target content, and that target content is supposed to be, first and foremost, peer-reviewed journal articles, most of which are today published in subscription journals.

What needs to be championed by IR managers (and a fortiori, by the Chair of the UK Council of Research Repositories). and championed for their researchers and their institutions, are the virtues of green OA mandates that will fill their IRs -- not the virtues of "good business models," championed for publishers, by librarians. (You don't need to be an IR manager to go down that road.)

And those who are indeed committed to championing green OA mandates (rather than succumbing to gold "visions") worldwide are beginning to win them.
GS: "The trouble to me is that the model only really works if we all commit. Otherwise, you end up paying twice, once for the open access article and once for the journal subscription. I just didn't see how we arrived at this brave new world of gold open access journals, no serials budgets and stuff in the cloud."
Yes, that's indeed the size of it. Trying to go directly from the status quo to gold OA is quite simply self-contradictory, like an Escher drawing of an impossible shape:

The money to pay for gold OA is tied up in subscriptions. But institutions cannot cancel their journal subscriptions unless the journals' contents are accessible otherwise. Catch 22.

(And anyone foolish and gullible enough to believe publishers who say they will reduce subscription fees as gold OA revenues increase is forgetting that this requires institutions to find the money to pay the gold asking price first, while it is still being spent on the subscriptions! A good "business model" indeed…)

But apparently this baldly self-contradictory prospect, so evident to explicit, sober reflection, is insufficient to to suppress gold fever when an IR manager hears "colleagues" express their considered opinions on the way to go, particularly in the glow of what looks like a "good [albeit self-contradictory] business model."

(By the way, the somewhat uneven distribution of wealth on the planet can also be fixed "if we all commit"…)
GS: "But maybe I can see how we get to gold open access now? With researchers taking ownership of the 'game' by realising that gold open access is the only way to ensure access for all and increased citations, maybe we are on the right road after all?"
Researchers "taking ownership of the 'game'"? By "realizing gold OA is the only way"?

The contradiction on the road to there from here is resolved by "realization"? By researchers? (The same researchers for whom the only thing they need to do to provide OA is a few keystrokes? And they're not even "committed" enough to do those keystrokes, unless they are first mandated by their institutions or funders?)

What does this vision envision that researchers are to do with this newfound golden realization? The same thing 34,000 of them did (unsuccessfully) in 2000? Sign a petition to boycott their journals if they don't go OA?

And if researchers were really that committed to "ensuring access for all and increased citations," wouldn't it be simpler than making empty threats against all their publishers just to petition their one and only institution to mandate deposit?

Better still, if their realisation about "the only way" were that profound, wouldn't researchers just go ahead and do the keystrokes to deposit of their own accord, unmandated, in order to "ensure access for all and increased citations"?

And would it not be a remarkable coincidence it it turned out that the most pressing thing on researchers' minds turned out not to be the access and impact of their work (which they can already provide with a few green keystrokes), but a "good business model" for their publishers and their long-suffering librarians?

A remarkable coincidence that what researchers had been yearning for all along turned out (upon "realisation") to be exactly the same thing their librarians had been yearning for -- which was not the filling of their OA IRs but relief from the serials crisis?
GS: "And maybe, instead of the superfast highway to gold open access that some envisage, are we travelling down the leafy lane of green open access with gold just around the next corner? A bit round the houses, but yes we are certainly getting there."
The super-fast highway to gold OA? Amidst all this "realisation," I don't recall hearing the game plan for solving the problem of the toll booths posted along the ubiquitous subscription highways -- the ones that are currently gobbling up institutions' serial budgets (i.e., the funds that would be used instead to pay for gold OA)...

But it is true that green OA, once it becomes universal, may eventually get us to gold OA too -- if it causes universal cancellations, forcing journals to cut costs, downsize, and convert to gold OA, thereby releasing the windfall subscription savings to pay the reduced cost of gold OA (peer review alone, with the print and online editions gone, and all access-provision and archiving offloaded onto the worldwide network of OA IRs).

But that's not around the next corner; and we are certainly getting ahead of ourselves, if we don't provide the universal green OA first -- for that's what the subscription cancellation windfall is predicated upon. The cancellations can't be done pre-emptively. Certainly not by a single institution, or IR manager -- not even the chair of the UK Council of Research Repositories. That would require global institutional subscription cancellations, and all at once (not one institution or country at a time -- otherwise the researchers of that institution or country, instead of gaining open access, lose subscription access altogether).

My recommendation to OA IR managers (even the chair of UKCoRR) is to focus on their own mandate, which is to fill their own IRs, not to dream about business models that are as good as gold.

And the way to get their OA IRs filled is already known: It is by getting their institutions to mandate green OA. That's all. And that's enough. The rest will take care of itself, in its own time. But meanwhile their institution's researchers will "ensure access for all and increased citations."

And that, after all -- not "a good business model" -- is the purpose of OA, and the mandate of an OA IR manager.
See "Waiting for Gold"
(from the 2002 BOAI Self-Archiving FAQ).
Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

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Received on Tue Jul 27 2010 - 17:36:19 BST

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