Plan B for NIH Public Access Mandate: A Deposit Mandate Stevan Harnad 13 Sep 2008 13:48 UTC

[Apologies for Cross-Posting]

Re: "Bill Would Block NIH Public Access Policy" (Science, 11 September)

Conyers Bill:

Plan B for NIH Public Access Mandate (And It's Stronger Than Plan A!):
A Deposit Mandate

I hope the Conyers Bill, resulting from the publisher lobby's attempt to
overturn the NIH Public Access Mandate, will not succeed.

But in case it does, I would like to recommend making a small but
far-reaching modification in the NIH mandate and its implementation that
will effectively immunize it against any further publisher attempts to
overturn it on legal grounds. And this Plan B will actually help hasten
universal OA more effectively than the current mandate:

(1) NIH should mandate deposit of the refereed final draft of all NIH-funded
research, immediately upon acceptance for publication.

(2) But access to that deposited draft need only be made Open Access when
there is no publisher embargo on making it Open Access; otherwise it may be
made Closed Access.

(3) Open Access means that the full text of the deposited draft is freely
accessible to anyone, webwide, immediately.

(4) Closed Access means that the full text of the deposited draft is visible
and accessible only to the depositor and the depositor's employer and
funder, for internal record-keeping and grant-fulfillment purposes.
(Publishers have no say whatsoever in institutional and funder internal

(5) For all deposits, however, both Open Access and Closed Access, the
deposited article's metadata (author, title, journal, date. etc.) are Open
Access, hence visible and accessible to anyone, webwide.

(6) Now the essence of this strategy: NIH should also implement the "Email
Eprint Request" Button, so that any would-be user, webwide, who reaches a
link to a Closed Access article, can insert their email address in a box,
indicate that a single copy of the postprint is being requested for research
or health purposes, and click.

(7) The eprint request is then automatically transmitted immediately by the
repository software to the author of the article, who receives an email with
a URL that can then be clicked if the author wishes to have the repository
software automatically email one individual copy of that eprint to that
individual requester.

(8) This is not Open Access (OA). But functionally, it is almost-OA.

(9) Many journals (63%) already endorse immediate OA.

(10) Closed Access plus the Button will provide almost-OA for the remaining

(11) That means an NIH Deposit Mandate guarantees either immediate OA (63%)
or almost-OA (37%) for 100% of NIH-funded research.

(12) In addition, an NIH Deposit Mandate will  encourage universities in the
US and worldwide to adopt Deposit Mandates too, for all of their research
article output, not just NIH-funded biomedical research output.

(13) The spread of such Deposit Mandates across institutions and funders
worldwide will inevitably lead to universal OA for all research output
eventually, once the mandates ensure the universal practice of immediate

(14) In addition, because it makes the almost-OA Button even more powerful
and easier to implement -- NIH should stipulate that the preferred locus of
deposit is the author's own Institutional Repository, which can then export
the deposit to PubMed Central using the automatized SWORD protocol.

The fact is (and everyone will see this clearly in hindsight) that, all
along, the online medium itself has made OA a foregone conclusion for
research publications. There is no way to stop it legally.

It is only technological short-sightedness that is making publishers and OA
advocates alike imagine that the outcome is a somehow a matter of law and
legislation. It is not, and never has been.

It is only because we have been taking an obsolete, paper-based view of it
all that we have not realized that when authors wish it to be so, the Web
itself has made it no longer possible to prevent authors from freely
distributing their own writings, one way or the other. There is no law
against an author giving away individual copies of his own writing.

And NIH need only mandate that authors deposit their (published research
journal) writings: giving them away for free can be left to the individual
author. The eventual outcome is obvious, optimal and inevitable.

I strongly urge OA advocates to united under this back-up strategy. It will
allow us to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Stevan Harnad