If we don’t need to read the research results for a while – why not redirect the research funding?

One of the more puzzling arguments made by publishers lobbying against open access is the notion that in some areas, there is a long lag between publication and reading, so a lengthy embargo of multiple years is needed.

If this is the case, it seems obvious to me that if there are other areas – such as keeping up with the latest in my own field of communication, advancing medical research, or finding environmentally sustainable energy solutions – where the needs are more urgent, instead of protecting the publishers of the less-pressing research, why not redirect the research funding?

Not that I am advocating such a step be taken – but doesn’t it seem logical?

Addition August 1st: this argument is a part of a larger argument, that is, if there is no compelling public interest in viewing the results of publicly funded research – then why is the public funding the research in the first place?

American Psychological Association claims to pay for peer review. Should we send them a bill?

According to this nextgov article, Steven Breckler, executive director for science at the American Psychological Association, says, “One of the major concerns publishers raised is federal funds do not cover the costs of peer review, which is a service the APA journal provides to readers by coordinating a panel of experts to vet a prospective author’s research before publishing it”.

The reality: publishers do not pay for peer review; this is provided on a voluntary basis by the academic community itself.

This is an argument that keeps coming up over and over again, and I am wondering how to get the point across that it is foolish to claim to pay for valuable services that you are getting for free?

In today’s fiscal environment, universities everywhere and certainly universities in the U.S., are dealing with some very tough budget situations. If publishers are claiming to pay for peer review, hey, why not send them a bill?

Update August 1: this should be considered as a (fully justified) educational exercise for the publishing community; for the university sector, it would be folly to pay for peer review. The Research Information Network conducted a scenario exercise which illustrates the considerable economic benefits to the university sector of the current gift economy for peer review: Research Information Network (RIN). (2008). Activities, costs and funding flows in the
scholarly communications system in the UK. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from

The dinosaurs roar, or, does the U.S. need an Outmoded Lab Equipment law?

The publishing dinosaurs, predictably, are predicting that dire things will happen if the U.S. enacts strong public access legislation.

The simple fact is that in the day of the Internet, open access publication is a very great deal more efficient and effective than what was possible with print. One online copy is readily available to anyone, anywhere; plus with full libre open access, allowing for re-use, it is possible to use data mining techniques to much more rapidly advance research.

If the arguments that publishers have invested in this system make sense, here is a thought: why doesn’t the U.S. enact a law protecting manufacturers of outmoded lab equipment? These people have invested in technology, products, and services, and every time a better technology comes along, they need to come up with new and better technology, or go the way of the dinosaurs. If the arguments of the publishing community make sense, so do this.

The Mandate of Open Access Institutional Repository Managers

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 Huddersfield and 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 (but what does deposit in that institution-external repository have to do with U. Huddersfield’s IR, or its IR manager?).

(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); or II. “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 all potential 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!).

Something has definitely been garbled here…

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.

An OA IR manager is not a serials librarian, nor someone appointed to direct or second-guess the future course of serials publishing.

An OA IR manager is someone appointed to make sure the university’s OA IR is filled with its primary target content: the university’s published journal article output.

UKCoRR has a vision of the work of repository management as a professionally recognised and supported role within UK research institutions.” — What is that “professionally recognised and supported role” if it is not filling their institution’s repository with its intended content?

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, only about 20% or articles are self-archived.)

And funds — if any are 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 while the asking price for gold OA is designed to preserve publishers’ current revenue streams and modus operandi, 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’ subscription fees, which are being paid to publishers, by institutions’ libraries.

So how is the road to OA covered with gold, and how is it the way forward?

And what has this to do with the research repository manager’s “professionally recognised and supported role within UK research institutions”?

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 passively (apart from any spare money being spent on pre-emptive gold OA payments) for publishers to convert to gold and release everyone’s subscription money (for incoming journals) to pay their asking price for gold OA (for outgoing articles)?

And while the institution’s library keeps waiting for this to happen directly, of its own accord, is the access, usage and impact of the institution’s research output to continue to be denied to all but subscribing institutions, as it is today, while institutions’ IRs (which already exist, by the way) are 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 do exist, remember) do contain green content (20%) 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 armchair or dinner-table visions of the future of publishing, evoked in the thrall of pre-emptive gold fever (with no critical reflection on or answerability to practical means and ends).

That, perhaps (rather than gold fever), would come closer to a substantive “vision of the work of repository management as a professionally recognised and supported role within UK research institutions.”

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 with 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 Huddersfield’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 Huddersfield’s researchers should be espousing the virtues of green OA mandates to Huddersfield’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 rate of adoption of deposit mandates, 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 unmandated (26% at Huddersfield, perhaps because the IR manager has for five years espoused the virtues of spontaneous deposit so persuasively).

But even fewer commit to gold OA, because it costs money, because most of the top journals don’t offer it, and because 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 or modus operandi, nor to set their asking price.

Besides, none of that is within an OA IR manager’s remit. It has nothing to do with “the work of repository management as a professionally recognised and supported role within UK research institutions.”

An OA IR manager is supposed to get his IR filled with OA’s target content, and that target content is supposed to be, first and foremost, peer-reviewed journal articles, most of which are today still being 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 a “professional and supported” IR manager to go down that road.)

And those who are indeed committed to championing green OA mandates worldwide are beginning to win them.

GS: “The trouble to me is that the [gold OA] 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: “The [gold OA] 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.”

Trying to go directly from the status quo to gold OA is quite simply self-contradictory, like an Escher drawing of an impossible shape:

Institutional subscription access tolls are paid per incoming journal; individual OA publication fees are paid per outgoing article. The money to pay for gold OA fees is tied up in subscription tolls. But institutions cannot cancel their journal subscriptions unless the journals’ contents are accessible to their users otherwise. Institutions are not necessarily even subscribing annually, for their users, to the same journals in which their researchers are occasionally publishing. Catch 22.

(And, as Graham notes, anyone foolish and gullible enough to believe hybrid gold publishers (the ones who charge both subscription tolls + optional gold OA fees) when they say they will reduce subscription tolls proportionately as gold OA fee 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?)

(By the way, the somewhat uneven distribution of wealth on the planet can also be fixed “if we all commit.” That’s not just gold fever, it’s the Golden Rule — but alas far too few in our gene pool are committed to practising it…)

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 “reaising that gold OA is the only way”?

The self-contradiction on the road to there from here is resolved by “realisation”? 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 realisation of theirs? The same thing 34,000 of them did (unsuccessfully) back 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 was not, in fact, the access and impact of their work (which they can already maximize 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 universal availability of green eventually 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, when we’re still at 20% green OA.

And we are certainly getting ahead of ourselves, if we don’t provide the universal green OA first — for that’s what any eventual subscription cancellation windfall is dependent 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 universal 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 who envision “the work of repository management as a professionally recognised and supported role within UK research institutions” would be to focus on their own mandate, which is to fill their own institution’s 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. (No one connected in any way with OA IRs has a more “professionally recognised and supported role within [their] research institutions” then Southampton’s Les Carr and Harvard’s Stuart Shieber, the architects of their respective institutions’ green OA mandates (Southampton‘s being the first and Harvard‘s the most famous). It’s not too late for Huddersfield — or Nottingham, or the rest of the 17,000 universities that have not yet adopted a mandate.

That’s all. And that’s enough. Mandate green OA for your institution and rest will take care of itself, in its own time. But meanwhile your institution’s researchers will “ensure access for all, and increased citations.”

That, after all — not “a good business model” — is the purpose of OA, and hence the mandate of OA IR managers.

See “Waiting for Gold
(from the 2002 BOAI Self-Archiving FAQ).


On 2010-07-30, at 2:50 AM, Charles Oppenheim [CO] wrote in JISC-Repositories:

CO:Mr Stone’s (and other repository managers’) Job Specifications may say something like “your job is to ensure that articles produced by staff in this University are made OA, whether by means of the Institutional Repository or by any other means deemed appropriate.” So, whilst not disagreeing with the argument that the priority should be green repositories, repository managers should not ignore alternative approaches that also produce increased downloads and citations and promote the institution’s reputation. Even if their job specification is tied to their IR, it would be an unprofessional Repository Manager who was not interested in the pros and cons of alternative methods for achieving OA. Being professional means taking a holistic view of things! I see nothing incompatible therefore between Mr Stone’s remarks and being chairman of UKCoRR.”

But GS had written:

GS: “I have been espousing the virtues of green open access for nearly five years? 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? Kurt de Belder… assumed that open access would be via the gold route and if Repositories existed, they would only contain grey literature? I must admit that I am starting to agree with the gold only route?”

And CO has replied:

CO:…priority should be given to green repositories…

If the university repository manager’s “job is to ensure that articles produced by staff in this University are made OA, whether by means of the Institutional Repository or by any other means deemed appropriate,” it is not clear why the job is called “repository manager.”

(It sounds like something more like “publication advisor” — and if that advice is to take the gold only route, then it sounds like an anti-repository manager!)

Rather than twist simple and obvious job descriptions into complicated ideological knots, might it not be more sensible to look carefully at the concrete, practical reasons why repository managers’ “priority should be [filling] green repositories” rather than “the gold only route”?

After all, GS himself wrote that the “trouble to me is that the [gold OA] model only really works if we all commit. Otherwise, you end up paying twice.”

But GS never went on to explain how to surmount this impasse (whereas my posting [above] explains quite explicitly why you could not — unless universal green OA came first).

Yet this impasse did not seem to deter Huddersfield’s green repository manager and UKCoRR’s chairman from announcing that he was “starting to agree with the gold only route” because he “could see that gold open access was a good business model.”

CO:And before Stevan explodes at this posting, let me say (yet again) that I am a strong supporter of the green approach to OA. But I am not blind to the existence, and in some cases success, of alternative OA approaches.”

Indisputably there is not one but two ways to provide OA. (We — CO and 8 other co-authors — defined the two ways ourselves in a Nature Web Focus six years ago:

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

But from the capability of providing OA to some of the planet’s annual 2.5 million refereed journal articles in two different ways, green and gold, it does not follow that each of the ways is capable of scaling up to providing OA to all (or even much or most) of the planet’s annual 2.5 million refereed journal articles.

This is where the sticky Escherian details (about annual percentage green and gold OA, ongoing subscription needs and commitments, double payment, and especially the power of green mandates) come in.

Surely the practical and professional mandate of the newly minted job title “repository manager” is not just a matter of abstract principles but of concrete, practical reality.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Income Models for Supporting Open Access (by SPARC)

Developing a sound business model is a critical concern of publishers considering openaccess distribution. Selecting the model appropriate to a particular journal will depend not only on the expense hurdle that must be cleared, but also on the publisher’s mission objectives, size, business management resources, risk tolerance, tax status, and institutional or corporate affiliation.
This Web site and accompanying guide provide an overview of income models currently being used to support the openaccess distribution of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journals. These resources will be a useful tool both for publishers exploring new potential sources of income and for libraries weighing where to direct meager library funds.
READ or download the guide
Supply-side income models: supply-side models, funded primarily by producers of the content or by proxies that pay on their behalf.
“Income models for Open Access: An overview of current practice” examines the use of supply-side revenue streams (such as article processing fees, advertising) and demand-side models (including versioning, use-triggered fees). The guide provides an overview of income models currently in use to support openaccess journals, including a description of each model along with examples of journals currently employing it. Download the PDF.

Why It Is Not Enough Just To Give Green OA Higher Weight Than Gold OA

MELIBEA‘s validator assesses OA policies using an algorithm that generates for each policy a one-dimensional measure, “OA%val,” based on a number of weighted factors.

In assigning weights to these factors it is it not just a matter of whether one puts a greater weight on green than on gold overall. The devil is in the details. Since MELIBEA’s “OA%val” is one-dimensional, the exact weights assigned by the algorithm matter very much, for in some crucial combinations the “score” can be deleterious to green (and hence to OA itself) by assigning any non-zero weight at all to gold in an OA policy evaluation. I will use the most problematic case to illustrate:

With all the policy components that one can combine in order to give an OA policy a score, consider the relative weighting one is to give to four policy models:

Policy Model 1 neither requires green nor funds gold (gr/go)

Policy Model 2 does not require green, but funds gold (gr/GO)

Policy Model 3 requires green and does not fund gold (GR/go)

Policy Model 4 requires green and funds gold (GR/GO).

One can agree to weight GR/GO > gr/go

One can also agree (as above) to weight GR/go > gr/GO

One can even agree to weight GR/GO > GR/go (although I do have reservations about this, because the potential deterrent effects of over-demanding early policy models on the spread of green OA mandates, but I will not bring these reservations into this discussion)

The problematic case concerns whether to assign a greater weight to gr/GO than to gr/go in the MELIBEA score (i.e., whether gr/GO > gr/go, Policy 4 vs. Policy 3).

I am strongly opposed to weighting gr/GO > gr/go, because I am convinced that when an institution adopts a premature gold payment policy without first adopting a green requirement policy, this diminishes rather than increases the likelihood of an upgrade to a green requirement.

So in that case, despite the fact that a gr/GO policy no doubt generates somewhat more OA than gr/go, this small local increase OA is not better for the growth of OA overall. Rather, it reinforces the widespread misconception that the way to generate OA is to pay for gold OA (and then wait for others to do the same). Such a policy neglects the much more important need to mandate green OA, cost-free, first. It tries to pay for OA even while subscriptions are still paying the full cost of publication, hence still tying down most of the potential funds to pay for gold OA. Giving a gr/GO policy a higher weight than gr/go obscures the fact that paid gold can only cover a small fraction of an institution’s output, and at an extra cost, whereas requiring green covers all of it, and at no extra cost.

There are ways to remedy this, algorithmically (for example, by giving GO a non-zero weight only when GR also has a non-zero weight).

The important point to note, however, is that these algorithmic subtleties are not resolved by simply stating that one assigns a higher weight — even a much higher weight — to GR than to GO: Promoting the right priorities in OA policy design requires a much more nuanced approach.

Regarding the question of IR (institutional repository) vs CR (central repository) deposit too, the devil is in the details. Just as one more Gold OA article is indeed one more piece of OA, exactly as one more Green OA deposit is, so too one more CR deposit is indeed one more piece of OA, exactly as one more IR deposit is.

But the goal is to weight the algorithm to promote stronger policy models, not just to promote isolated increments in OA. And just as a policy that pays for gold without mandating green is generating only a little more OA at the expense of not generating a lot more OA, so a funder policy that mandates CR deposit instead of IR deposit is generating only a little more OA at the expense of not generating a lot more OA (by reinforcing — at no cost, and with no loss in OA — the adoption of a cooperative, convergent IR deposit policy for the rest of each institution’s output, funded and unfunded, across all its discipline, instead of gratuitously competing with institutional OA policies, by adopting a divergent CR deposit policy).

The problem is not with publishers’ green policies but with institutions’ (and funders) lack of green policies! Over 60% of journals endorse immediate Green OA deposit for the postprint and over 40% more for the preprint (hence over 90% of all articles, overall), yet only 15% of articles are being deposited annually overall, because less than 1% of institutions have yet mandated deposit.

This is the real gap that needs to be closed — and can be closed, immediately, by mandating Green OA. And this is what is completely overlooked by institutions and funders hurrying to pay for gold OA instead of first mandating green OA, or funders needlessly mandating CR deposit instead of IR deposit.

The fact is that there are still much fewer than even 1% mandates (about 160, out of a total of perhaps 18,000 universities plus 8,000 research institutions and at least several hundred major funders, funding across multiple institutions, worldwide). The lesson before us is hence most definitely not that mandates are not enough; it is that there are not enough mandates — far from it.

Gold OA payment is minor matter, providing a small amount of OA, whereas green OA mandates are a major priority, able to scale up to providing 100% OA. Gold is nothing but a distraction — for either an institution or a funder — until and unless it first mandates green.

Nor is the problem that publishers are only paying lip-service to repository deposit. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of institutions and funders are still only paying lip service to repository deposit — instead of mandating it.

Nor will funders and institutions pre-emptively paying publishers for gold without first mandating green (while subscriptions are still paying for publishing, tying up the potential funds to pay for gold) solve the problem of getting green mandated by institutions and funders.

For these reasons it is not enough, in evaluating OA Policy factors, just to give Green OA a higher weight than Gold OA.

Ameliorating MELIBEA’s Open Access Policy Evaluator

SUMMARY: The MELIBEA evaluator of Open Access policies could prove useful in shaping OA mandates — but it still needs a good deal of work. Currently it conflates institutional and funder policies and criteria, mixes green and gold OA criteria, color-codes in an arbitrary and confusing way, and needs to validate its weights (e.g., against policy success criteria such as the percentage and growth rate of annual output deposited since the policy was adopted).

The MELIBEA Open Access policy validator is timely and promising. It has the potential to become very useful and even influential in shaping OA mandates — but that makes it all the more important to get it right, rather than releasing MELIBEA prematurely, when it still risks increasing confusion rather than providing clarity and direction in OA policy-making.

Remedios Melero is right to point out that — unlike the CSIC Cybermetrics Lab‘s ‘s University Rankings and Repository Rankings — the MELIBEA policy validator is not really meant to be a ranking. Yet MELIBEA has set up its composite algorithm and its graphics to make it a ranking just the same. 

It is further pointed out, correctly, that MELIBEA’s policy criteria for institutions and funders are not (and should not be) the same. Yet, with the coding as well as the algorithm, they are treated the same way (and funder policy is taken to be the generic template, institutional policy merely an ill-fitting special case). 

It is also pointed out, rightly, that a gold OA publishing policy is not central to institutional OA policy making — yet there it is, contributing sizeable components to the MELIBEA algorithm.

It is also pointed out that MELIBEA’s green color code has nothing to do with the “green OA” coding — yet there it is — red, green yellow — competing with the widespread use of green to designate OA self-archiving, and thereby inducing confusion, both overt and covert.

MELIBEA could be a useful and natural complement to the ROARMAP registry of OA policies. I (and no doubt other OA advocates) would be more than happy to give MELIBEA feedback on every aspect of its design and rationale.

But as it is designed now, I can only agree with Steve Hitchcock’s points and conclude that consulting MELIBEA today would be likely to create and compound confusion rather than helping to bring the all-important focus and direction to OA policy-making that I am sure CSIC, too, seeks, and seeks to help realize.

Here are just a few prima facie points:

(1) Since MELIBEA is not, and should not be construed as a ranking of OA policies — especially because it includes both institutional and funder policies — it is important not to plug it into an algorithm until and unless the algorithm has first been carefully tested, with consultation, to make sure it weights policy criteria in a way that optimizes OA progress and guides policy-makers in the right direction.

(2) For this reason, it is more important to allow users to generate separate flat lists of institutions or funders on the various policy criteria, considered and compared independently, rather than on the basis of a prematurely and arbitrarily weighted joint algorithm.

(3) This is all the more important since the data are based on less then 200 institutions, whereas the CSIC University Rankings are based on thousands. Since the population is still so small, MELIBEA risks having a disproportionate effect on initial conditions and hence direction-setting; all the more reason not to amplify noise and indirection by assigning untested initial weights without carefully thinking through and weighing the consequences.

(4) A potential internal cross-validator of some of the criteria would be a reliable measure of outcome — but that requires much more attention to estimating the annual size and growth-rate of each repository (in terms of OA’s target contents, which are full-text articles), normalized for institution size, annual total target output (an especially tricky denominator problem in the case of multi-institutional funder repositories) and the age of the policy. Policy criteria (such as request/require or immediate/delayed) should be cross-validated against these outcome measures (such as percentage and growth rate of annual target output) in determining the weights in the algorithm.

(5) The MELIBEA color coding needs to be revised — and revised quickly, if there is to be an algorithm at all. All those arbitrary colors in the display of single repositories as ranked by the algorithm are both unnecessary and confusing, and the validator is not comprehensibly labelled. The objective should be to order and focus clearly and intuitively. Whatever is correlated with more green OA output (such as a higher level or faster growth rate in OA’s target content, normalized) should be coded as darker or bigger shades of green. The same should be true for the policy criteria, separately and jointly: in each case, request/require, delayed/immediate, etc., the greenward polarity is obvious and intuitive. This should be reflected in the graphics as well as in any comparative rankings.

(6) If it includes repositories with no OA policy at all (i.e., just a repository and an open invitation to deposit) then all MELIBEA is doing is duplicating ROAR and ROARMAP, whereas its purpose, presumably, is to highlight, weigh and compare specific policy differences among (the very few) repositories that DO have policies.

(7) The sign-up data are also rather confusing; the criteria are not always consistent, relevant or applicable. The sign-up seems to be designed to make a funder-mandate the generic option, whereas this is quite the opposite of reality. There are far more institutions and institutional repositories and policies than there are funders, many of the funder criteria do not apply to institutions, and many of the institutional criteria make no sense for funders. There should be separate criterial lists for institutional policies and for funder policies; they are not the same sort of thing. There is also far too much focus and weight on gold OA policy and payment. If included at all, they should only be at the end, as an addendum, not the focus at the beginning, and on a par with green OA policy. 

(8) There is also potential confusion on the matter of “waivers” or “opt-outs”: There are two aspects of a mandate. One concerns whether or not deposit is required (and if so, whether that requirement can be waived) and the other concerns whether or not rights-reservation is required (and if so, whether that requirement can be waived). These two distinct and independent requirements/waivers are completely conflated in the current version of MELIBEA.

I hope there will be substantive consultation and conscientious redesign of these and other aspects of MELIBEA before it can be recommended for serious consideration and use.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

The role of the research library in an emerging global public sphere (LIBER keynote)

The text and powerpoint of my keynote at the 39th annual LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries) Conference is now available.


Presents a vision of a potential future global public sphere, why it is needed and signs of emergence, and the role of the research library in this global public sphere, as provider of a distributed knowledge commons, preserver of scholarly information, and source of specialized expertise. Key short-term transitional steps are covered, particularly transition to a fully open access scholarly publishing system.

Note: I’ll post a link to the webcast once this is available.

Funders Should Mandate Institutional Deposit (and, if desired, central harvest)

SUMMARY: The most effective and natural way to ensure that all institutions — the universal providers of all research, funded and unfunded, in all fields — provide open access (OA) to all of their peer-reviewed research (funded and unfunded, in all fields) is for both funders and institutions to mandate cooperative, convergent deposit, by the author, in the author’s own institutional repository, rather than competitive, divergent institutional-and/or-institution-external deposit by authors-and/or-publishers.

1. It is important for OA advocates to understand that it is not PubMed Central (PMC) that is making biomedical articles open access (OA) — it is the depositors of those articles. In the case of PMC, those depositors are authors (and publishers). PMC is serving both as a locus of deposit (i.e., a central, subject-based repository) and as a locus of search and use (like google).

2. The reason PMC has as much OA content as it does is the NIH OA mandate, requiring deposit — not the fact that PMC is a central locus of deposit.

3. The NIH mandate is a very good thing, and if OA is desired in other funded fields, the funders should mandate OA, as NIH and other funders have done (and as FRPAA is proposing to do).

4. But the fact that NIH requires direct deposit in PMC is not a good thing, even though it is being mindlessly imitated by some other funders and fields.

5. The universal providers of all research, funded and unfunded, in all fields, are institutions (the world’s universities and research institutes).

6. Hence, in order to ensure that all research, funded and unfunded, in all fields is made OA, it is essential that the universal providers, the institutions, mandate providing OA to their own research output.

7. Most research universities already have their own institutional repositories (IRs), but most do not yet require their researchers to deposit their research output in them; for universal OA, the world’s universities and research institutes must all mandate OA.

8. But if funder mandates stipulate that deposit must be institution-external (e.g. in PMC, or other institution-external repositories) then funder mandates not only fail to encourage and reinforce the incentive of institutions (the universal providers) to mandate OA (for all the rest of their research output, funded and unfunded, in all fields), but they compete with and discourage it, by needlessly requiring direct deposit elsewhere (and hence the deterrent prospect of authors having to do duplicate or multiple deposit, should their institution consider mandating OA for all of its research output).

9. For funders to split the task of fulfilling their OA mandates arbitrarily between authors and publishers is even more counterproductive, making it ambiguous who must deposit what, and ceding responsibility and control over when the deposit is done to publishers, whose own interests are not aligned with doing but with delaying deposit.

10. For these reasons, funders should unequivocally assign full responsibility for complying with their OA mandates to their fundees (and their institutions); those are in any case the only parties actually bound by or beholden to the funder’s mandate — and their own interests are aligned with immediate deposit rather than delay. 

11. The most reliable, effective and natural way to ensure that all institutions — the universal providers of all research, funded and unfunded, in all fields — provide OA to all of their peer-reviewed research articles (funded and unfunded, in all fields) is accordingly for both funders and institutions to mandate cooperative, convergent deposit, by the authoronce — in the author’s own own institutional repository, rather than competitive, divergent institutional-and/or-institution-external deposit by authors-and/or-publishers.

12. Central collections like PMC can then be harvested (or automatically exported, e.g. via SWORD) from the distributed, mandated IRs, rather than being deposited (or double-deposited) into directly.  (General web content providers do not deposit directly in Google either; they host their own content locally and then Google and others harvest it!)

13. Of course, if an author or institution does not yet have an IR, it is fine to deposit in a central IR like DEPOT that has been created specifically for that purpose.

14. It has been a historic (but correctable) strategic mistake (by NIH and its imitators) to cause funder and institutional mandates to diverge and compete, because funders needlessly insist upon direct institution-external deposit.

15. There is no need to imitate this initial counterproductive trend, by founding still more central repositories and encouraging  funders to require direct deposit in them: 

16. This gratuitously dysfunctional trend should be countered, by encouraging funders to mandate institutional deposit, and by ensuring that central collections are harvested from distributed IRs, rather than being designated as the loci of direct deposit.


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

How To Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates” 

Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?

Conflating OA Repository-Content, Deposit-Locus, and Central-Service Issues

Institutional vs. Central Repositories: 2 (of 2)

Institutional vs. Central Repositories: 1 (of 2)

Swan, A., Needham, P., Probets, S., Muir, A., Oppenheim, C., O?Brien, A., Hardy, R., Rowland, F. and Brown, S. (2005) Developing a model for e-prints and open access journal content in UK further and higher education. Learned Publishing 18 (1). pp. 25-40.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Good works (social housing) in progress in Vancouver

Observed in a completely non-scientific way in my last foray into the heart of the City of Vancouver: construction work underway on 3 sizable housing projects targeted to people in need of support as well as housing. Kudos to the Province of BC and the City of Vancouver for this work, especially during tough fiscal times.

Those of us who advocate for the public good should try to remember to notice and say thank you when our politicians are doing things right, not just critique when they aren’t. It is not likely that these few projects will solve the problems of homelessness or lack of support for the mentally ill in Canada, but they are a step in the right direction. If this is what my tax dollars are going to support, that’s a good thing, and I for one would like to see more along these lines.