Maximizing Research Impact
Through Institutional and National
Open-Access Self-Archiving Mandates
Research Chair in
Université du Québec à Montréal
and Computer Science
University of Southampton
When Harold Varmus's very timely and influential 1999 Ebiomed Proposal (a pot-pourri of ideas about publishing, journals, archiving, peer-review, and what would eventually come to be called "Open Access" or "OA") (Bailey 2006) managed to elicit staunch opposition from its foes and constructive criticism from its friends -- but very little in the way of actual OA -- it led to the creation of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), whose first action was to launch an Open Letter, signed by 34,000 biologists worldwide, threatening to boycott their journals Ð i.e., to cease publishing in or refereeing for them -- unless by September 2001 they began to make their contents OA (within 6 months of publication).
Now suppose that -- in addition to performing the keystrokes required to sign the 2001 PLoS Open Letter (pledging to boycott journals unless they become OA journals), each of the 34,000 PLoS signatories had also performed (or deputized a librarian, secretary or student to perform for them) the few further keystrokes it would have taken to make just one of their own year-2001 articles OA by self-archiving it, free for all, on the web (Harnad 1978, 1990, 1991, 1995; 2003; 2006). The number of OA articles (34,000) resulting from just that minimal act would already represent 60% of the approximately 55,000 Biology articles indexed by ISI in 2001; it would also have exceeded twice the total number of articles published by both BioMed Central and PLoS journals from 2001 to the present day (c. 16,000) And all at the cost of only a few keystrokes more per article than what it cost to sign the PLoS petition.
Yet the only thing researchers did in 2001 was to sign the PLoS Open Letter demanding that their journals should give them OA. They then waited, passively, for the journals to comply with their demand for OA. Most journals did not comply directly; of the 24,000 peer-reviewed journals that exist in 2006, only about 2000 of them (less than 10%) have converted to (or already were) OA ("gold") journal (Harnad et al. 2004). However, since 2001, in response to researchers' expressed wish for OA, over 90% of journals have given their authors their "green light" to self-archive their own articles online to make them OA if they wish (Figure 1). Yet today most researchers still seem ready to keep on waiting, passively, for more OA journals to be created or converted, one by one. Meanwhile spontaneous self-archiving continues to hover at about 5-25%, depending on the field and year
Figure 1. 93% of journals endorse self-archiving (68% postprint, 25% preprint)
There seems to be a note of inconsistency in this. Researchers feel they need and want OA badly enough to demand it from their journals, even threatening (rather idly, as it turns out to have been a bluff) to stop submitting to and peer-reviewing for the journals that decline to give them the OA they need and want so much. The needing and wanting have an unassailable objective basis because the benefits of OA are clearly demonstrated by the objective evidence of the dramatic citation impact advantage provided by OA, so: But is there an equally unassailable subjective basis, if the needing and wanting are not sufficient to induce researchers to do (or delegate) for themselves the few keystrokes that are the only thing standing between them and 100% OA?
have hinted at the answer: Yes, they need and want OA. But there are
demands on their time too, and they will only perform the requisite
if their employers and/or funders require
it, just as it is already their employers and funders who require them
the keystrokes to publish (or perish) in the first place. It is
funders who set researchers' priorities, because it is employers and
performance (Diamond 1986;
Today, although only about 15% of research is being self-archived
researchers sampled report that they would self-archive if required to do
so by their employers and/or
funders: 81% of them willingly,
reluctantly; only 5% would not comply with the requirement (Swan &
Brown 2005; Figure
2). And in the
four objective tests of this self-reported prediction so far, all four
institutions that have mandated self-archiving have fully confirmed it,
their self-archiving rates well above the spontaneous 15% baseline rate
firmly on the road toward 100% (Southampton-ECS,
University of Technology, U.
Minho and CERN).
2: JISC/Key Perspectives Survey
of 1296 research
disciplines and countries. Asked whether they would comply with a
requirement from their employer or funder to self-archive, 95% replied
that they would (81% willingly; 14% reluctantly). (Swan & Brown 2005)
So an employer/funder self-archiving mandate is obviously what is missing. But what exactly needs to be mandated? Only the keystrokes for depositing the final draft of the article (plus its bibliographic OAI metadata) in the author's Institutional Repository (IR) (Swan et al. 2005) immediately upon acceptance for publication are required. Going on to set access-privileges to the article as "OA" (full-text access open webwide) is merely encouraged. Access to over 90% of these articles can already be set to OA with the blessing of their publishers. The rest can be restricted to IR-internal access (for institutional employees, employers and funders) for the time being, but their bibliographic metadata (author, title, journal, date, abstract, keywords) will still be as visible to all searchers and surfers webwide as those of the 90% that are already OA, allowing would-be users to email the author to request an eprint. Emailing eprints can bridge the gap until either the remaining non-green journals give self-archiving their blessing or the author tires of doing the superfluous keystrokes to email the eprints and simply does the last keystroke to set access at OA. Either way, mediated OA will already be providing effective 100% OA as of the implementation of the keystroke-policy.
Such an immediate-deposit ("keystroke") policy -- leaving no loopholes for any exceptions or delays -- is what Research Councils UK (RCUK) has been recommended by the UK Selective Committee on Science and Technology to mandate. The rest of the planet will follow suit. And Nature will take care of the rest.
Figure 3. In all
disciplines, articles (within the same journal issue) that
are self-archived have more citations than those that are not. (Hajjem et
the 2.5 million articles published annually are being spontaneously
self-archived worldwide today. Creating an Institutional
encouraging staff to self-archive their articles therein is a good
but it is not
sufficient to raise the self-archiving rate appreciably above the
baseline for spontaneous self-archiving. Adding
library help to encourage and assist staff to self-archive raises the
self-archiving rate somewhat, but insufficiently
correct measure of institutional success in self-archiving is the ratio
annual self-archived articles in an institution's IR relative to that
institution's total annual article output. The only institutions that
approaching a 100% annual self-archiving rate today are those that not
create an IR and provide library help for depositing, but also adopt a
self-archiving policy requirement or mandate (2006a,b,c).
A self-archiving mandate is a simple and natural extension of institutions' already existing mandate to publish research findings ("publish or perish"); it is already linked to incentives (Waaijers 2006) by the fact that staff are promoted and funded on the basis of research performance indicators, of which citation impact is a prominent correlate, as in the RAE.
As noted above, two international, cross-disciplinary JISC surveys have found that 95% of authors will comply with a self-archiving mandate (81% willingly, 14% reluctantly). The four institutions worldwide that have adopted a self-archiving mandate to date (CERN in Switzerland, Queensland University of Technology in Australia, Minho University in Portugal, and the ECS Department at University of Southampton) have each confirmed the outcome of the JISC author surveys, with their institutional self-archiving rates reliably climbing toward 100%,whereas institutions without mandates remain at the 15% spontaneous self-archiving baseline rate.
All research institutions should now maximise their own research impact and set an example for the rest of the world by adopting a self-archiving mandate (Sale 2006c). Research funders -- both governmental (Suber 2006) and private (Terry & Kiley 2006) -- should reinforce this by mandating that the research they fund must be self-archived in the fundee's IR as a condition of the grant .
(Note that only the depositing itself needs to be mandated. Setting the access privileges to the full-text can be left up to the author, with Open Access strongly encouraged, but not mandated. This makes the university's self-archiving mandate completely independent of publishers' self-archiving policies.)
With their self-archiving policy, early adopters are not only providing a model for emulation be the rest of the research world but at the same stroke they are maximizing their own research impact and research impact ranking. Institutional mandates need have no penalties or sanctions in order to be successful; they need only be formally adopted, with the support of departments, the library, and computing services. The rest will take care of itself naturally of its own accord, as the experience of Southampton ECS, Minho, QUT and CERN has already demonstrated.
The OA Impact Advantage (currently 50-250%) will of course shrink as OA approaches 100%. Right now we are at about 15% OA self-archiving and the advantage is in part (no one can say how large a part) a competitive advantage of the minority 15% OA self-archivers (the head-start vanguard) over the laggard 85% non-OA majority. That makes it partly a race; and clearly, the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong. The competitive advantage is more reason for an individual, institution or nation (like the UK) to self-archive right now (as the RCUK will, we hope, soon be doing).
The OA impact advantage arises from at least the following 6 component factors, three of them temporary (2,3,5), three of them permanent (1,4,6):
1. EA: EARLY ADVANTAGE, beginning already at the pre-refereeing preprint stage. Research that is reported earlier can begin being used and built upon earlier. The result turns out to be not just that it gets its quota of citations sooner, but that quota actually goes up, permanently. This is probably because earlier uptake has a greater cumulative effect on the research cycle.
2. (AA): ARXIV ADVANTAGE, the special advantage of self-archiving specifically in Arxiv for physicists, because it is a central point of call: OAI-interoperable Institutional Repositories are likely -- for many reasons -- to supersede this, so it will eventually make zero difference which OAI-compliant IR one deposits in, as access will be through OAI cross-archive harvesters, not directly through individual OAI Archives.
3. (QB): QUALITY BIAS, arising from article/author self-selection; this does not play a causal role in increasing impact: The higher-quality (hence also higher-impact) articles/authors are somewhat more likely to be self-archived/self-archivers in these early (15%) days of self-archiving: this bias will of course vanish as self-archiving approaches 100%).
4. QA: QUALITY ADVANTAGE, allowing the high-quality articles to compete on a level playing field, freed of current handicaps and biases arising from access affordability differences. A permanent effect.
5. (CA): COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE, for self-archived papers over non-self-archived ones, in early (15%) days; this too will of course disappear once self-archiving nears 100%, but at this moment it is in fact a powerful extra incentive, for the low % self-archiving fields, institutions and individuals.
UA: USAGE ADVANTAGE: OA articles are downloaded and read at
least twice as much. This too is a
permanent effect. (There is also
a sizeable correlation between early
and later citation counts (Brody, Harnad & Carr 2005).)
Of these six component factors contributing to the OA impact advantage, only EA, QA, and UA remain operative in the few fields that are already close to 100% OA, such as Astrophysics and High Energy Physics. Everywhere else, however, the current 15% self-archiving rates still need to do a lot of climbing to reach 100%; so for those individuals, institutions, fields and nations the CA still matters a great deal today.
The UK, being the only country currently contemplating a nation-wide self-archiving mandate thereby stands to gain the biggest competitive advantage by being the first to do so. I have estimated that the UK's gain in research impact would be the equivalent of having invested £1.5bn more into funding research (Harnad 2005). Have I overestimated this advantage in the longer-term, given the likelihood that other countries will follow suit, thereby cutting down on the CA component? It was partly to minimise this that I based my estimate on the lower end of the 50-250% OA impact advantage, underestimating it by using 50%. (It could also be 5 times as great. )
And whereas the Competitive Advantage will indeed shrink and disappear, the Early Advantage, Quality Advantage and Usage Advantage will be going strong. Kurtz et al (2004a, b; Kurtz & Brody 2006) have shown that although articles in a 100% OA field (Astrophysics) do not have longer reference lists, hence do not cite more articles overall, they do have three times higher usage rates (UA). So authors can at last find, access, and decide which articles to cite purely on the basis of their relative merit and quality (QA), no longer biassed by the affordability (hence the accessibility) of the journal in which they happen to be published. So whereas the competitive horse-race (for who self-archives to gain the CA first) will be over at 100% OA, the cognitive horse-race (for which researcher finds what earlier: EA) will continue to favour the swift and the strong.
It is hence fair to say that although the annual £1.5 billion pounds-worth of potential impact that the UK is currently losing because it only self-archives 15% of its research output will shrink (as other nations' self-archiving policies catch up), how much it shrinks will then depend only on the true merit of British research rather than either the UK's head-start in self-archiving or the current differential affordability/accessibility of journals.
1. U. Southampton ECS department was the first department and institution in the world to adopt a self-archiving mandate (2001).
3. ECS designed the first and most widely used software for creating institutional archives (Eprints, 2000), now already used by about 200 institutions worldwide; ECS also created Citebase (2002), the citation-based OA search engine (well before Google Scholar).
4. ECS conducted many of the seminal studies empirically demonstrating the citation impact advantage of self-archiving across all disciplines; ECS also maintains the growing and widely used bibliography of the accumulating findings on the OA Impact Advantage.
6. ECS/Eprints maintains ROARMAP, the Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies, tracking the institutions worldwide that have adopted self-archiving policies, from recommendations to full mandates.
7. ECS/Eprints maintains the ROMEO Directory of Journal Policies on Author Self-Archiving: 93% of the nearly 9000 journals registered to date (including all the principal publishers and the core ISI journals) have already formally endorsed author self-archiving; only 7% of journals have not.
8. ECS/Southampton successfully lobbied the UK Parliamentary Select Committee in 2004 to mandate self-archiving; this led directly to the RCUK self-archiving mandate proposal, the Berlin 3 Policy Recommendation (formulated at Southampton) and the development of RAE submission mechanisms for the world's two principal IR softwares (Eprints, and MIT's Dspace, both written by Southampton's Rob Tansley).
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