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Re: A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy Stevan Harnad 02 Jan 2008 23:24 UTC

                           ** Cross-Posted **

The January issue of Peter Suber's SPARC Open Access Newsletter is superb,
and I recommend it highly as a historical record of the point reached by
the OA movement at this pivotal moment. There is no question but that the
NIH Green OA self-archiving mandate is the biggest OA development to date,
and heralds much more.

There is an important point that does need to be brought out, however,
because it's not over till we reach 100% OA, because mistakes have
been made before, because they took longer than necessary to correct,
and because a big mistake still continues to be made.

First, a slight correction on the chronometric facts:

On Wed, 2 Jan 2008, Peter Suber wrote:

> If NIH had adopted an OA mandate in 2004 when Congress originally asked
> it to do so, it would have been the first anywhere.  Now it will be the
> 21st.

Actually, if the NIH OA mandate had been adopted when the House
Appropriations Committee originally recommended it in September 2004,
it would have been the world's third Green OA self-archiving mandate,
not the first. And Congress's recommendation in September 2004 was the
second governmental recommendation to mandate Green OA self-archiving:
The first was the UK Parliamentary Select Committee's recommendation in
July 2004.

(1) The Southampton ECS departmental mandate was (as far as I know) the
very first Green OA self-archiving mandate of all; it was announced in
January 2003 (but actually adopted even earlier). QUT's was the second
OA mandate, but the first university-wide one, and was announced in
February 2004.

(2) The UK Parliament's Science and Technology Committee Recommendation
to mandate Green OA self-archiving was made in session 2003-04 and
published in July 2004 (i.e., before September 2004, when the US House
Appropriations Committee made its recommendation).

Moreover, the recommendation to mandate self-archiving was not only
part of the BOAI Self-Archiving FAQ from its inception in 2002,
but it actually preceded the existence of the BOAI by several years,
because that self-archiving FAQ already existed and had been recommending
that departments, universities and funders mandate self-archiving since
1999. It was also quite specific about mandating the self-archiving of
the author's final accepted draft, rather than the publisher's PDF.

In contrast, to see where the precursor to the NIH mandate stood in
1999, one must re-read the original e-biomed proposal in May 1999: There was
still a bumpy and meandering road (via the PLoS petition in 2001 and the
Bethesda Statement in 2003) and several false starts and dead ends ahead
(among them the first NIH non-mandate itself!), before the realization
that what had been needed all along was self-archiving and a Green OA
self-archiving mandate.

     "A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy" (Oct 2004)

Now NIH's has indeed instantly become by far the most important of the
Green OA self-archiving mandates to date in virtue of its size and scope
alone, but it still hasn't got it right!

The upgrade from a mere request to an Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access
(ID/OA) mandate was indeed an enormous improvement, but there still
remains the extremely counterproductive and unnecessary insistence on
direct deposit in PubMed Central. This is still a big defect in the NIH
mandate, effectively preventing it from strengthening, building upon
and complementing direct deposit in Institutional Repositories,
and thereby losing the golden (or rather green!) opportunity to scale
up to cover all of research output, in all fields, from all institutions,
worldwide, rather than just NIH-funded biomedical research. A completely
unnecessary, dysfunctional, self-imposed constraint (in much the same
spirit as having requested self-archiving instead of mandating it for
the past three lost years).

Even the benefits of the NIH's excellent decision to mandate immediate
deposit -- thereby offloading the 12-month embargo onto the date of
Open-Access-setting rather than the date of the deposit itself -- are
lost if the deposit is required to be made directly in PubMed Central,
rather than in each author's own Institutional Repository (and thence
harvested to PubMed Central): With direct IR deposit, authors can use
their own IR's "email eprint request" button to fulfill would-be users'
access needs during any embargo).

The hope is that -- recognizing that similar mistakes have been made
in the past, and that that has cost dearly in years of lost OA, and
recognizing that the remedy is ever so simple, with no loss, only gain
("deposit institutionally, harvest centrally") -- the NIH will still
have the sound sense, in the euphoria over the passage of the mandate
itself, to optimise its mandate now, so it can do the maximal good in
the minimal time, across all fields and institutions, worldwide.

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

Stevan Harnad

If you have adopted or plan to adopt an policy of providing Open Access
to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:

     BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
     BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
     a suitable one exists.
     in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
     in your own institutional repository.