Open access

Stevan Harnad harnad at ECS.SOTON.AC.UK
Wed May 2 11:20:52 EDT 2012

On 2012-05-02, at 10:49 AM, Quentin Burrell wrote:

> List members might be interested in the following:
> David Willetts is the UK Government's Minister of State for Universities and Science. (His nickname is "Two-Brains"!)

The UK government has engaged Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia to help make UK tax-payer-funded research available online for all.

Open Access to peer-reviewed research (OA) is an important, timely and even urgent goal, and the UK's commitment to providing OA is extremely welcome and commendable. But turning to Jimmy Wales to help make it happen makes almost as little sense as turning to Rupert Murdoch.

Wikipedia is based on the antithesis of peer review. Asking JW to help make sure peer-reviewed research is available to all is like asking McDonalds to help the UK Food Standards Agency make sure that wholesome food is available to all.

The way to make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to all is already known: Make it a mandatory condition of funding that the fundees make it available online to all (OA). 

Britain (RCUK) has already gone a long way toward trying to mnadate just that -- a much longer way than any other country so far. But there are still some crucial implementational details that need tweaking in order to make those mandates work:
1. The requirement has to be to deposit in the fundee's institutional repository (rather than an institution-external repository).

2. The deposit itself must be made immediately upon acceptance for publication (rather than only after a publisher embargo period).
That way the fundee's institution will be empowered to monitor and ensure compliance with the funder mandate. In addition, when there is an allowable publisher embargo on making the immediate-deposit OA immediately, the institution's email-eprint-request Button can tide over immediate research usage needs during the embargo on an automated, accelerated individual-request basis. Institutional deposit will also motivate institutions to mandate OA for all of their research output, not just the RCUK-funded portion.

But these are all implementational details that could be fixed by just updating the language of the RCUK mandates -- making it explicit that research that is not institutionally deposited immediately loses its funding. Each institution's research grant support office, already so solicitous about complying with all conditions on applying for, receiving and retaining grants will equally assiduously see to it that institutional fundees understand and comply.

But JW does not know any of this. And if he did, he would be no better able to implement it than anyone else. It's the implementation that's needed, to make the broth edible and available to all -- not more cooks (and especially not from McDonalds' kitchens)!

Stevan Harnad

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