What Institutions Can Do To Facilitate the Transition to Open Access

SUMMARY: Leo Waaijers recommends (1) that authors should retain copyright, (2) that institutions should use metrics richer than just the journal impact factor to assess their researchers, and (3) and that “supra-institutional organisations” (such as the European University Association) should “take the necessary initiative” for “[s]witching to Open Access” [OA] from the “traditional subscription model.”
    It is good for authors to retain copyright whenever they can, but
it is not necessary — and hence gratuitously raises the bar — if stipulated as a precondition for providing or mandating OA: The only thing necessary for providing or mandating OA is that authors should deposit in their Institutional Repositories (IRs) (and that their institutions and funders should mandate that they deposit) the final drafts of their peer-reviewed journal articles, which 63% of journals already formally endorse making OA immediately upon acceptance. (The remaining 37% can be provisionally deposited in Closed Access, likewise immediately upon acceptance, with the IR’s semi-automatic “email eprint request” button tiding over all user needs during any publisher embargo, during which the author can also try to negotiate copyright retention with the publisher, if he wishes. But on no account should copyright retention be required as a precondition, either for depositing or for adopting an institutional mandate to deposit.)
    It is good to use richer metrics, but these will not generate OA; rather, OA will generate richer metrics.
    Institutions can mandate deposit in IRs, and deposits can be made OA, but this is Green OA self-archiving of articles published in “traditional subscription model” journals; it is not Gold OA journal publishing. Institutions and funders cannot mandate that publishers switch to Gold OA publishing, nor should they try to mandate that authors switch to Gold OA journals just for the sake of providing OA, since OA can already be provided by mandating Green OA self-archiving, without constraining authors’ choice of journal.

In Ariadne 57, October 2008, Leo Waaijers has written an article on “What Institutions Can Do to Ease Open Access.”

Since Open Access (OA) itself needs no “easing,” I assume that what Leo meant was something more like: “What Institutions Can Do to Facilitate a Transition to Open Access.”

In his article, Leo made three recommendations, which I discuss in an exchange below:

On 1-Dec-08 Leo Waaijers wrote in SPARC-OAForum:

Dear Stevan,

Most authors do not self-archive their publications spontaneously. So they must be mandated. But, apart from a few, the mandators do not mandate the authors. In a world according to you they themselves must be supermandated. And so on. This approach only works if somewhere in the mandating hierarchy there is an enlightened echelon that is able and willing to start the mandating cascade.

Leo, you are quite right that in order to induce authors to provide Green OA, their institutions and funders must be induced to mandate that they provide Green OA, as far too few authors will otherwise do the few requisite keystrokes. Authors can be mandated by their institutions and funders to do the keystrokes, but institutions and funders cannot be mandated to mandate (except possibly by their governments and tax-payers) — so how to persuade them to mandate the keystrokes?

The means that I (and others) have been using to persuade institutions and funders to mandate that their authors provide OA have been these:

(1) Benefits of Providing OA: Gather empirical evidence to demonstrate the benefits of OA to the author, institution, and funder, as well as to research progress and to tax-paying society (increased accessibility, downloads, uptake, citations, hence increased research impact, productivity, and progress, increased visibility and showcasing for institutions, richer and more valid research performance evaluation for research assessors, enhanced and more visible metrics of research impact — and its rewards — for authors, etc.).

(2) Means of Providing OA: Provide free software for making deposit quick, easy, reliable, functional, and cheap, for authors as well as their institutions. Provide OA metrics to monitor, measure and reward OA and OA-generated research impact.

(3) Evidence that Mandating (and Only Mandating) Works: Gather empirical data to demonstrate that (a) the vast majority of authors (> 80%) say, when surveyed, that they would deposit willingly if it were mandated by their institutions and/or funders, but that they will not deposit if it is not mandated (< 15%) (Alma Swan’s surveys); and that (b) most authors (> 80%) actually do what they said in surveys they would do (deposit if it is mandated [> 80%] and not deposit if it is not mandated [< 15%] even if they are given incentives and assistance [< 30%] (Arthur Sale’s Studies).

(4) Information about OA: Information and evidence about the means and the benefits of providing OA has to be widely and relentlessly provided, in conferences, publications, emails, discussion lists, and blogs. At the same time, misunderstanding and misinformation have to be unflaggingly corrected (over and over and over!)

There are already 58 institutional and funder Green OA mandates adopted and at least 11 proposed and under consideration. So these efforts are not entirely falling on deaf ears (although I agree that 58 out of perhaps 10,000 research institutions [plus funders] worldwide — or even the top 4000 — is still a sign of some hearing impairment! But the signs are that audition is improving…)

To create such a cascade one needs water (i.e. arguments) and a steep rocky slope (i.e. good conditions). The pro OA arguments do not seem to be the problem. In all my discussions over the last decade authors, managers and librarians alike agreed that the future should be OA also thanks to you, our driving OA archivangelist.

But alas it is not agreement that we need, but mandates (and keystrokes)! And now — not in some indeterminate future.

So, it must be the conditions that are lacking. This awareness brought me to the writing of an article about these failing conditions. Only if we are able to create better conditions mandates will emerge and be successful on a broad scale. A fortiori, this will make mandates superfluous.

I am one of the many admirers of your splendid efforts and successes in the Netherlands, with SURF/DARE, “Cream of Science,” and much else.

But I am afraid I don’t see how the three recommendations made in the Ariadne article will make mandates emerge (nor how they make mandates superfluous). On the contrary, I see the challenge of making the three recommendations prevail to be far, far greater than the challenge of getting Green OA self-archiving mandates to be adopted. Let me explain:

LW Recommendation 1: Transferring the copyright in a publication has become a relic of the past; nowadays a ?licence to publish? is sufficient. The author retains the copyrights. Institutions should make the use of such a licence part of their institutional policy.

Persuading authors to retain copyright is a far bigger task than just persuading them to deposit (keystrokes): It makes them worry about what happens if their publisher does not agree to copyright retention, and then their article fails to be published in their journal of choice.

Doing the c. 6-minutes-worth of keystrokes that it takes to deposit an article — even if authors can’t be bothered to do those keystrokes until/unless it is mandated — is at least a sure thing, and that’s the end of it.

In contrast, it is not at all clear how long copyright retention negotiations will take in each case, nor whether they will succeed in each case.

Moreover, just as most authors are not doing the deposit keystrokes spontaneously, but only if mandated, they are not doing the copyright retention negotiations either: Do you really think it would be easier to mandate doing copyright retention than to mandate a few keystrokes?

(Harvard has adopted a kind of a copyright-retention mandate, though it has an opt-out, so it is not clear whether it is quite a mandate — nor is it clear how well it will succeed, either in terms of compliance or in terms of negotiation [nor whether it is even thinkable for universities with authors that have less clout with their publishers than Harvard’s]. But there is a simple way to have the best of both worlds by upgrading the Harvard copyright-retention mandate with opt-out into a deposit mandate without opt-out that is certain to succeed, and generalizable to all universities — the Harvards as well as the Have-Nots. To instead require successful copyright renegotiation as a precondition for providing OA and for mandating OA, however, would be needlessly and arbitrarily to raise the bar far higher than it need be — and already is — for persuading institutions and funders to mandate deposit at all: “Upgrade Harvard’s Opt-Out Copyright Retention Mandate: Add a No-Opt-Out Deposit Clause.”)

LW Recommendation 2: The classic impact factor for a journal is not a good yardstick for the prestige of an author. Modern digital technology makes it possible to tailor the measurement system to the author. Institutions should, when assessing scientists and scholars, switch to this type of measurement and should also promote its further development.

This is certainly true, but how does using these potential new impact metrics generate OA or OA mandates, or make OA mandates superfluous? On the contrary, it is OA (and whatever successfully generates OA) that will generate these new metrics (which will, among other things, in turn serve to increase research impact, as well as making it more readily measurable and rewardable)!

Brody, T., Carr, L., Gingras, Y., Hajjem, C., Harnad, S. and Swan, A. (2007) Incentivizing the Open Access Research Web: Publication-Archiving, Data-Archiving and Scientometrics. CTWatch Quarterly 3(3).

Harnad, S. (2007) Open Access Scientometrics and the UK Research Assessment Exercise. In Proceedings of 11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics 11(1), pp. 27-33, Madrid, Spain. Torres-Salinas, D. and Moed, H. F., Eds. h

Harnad, S. (2008) Validating Research Performance Metrics Against Peer Rankings. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 8 (11) doi:10.3354/esep00088 The Use And Misuse Of Bibliometric Indices In Evaluating Scholarly Performance

Shadbolt, N., Brody, T., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2006) The Open Research Web: A Preview of the Optimal and the Inevitable, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Chandos.

LW Recommendation 3: The traditional subscription model for circulating publications is needlessly complex and expensive. Switching to Open Access, however, requires co-ordination that goes beyond the level of individual institutions. Supra-institutional organisations, for example the European University Association, should take the necessary initiative.

The European University Association has already taken the initiative to recommend that its 791 member universities in 46 countries should all mandate Green OA self-archiving! Now the individual universities need to be persuaded to follow that recommendation. The European Heads of Research Councils have made the same recommendation to their member research councils. (I am optimistic, because, for example, 6 of the 7 RCUK research funding councils have so far already followed the very first of these recommendations to mandate — from the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology.) And the 28 universities that have already adopted Green OA self-archiving mandates show that institutional mandates are at last gathering momentum too.

But if it is already considerably harder to mandate author copyright-retention than it is to mandate author self-archiving in their institutional repositories (Green OA), it is surely yet another order of magnitude harder to mandate “Switching to Open Access” from the “traditional subscription model”:

If authors are likely to resist having to renegotiate copyright with their journal of choice at the risk of not getting published in their journal of choice, just in order to provide OA, they are even more likely to resist having to publish in a Gold OA journal instead of in their journal of choice, just in order to provide OA — especially as they need do neither: They need merely self-archive.

And journal publishers are likely to resist anyone trying to dictate their economic model to them. (Moreover, publishers’ economic policies are beyond the bounds of what is within the university community’s mandate to mandate!)

So mandating Green OA is still the fastest, surest, and simplest way to reach universal OA. Let us hope that the “enlightened echelon” of the institutional hierarchy will now set in motion the long overdue “mandating cascade.”

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum