Deposit Mandates vs. Permission Mandates

In “Open Access – if you build it (for them) they will come?,” Jan R. writes:

Robert Darnton[‘s]… “The Case for Open Access” makes the useful point that Universities will probably be much more effective in building their IRs if they mandate permission (i.e. require faculty to secure and then give the university non-exclusive permission to host their works on the institutional repository) as opposed to mandating deposit (i.e. requiring faculty to do the work of stocking the repository.)

But what Professor Darnton actually wrote (in Feb 2008) was this:

Many repositories already exist in other universities, but they have failed to get a large proportion of faculty members to submit their articles. The deposit rate at the University of California is 14 percent, and it is much lower in most other places. By mandating copyright retention and by placing those rights in the hands of the institution running the repository, the motion will create the conditions for a high deposit rate.

In other words, Darnton was not comparing deposit mandates to permission mandates: he was comparing (actual) repositories without deposit mandates to (hypothetical) repositories with permission mandates (not yet in existence at the time, the world’s first being Harvard FAS‘s, adopted in that month).

There was then (and there still is now, two years later), no evidence at all that mandating permission would be more effective in generating Open Access than mandating deposit. Quite the opposite. Deposit mandates (of which there are more, and of longer standing than permission mandates) have been extremely effective, and that evidence was already there in 2008. In contrast, the effectiveness of permission mandates, which are more recent (beginning in 2008) and less numerous, is not yet known.

Moreover, permission mandates, because they in fact ask for more than just deposit, all have to allow an opt-out clause (for those authors who cannot or do not wish to negotiate permission with their publishers). Hence not only is the effectiveness of permission mandates not yet known: it is not even clear whether permission mandates are indeed mandates at all.

[MIT, the university with the planet’s first university-wide permission mandate, had 850 deposits in March 2010, one year after adoption. This needs to be considered as a percentage of MIT’s annual journal article output: the figure to beat is the current worldwide baseline 20% rate for spontaneous, unmandated deposit. Most deposit mandates are at about 60% within 2 years and well on the road toward 100%. — But I’ve also heard recently that Harvard’s longer-standing FAS policy has more promising compliance rates, which I hope will be reported publicly, by way of feedback and guidance on the effectiveness of the Harvard model.]

The bottom line is that deposit mandates are necessary for OA, whereas permission mandates are (desirable but) not necessary. The optimal solution is hence to mandate deposit, without opt-out, plus permission, with opt-out:

? “Upgrading Harvard’s Opt-Out Copyright Retention Mandate: Add a No-Opt-Out Deposit Clause

? “Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?

? “The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) Mandate: Rationale and Model

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

? “How To Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates

? “On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum