Alma Swan on “Where researchers should deposit their articles”

Alma Swan has just posted an excellent overview of “Where researchers should deposit their articles

This clear, solid, sensible essay converges on the essence of a rather divergent series of discussion threads currently ongoing in the American Scientist Open Access Forum.

It is followed up with the preliminary posting of some results from a survey of Institutional Repository (IR) managers which indicate that

(1) The IRs with mandated deposit have the least difficulty collecting content (compared to IRs with no institutional deposit policy at all or merely a policy encouraging deposit).

(2) The IRs with author-only deposit have the least difficulty collecting content (compared to IRs with librarian-only deposit or both author- and librarian-deposit).

(3) The IRs with author deposit have the least difficulty collecting metadata (compared to IRs with librarian-only deposit or both author- and librarian-deposit).

Excerpts from the Alma Swan’s essay:

The issue of which model for Open Access self-archiving is best ? asking researchers to deposit their work in centralised, subject-based repositories or in their own institutional repository ? is again being discussed at length….

“…Chris Awre and I argued three years ago, in our study on ‘Linking UK Repositories‘ (and in a short paper from that study here) that distributed deposit was the best model to aim for, [but] we were arguing from a theoretical standpoint. Only a handful of universities in the UK had at the time shown any sign of understanding what opportunities lay ahead in the way universities disseminate the results of their efforts, and of the responsibilities they have towards society.

[Since then] subject-based collections have been making the running and… until recently most institutions have seemed to be disinterested in supporting the efforts to make research more widely available and used…

“The universities continued to snore but while they did so at least the funders were out of bed, showered and breakfasted. Unfortunately, instead of nudging awake the universities – their partners in research endeavour and the employers of the people to whom they hand out funds ? some big funders let them lie, circumventing them in the mechanics of the Open Access process. I would suggest that in doing this they were failing to take the whole research community’s interests into account…

“Now there are stirrings in the academy… universities finally ‘get it’, which is great for them, for research and for society. Unfortunately, they are getting it later than would have been ideal [because] …many [funder] mandates stipulate [a central repository] as the deposit locus (not so good for the employers of the fundees – the universities).

“[W]e shouldn’t get too wound up about this… but it is a shame that we have arrived at a point where universities, the mainstays of our societies’ research endeavours, have to develop more complex policies than would otherwise have been the case had funders simply directed their grantees to deposit their work in their institutional collections and harvested from there. The funders know where their grantees are, the repository software has a metadata field for funder, so the mechanics are simple. The benefit of such a move would have been to help the universities see the overall plan (earlier than they have done), ensure they put the right infrastructure in place and encouraged them to apply similar polices to cover all the research their employees do. The whole research community would thus be included and benefiting by this time, not just the… communities covered by big funder mandates. I would say that the research funders have rather let down their partners, the universities, in this sense.

“Deposit rates for [funder-mandated repositories] are not yet all they should be…. [P]eople are taking steps to remedy this, but how much easier it is for universities to attain a high level of compliance: they say, quite simply, that the repository is where they will be looking for material to be included in research assessment (and for staff appraisals, promotions boards, tenure committees …)…. [T]here is one thing more important to a researcher than a hypothetical risk of not getting future funding, and that is a non-hypothetical risk of not being employed for too much longer. It sharpens the focus just a tad.

“…So subject-specific collections… should be harvesting from the university repositories all the material that is relevant to that subject. They can provide all manner of nice services on that collection, tailored to the needs of that particular subject community.

Distributed, local deposit works with human nature, researcher preferences and the structure of the international research system, which remains institutionally-based; and the universities – those large, expensive edifices we all pay for and wish to see operate at maximum efficiency – get to collect their own research together and use the collection to manage their research effort so much better than ever before.”