If You Were Composing the Subversive Proposal Today…

Richard Poynder: “If you were composing the Subversive Proposal today how different would it be? Would it be different? If so, would you care to rephrase it to fit today?s environment? In other words, how would the Subversive Proposal look if written for a 2014 audience (in less than 500 words)?”

SH: Knowing now, in 2014, that researchers won?t do it of their own accord, I would have addressed the proposal instead to their institutions and funders, and in less than 200 words:

“To maximize the access, uptake, usage, progress, productivity, applications and impact of your publicly funded research output, mandate (require) that the refereed, revised, accepted final draft of all articles must be deposited in the author?s institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication as a condition for research evaluation and funding. If you allow a publisher embargo on making the deposit OA (freely accessible to all online), implement the automated almost-OA Button (and don?t let the embargo exceed 6-12 months at most). This is called ?Gratis Green OA.? Do not pay for Gold OA journal publication fees (?Fool?s Gold?) until global Green OA has made subscriptions unsustainable; then you can pay for Fair-Gold out of your subscription cancellation savings. Fair-Gold will also be Libre OA (with re-use rights such as data-mining, re-mixing and re-publishing). Ignore publishers? lobbying to the effect that Green OA will destroy peer-reviewed journal publishing: it will re-vitalize it and save the research community a lot of money while maximizing the access, uptake, usage, progress, productivity, applications and impact of their research.”

And this is how I should have written the original Proposal in 1994:


Abstract: We have heard many predictions about the demise of paper publishing, but life is short and the inevitable day still seems a long way off. This is a subversive proposal that could radically hasten that day. It is applicable only to refereed scientific and scholarly journal articles (but that is the lion’s share of the research corpus anyway), a body of work for which authors (researchers) do not and never have expected to SELL their words. They want only to PUBLISH them, that is, to reach the eyes of their peers, their fellow scientists and scholars the world over, so that they can build on one another’s work in that collaborative enterprise called learned inquiry.
      For centuries, it was only out of reluctant necessity that authors of research journal articles made the Faustian bargain to allow a price-tag to be erected as a barrier between their work and its intended readership because that was the only way to make their work public in the era when paper publication (and its substantial real expenses) were the only way to do so. But today there is another way, and that is by depositing it in the author’s institution’s online repository:
      If every research institution in the world this very day established a globally accessible online institutional repository for every piece of refereed research output from this day forward, and if all research institutions and research funders mandated (required) that the final, refereed drafts of all their research output must be deposited in the repository immediately upon acceptance for publication, the long-heralded transition to free online access would follow almost immediately.
      The only factor standing in the way of this transition at the moment is the fact that peer review happens to be implemented today almost exclusively by journal publishers. If all scholars’ refereed final drafts were universally available to all scholars online, institutions could cancel their journal subscriptions and refereed journal publishers would then have to restructure themselves, phasing out their obsolete print and online editions, access-provision and archiving and their costs, and downsizing to just implementing the peer review service, paid for by researchers’ institutions out of their subscription cancellation savings.
      The subversion will be complete, because the refereed research literature will have taken to the airwaves, where it always belonged, and those airwaves will be free (to the benefit of us all) because their true minimal expenses will be covered the optimal way for the unimpeded flow of research findings to all: In advance.

Open Access in China: Time is of the Essence

The two Chinese OA Mandates (NSFC and CAS) came fast (2014), but the possibility of complying with them is coming slowly (no repository till 2016).

In addition, articles need not be deposited until 12 months after publication.

In most fields, especially the fast-moving sciences, the benefits of Open Access (maximised uptake, usage, impact and progress) are biggest and most important within the first year of publication. That is the growth tip of research. Access losses in the first year are never fully caught up in later years. The iron needs to be struck when it is hot.

There are two very simple steps that China can take to minimise the needless loss of research uptake, usage and impact because of lost time:

(1) China should set up the repositories immediately, using the available free softwares such as EPrints and DSpace. It requires only a server and a few hours worth of set-up time and the repository is ready for deposits. There is no reason whatsoever to wait two years. It would also be sensible to have distributed local repositories ? at universities and research institutions ? rather than just one central one. Each institution can easily set up its own repository. All repositories are interoperable and if and when desired, their contents can be automatically exported to or harvested by central repositories.

(2) Although an OA embargo of 12 months is allowed, China should mandate that deposit itself must be immediate (immediately upon acceptance for publication). Access to the deposit can be set as closed access instead of OA during the embargo if desired, but EPrints and DSpace repositories have the ?Request-Copy? Button for closed-access deposits so that individual users can request and authors can provide an individual copy for research purposes with one click each. The repository automatically emails the copy if the author clicks Yes.

DSpace & EPrints Help Authors Provide Access During Publisher OA Embargoes

DSpace follows (not quite “leads“!) EPrints in providing access (not quite “Open Access”!) to research during publisher OA embargo periods (via the facilitated Request-Copy Button):


Just in time, I hope, to help shape the implementation of the US Public Access Policy by ensuring that mandatory deposit is (1) immediate (not waiting to deposit only after the allowable OA embargoes of publishers have elapsed) and (2) institutional (not institution-external).

Institutions can then (a) monitor and ensure compliance with the US Public Access Policy and (b) implement the institutional repository’s facilitated Request-Copy Button which allows the author to provide an individual copy to an individual requestor with a single click on a case by case basis during the publisher’s OA embargo period.

(Both metadata and full-texts of institutional deposits can then be automatically exported to or harvested by any central repositories desired: disciplinary, national, or even funder-based.)

Publisher Open Access Embargoes and the Copy-Request Button

To derive the full benefit of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, it is now extremely important that all universities and research institutions implement the faciltated copy-request Button in their institutional repositories. (The repository software as well as the Button are free for all.)

The Button ensures that even during a publisher embargo on Open Access (OA) any researcher worldwide can immediately request and any author can immediately provide a single copy of any embargoed deposit for research purposes with just one extra click each ? just as long as the author?s final, peer-reviewed draft has been deposited in the repository immediately upon acceptance for publication, rather than only after a publisher OA embargo period has elapsed.

This is not OA. It is only ?Almost-OA.? But the copy-request Button ensures that the immediate-deposit does not lie fallow during any allowable OA embargo period. And that?s what research and researchers need most.

For DSpace Repositories: https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/DSPACE/RequestCopy
For EPrints Repositories : http://wiki.eprints.org/w/RequestEprint

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Coombe, RJ Wershler, D & Zellinger, M (Eds) Dynamic Fair Dealing. U Toronto Press

Importance of Request-Copy Button in Implementing HEFCE/REF Immediate-Deposit Policy

Cambridge University has provided a very clear step-by-step statement of how to comply with the new HEFCE/REF OA Policy, as well as the RCUK OA policy, and they are implementing it immediately:

“This policy comes into force on 1 April 2016. Yet at the University we want to  ensure this shift is managed sooner rather than later to ensure no research is omitted.? 

To derive the full benefit of the HEFCE/REF immediate-deposit policy it is important that all UK universities also implement the email copy-request Button:

For DSpace: https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/DSPACE/RequestCopy
For EPrints: http://wiki.eprints.org/w/RequestEprint

This ensures that researchers worldwide can immediately request (and authors can  immediately provide, with one click each) a single copy of closed-access deposits  for research purposes even during a publisher OA embargo period.

What makes the HEFCE/REF OA policy so important and powerful is that it ensures that all final drafts are deposited immediately, rather than only after a publisher OA embargo period has elapsed.

The Request-Copy Button in turn ensures that the immediate-deposit does not lie  fallow for a year.

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Coombe, RJ Wershler, D & Zellinger, M (Eds) Dynamic Fair Dealing. U Toronto Press

Stevan Harnad

HEFCE/REF Adopts Optimal Complement to RCUK OA Mandate

There are two essential components to an effective ?Green? OA mandate (i.e., one that generates as close to 100% compliance, as soon as possible):

(1) The mandate must uncouple the date of deposit from the date the deposit is made OA, requiring immediate deposit, with no exemptions or exceptions. How long an OA embargo it allows is a separate matter, but on no account must date of deposit be allowed to be contingent on publisher OA embargoes.

This is exactly what the New HEFCE policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework has done.

(2) Eligibility for research assessment (and funding) must be made conditional on immediate-deposit (date-stamped by the journal acceptance letter). Again, this is in order to ensure that deposits are not made months or years after publication: no retrospective deposit

The deposit requirement for eligibility for research assessment and funding is not itself an OA requirement, it is merely a procedural requirement: For eligibility, papers must be deposited in the institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication. Late deposits are not eligible for consideration.

This engages each university (always extremely anxious to comply fully with REF, HEFCE and RCUK eligibility rules) in ensuring that deposit is timely, with the help of the date-stamped acceptance letter throughout the entire 6-year REF cycle, 2014-2020.

These two conditions are what have yielded the most effective of all the Green OA mandates to date (well over 80% compliance rate and growing) at University of Liege and FRS-FNRS (the Belgian Francophone research funding council); other mandates are upgrading to this mandate model; Harvard FAS has already adopted immediate-deposit as one of its conditions. And now RCUK ? thanks to HEFCE/REF ? will reap the benefits of the immediate-deposit condition as well (see ROARMAP)

OA embargoes are another matter, and HEFCE/REF is wisely leaving that to others (RCUK, EU Horizon2020, and university mandates) to stipulate maximal allowable embargo length and any allowable exceptions. What HEFCE/REF is providing is the crucial two components for ensuring that the mandate will succeed: (1) immediate deposit as a (2) condition for REF-eligibility.

But let me add something else that will become increasingly important, once the HEFCE/REF immediate-deposit requirement begins to propagate worldwide (as I am now confident it will: UK is at last back in the lead on OA again, instead of odd-man-out, as it has been since Finch):

The immediate-deposit clause and the contingency on eligibility for research assessment and funding also ensures that the primary locus of deposit will be the institutional repository rather than institution-external repositories. (Deposits can be exported automatically to external repositories, once deposited and once the embargo has elapsed; they can also be imported from extrenal repositories, in the case of the physicists and mathematicians who have already been faithfully depositing in Arxiv for two decades,)

But besides all that, many of the eprints and dspace institutional repositories already have ? and, with the HEFCE mandate model propagating almost all of them will soon have the email-eprint-request Button:

This Button makes it possible for users who reach a closed access deposit to click once to request a copy for research purposes; the repository software emails an automatic eprint request to the author, who can click once to comply with the request; the repository software emails the requestor the eprint. (Researchers have been requesting and sending reprints by mail ? and lately by email ? for decades, but with immediate-deposit and the Button, this is greatly accelerated and facilitated. So even during any allowable embargo period, the Button will enhance access and usage dramatically. I also predict that immediate-deposit and the Button will greatly hasten the inevitable and well-deserved demise of publisher OA embargoes.)

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

Let me close by noting another important feature of the new HEFCE/REF policy: The allowable exceptions do not apply to the immediate-deposit requirement! They only apply to the allowable open-access embargo. To be eligible for REF2020, a paper must have been deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (with a 3-month grace period).

(No worries about HEFCE’s optional 2 year start-up grace period either: Institutions will almost certainly want their REF procedures safely and systematically in place as early as possible, so everything can go simply and smoothly and there is no risk of papers being ineligible.)

Postscript. Expect the usual complaints from the usual suspects:

(i) “This is a sell-out of OA! It’s just Green Gratis OA, not Libre OA: What about the re-use rights? And if it?s embargoed, it isn?t even Green OA!

Reply: Relax. Patience. A compromise was needed, to break the log-jam between the Finch/Wellcome Fool?s-Gold profligacy and publisher embargoes on Green OA. The HEFCE immediate-deposit compromise is what will break up that log jam, and it?s not only the fastest and surest (and cheapest) way to get to 100% Green Gratis OA, but also the fastest, surest and cheapest way to get from Green Gratis OA to Libre Fair-Gold OA.

(ii) “This is a sell-out to publishers and their embargoes.”

Reply: Quite the opposite. It will immediately detoxify embargoes (thanks to the Button) and at the same time plant the seeds for their speedy extinction, by depriving publishers of the power to delay access-provision with their embargoes. It is also moots the worries of the most timorous or pedantic IP lawyer.

It thereby provides a mandate model that any funder or institution can adopt, irrespective of how it elects to deal with publisher OA embargoes.

And a mandate that can be simply and effectively implemented and monitored by institutions to ensure compliance.

Digital Formality & Digital Reality

Comment on:
Guest Post: Charles Oppenheim on who owns the rights to scholarly articles
Open and Shut
Feb 4 2014]

1. Sixty percent of journals (including Elsevier) state formally in their copyright agreements that their authors retain the right to make their final, peer-reviewed, revised and accepted version (Green) Open Access (OA) immediately, without embargo, by self-archiving them in their institutional repositories.

2. The Elsevier take-down notices did not pertain to the author?s final version but to the publisher?s version of record (and in the case of 3rd party sites like academia.edu they concerned not only the version but the location).

3. The IDOA (immediate-deposit, optional-access) mandate is formally immune to take-down notices, because it separates deposit from OA:

4. For articles published in the 60% of journals in which authors formally retain their right to provide immediate, unembargoed Green OA, they can be self-archived immediately in the institutional repository and also made OA immediately.

5. For articles published in the 40% of journals that formally embargo OA, if authors wish to comply with the publisher?s embargo, the final, peer-reviewed, revised and accepted version can still be deposited immediately in the institutional repository, with access set as Closed Access (CA) during any embargo: only the title and abstract are accessible to all users; the full text is accessible only to the author.

6. For CA deposits, institutional repositories have an email-eprint-request Button with which individual users can launch an automated email request to the author for an individual copy for research purposes, with one click; the author can then decide, on an individual case by case basis, with one click, whether or not the repository software should email a copy to that requestor.

7. It is the IDOA + Button Strategy that is the update of the ?Harnad-Oppenheim Prepint + Corrigenda? Strategy.

8. But of course even the IDOA + Button Strategy is unnecessary, as is definitively demonstrated by what I would like to dub the ?Computer Science + Physics Strategy?:

9. Computer scientists since the 1980?s and Physicists since the 1990?s have been making both their preprints and their final drafts freely accessibly online immediately, without embargo (the former in institutional FTP archives and then institutional websites, and the latter in Arxiv, a 3rd-party website) without any take-down notices (and, after over a quarter century, even the mention of the prospect of author take-down notices for these papers is rightly considered ludicrous).

10. I accordingly recommend the following: Let realistic authors practice the Computer Science + Physics Strategy and let formalistic authors practice the IDOA + Button Strategy ? but let them all deposit their their final, peer-reviewed, revised and accepted versions immediately.

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2012) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

Chicken Little Meets British Humanities in the Times Literary Supplement

In a very silly opinion piece in the Times Literary Supplement, Shakespeare scholar Jonathan Bate — despite noting that until at least 2020 HEFCE has not mandated only for journal articles, not for books — decries shrilly the doom and gloom that the HEFCE mandate portends for book-based humanity scholarship. The gratuitous cavilling is, as usual, cloaked in shrill alarums about academic freedom infringement…

Institutions & Funders: Ignore Elsevier Take-Down Notices (and Mandate Immediate-Deposit)

See Exchange on Elsevier Website regarding Elsevier Take-Down Notices (and please note that this concerns only authors’ final drafts, not Elsevier’s PDF version-of-record):

December 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm
Stevan Harnad: Tom, I wonder if it would be possible to drop the double-talk and answer a simple question: Do or do not Elsevier authors retain the right to make their peer-reviewed final drafts on their own institutional websites immediately, with no embargo? Just a Yes or No, please? Stevan

December 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm
Tom Reller (Elsevier): Hello Dr. Harnad. I don?t agree with your characterization of our explanation here, but nevertheless as requested, there is a simple answer to your question ? yes. Thank you.

December 20, 2013
Stevan Harnad: Tom, thank you. Then I suggest that the institutions [and funders] of Elsevier authors ignore the Elsevier take-down notices (and also adopt an immediate-deposit mandate that is immune to all publisher take-down notices by requiring immediate deposit, whether or not access to the immediate-deposit is made immediately OA)? Stevan 

Do follow Peter Suber’s wise advice to authors to try to retain their right to self-archive with OA un-embargoed — but also deposit your final draft immediately upon acceptance whether or not you make your deposit OA immediately; and make sure your institution and funder both adopt an immediate institutional deposit mandate to ensure that all researchers deposit immediately. (And remember that this all concerns the author’s final draft, not the publisher’s PDF version-of-record.)

Paradoxically, publisher take-down notices for the publisher’s proprietary PDF version-of-record are a good thing for the adoption of sensible, effective OA policies and practices: Sleep-walking authors and their institutions need to be awakened to the pragmatics and implications of the difference between the author’s final, peer-reviewed, revised, accepted version and the publisher’s PDF version-of-record: Green OA is all about the former, not the latter.

Stevan Harnad