Open Access in English

There is a pervasive misconception concerning the much used slogan of Open Access: « Publicly funded research must be made public freely ». The claim is based on the logic that public funders should not pay twice: first for research, then for its publication. In fact, the cost of publication should be included in the cost of research, but in real cost-based pricing while access to reading should be free.
But the misconception is elsewhere. It lies in the identity of the reader. It is true that, when a research ‘paper’ is available on the Internet, everybody who has computer access to it can read it. However, in almost all cases, access is required, specifically searched for and effectively used by scholars and professionals, not by any layperson.
Hence, the debate is derailing when it comes to support Open Access on the controversial basis that the general public should have access to research results freely. The real cause to defend is that scholars whose research can benefit from the reading have free access as soon as a ‘paper’ is peer reviewed and accepted for publication. The rest is cherry on the cake.

The July 2013 Web Ranking of Repositories by Webometrics is out.

As opposed to the now ‘classical’ rankings of Universities, Webometrics is ranking bibliographic repositories, whether institutional or not, based on objective and factual criteria. Hence, it provides a precise and useful rendering of how repositories are functioning.

ORBi (Open Repository and Bibliography), the Université de Liège (ULg) institutional repository, ranks 47th worldwide (out of 1.650, all categories) and has become Belgium’s first. It is 34th in size, 115th for visibility and 68th for the number of full texts.

Belgian rankings :

1) all categories, out of 1.650 :
- ORBi (ULg) : 47th, 20th European.
- LIRIAS (KULeuven) : 50th, 22nd European.
- UGIA (UGent) : 69th, 32nd European.
- DIAL (Académie Louvain: UCL, FUNDP, FUSL) : 716th, 329th European.
- DIFUSION (Académie Wallonie-Bruxelles: ULB, UMons) : 803rd, 372nd European.

2) institutional, out of 1.563 :
- ORBi (ULg) : 33rd.
- LIRIAS (KULeuven) : 37th.
- UGIA (UGent) : 52nd.
- DIAL (Académie Louvain: UCL, FUNDP, FUSL) : 656th.
- DIFUSION (Académie Wallonie-Bruxelles: ULB, UMons) : 714th.

One may wonder why there is such a gap between the repository ranking of ULg, KUL or UGent on one side and that of the other. The most likely explanation is the strength of the mandate.

Imposing firmly to University members to deposit their manuscripts in the repository of their Institution, whether in open or in restricted access, appears to be considerably more efficient than leaving a choice and simply encouraging the deposits. It is not a surprise, but the figures make the point.

As soon as an Institution takes the decision to build a repository, it is nonsense if all the scientific production of its members is not in it. Mandating it strongly is legitimate for the University which need to have a full inventory of its production. The University needs it and will take advantage of it, but the researchers as well will benefit from a larger and faster readership for their cherished work.

The British Government will promote Open Access but the expensive way (The Guardian, this morning), consequently raising the cost for research funds, hence for researchers, to about 50 millions £ per year, in order to open freely access to scientific publications while preserving the big publishing houses’ profits.

This decision, to be taken later today, which appears at first sight as supportive for a free diffusion of research, could well meet one claim of the Open Access worldwide movement (free access to research output) but could also harm considerably the other (fight escalating publication costs).

Extending this imperfect (perhaps even misleading, since one may see only the bright side) example to the entire European Community could damage university research seriously and perhaps durably, at least for the whole transition period while both systems will coexist before all scientific knowledge will be published directly in « Gold » Open Access journals. At that time, the only cost will be that of editing and publishing on line and will include the peer reviewing process. The hybrid system where universities pay to read AND to publish as well is simply disastrous for our budgets and reduces considerably research funding.

We are here at the core of the dilemma: promote research internationally or spare the big publishing houses’ business model.

Long discussions concerning the best way to reach full OA for the scientific literature have flourished on the various Internet fora. However, things can also be said simply. This is what Stevan Harnad just did in an advice to the funding agencies:

The bare minimum essentials are to mandate (require) that:
(i) the fundee’s peer-reviewed, revised, accepted final draft
(ii) of every peer-reviewed journal article resulting from [publicly] funded research

must be

(iii) deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication
(iv) in the fundee’s institutional repository.
(v) Access to the deposit must be made gratis OA (online access free for all) immediately (no OA embargo) wherever possible (over 60 % of journals already endorse immediate gratis OA self-archiving).

For details and nuances about what could be encouraged beyond the bare minimum essentials (e.g., no embargo, libre OA, copyright reservation), see this.

I would simply add that funders may also have their own repositories but should harvest the material directly from the IRs, for the sake of standardization and efficiency, and so contribute to the success of individual IRs.

University leaders can also find advice on ID/OA (immediate deposit/optional access) here and on the EOS website.

Today, at 10 am, the FNRS is gathering worldwide specialists for a Conference on Open Access at the Fondation Universitaire, to celebrate the end of my FRS-FNRS three year presidency, a nice attention…

With Stevan Harnad (UQAM Montréal, Québec, CN / U. Southampton UK /EOS), Philippe Van Parijs (UCLouvain, B.), Jacques Reisse (ULB, B.), Alicia Wise (Elsevier), Carl-Christian Buhr (EC), Alma Swan (EOS), Eric de Keuleneer (Fondation Universitaire, B.), Salvatore Mele (CERN, Geneva, CH), Thomas Parisot (@oncletom, Bordeaux, F.), Jos Engelen (NWO, NL), John Smith (EUA) & Véronique Halloin (Secretary General F.R.S.-FNRS, B.).

The Conference will be webcast live.

British journalist Richard Poynder found the ORBi experiment at the University of Liège remarkable enough to tell it as a success story on his famous blog.

He also interviewed me, to understand better how we had been so successful with such a high participation rate, making our repository the first one in terms of activity: « Today ORBi is the most active institutional repository of its type in the world (Ranking first of 1,418 IRs) ». The interview is freely accessible in pdf.

SPARC Europe publishes an interview with Paul Ayris (pdf) of UCL (University College London) on author’s copyright. An enlightening review for the newcomer.

I should add some precisions to item 13, though: whatever the requirements of the publisher, when the Institution to which the author belongs mandates immediate deposit in the Institutional Repository, it is the latter requirement that prevails. This is done in full accordance with the publisher’s requirements: keep in closed access during the embargo period (most publishers nowadays agree on an immediate open access to articles — let’s set books aside here —, several of them agree on a six-month period, some require a full year, see the list and conditions for each in SHERPA-Romeo). In this case, access is not open but the work can be consulted on demand. In the mean time, it is stored and catalogued in the Institutional Repository, which is essential. Answer to question 13 can thus be more complete.

The 2011 CIHE Engineering & Manufacturing Task Force, established last year by the Council for Industry and Higher Education in the UK, in its inaugural report, is urging universities to share ideas freely. Their motto: « Powering Up; Business and Universities Collaborating for Manufacturing Competitiveness in the New Industrial Revolution ».

The idea is to ask « UK universities to open their knowledge banks and to give more of their ideas away free of charge ». They claim that, « in spite of many successes, universities are spending more than £50 million a year patenting ideas, many of which are commercially worthless ».

To me, this looks like as a total rip-off. And, in addition, it is surfing on the more and more successful wave of Open Access, of which I happen to be a strong supporter. But this is a distorted view of open access, that is taking us back a long way, to the happy times for industry, when data produced by universities were freely transferred to industry for peanuts.

This is not what Open Access is all about! Open access does not interfere with intellectual property. If any patent has to be taken, whether you publish in the traditional mode or in Open access does not make the slightest difference. It is shocking to realise that a respectable institution like CIHE is trying to take advantage of a major revolution in scientific research to sow confusion among researchers and university managers on an essential topic. Although it is true that research done with public resources should be made publicly available, this by no means precludes the other necessary precautions in terms of patenting and licensing. It is all too easy to jump in now and, based on a trendy concept of open access, ask that all walls fall and just help oneself in a free market of scientific data.

As I said, I am a strong supporter of Open Access, but in a very well defined context, where intellectual property rights are perfectly secured. Universities have given away for too long the profit of their work and discoveries. For some time now, they have secured that quite well. They have reacted strongly against crude exploitation by some sharks in the publishing market, this is not the time to relinquish all this progress and be lured by the term « open access » giving away the fruits of their labour.

Facing an increasing demand for an English version of my blog notes on Open Access, I have posted a translation of the most recent ones. I shall try to do so regularly in the future.

The strategy for making bibliographical repositories mandatory is becoming widespread. An interesting post by Heather Morrisson provides an overview of the question.
Ms Morrison describes the spectacular increase in institutional and departmental repositories. Commitments to deposit in ROARMAP have tripled in the last year, largely due to the fact that 26 Finnish institutions have come onboard.
The number of open access journals is constantly on the rise, with 4,4000 titles registered in DOAJ (2 new titles per day in 2009!). OpenDOAR numbers more than 1500 repositories (even though only 8% strictly adhere to the rules of the game; they are the most complete). Scientific Commons, a project to make scientific content available online in open access (open archives) currently includes more than 32 million publications, having added more than 8 million documents in 2009 (i.e. 22,000 publications per day).

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