Top 10 priorities for the OAI community
SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #71
March 2, 2004
by Peter Suber
On February 12-14, I was in Geneva for the third CERN Workshop on the Open Archives Initiative and spoke on the priorities for the OAI community.  Here's a version of what I said. 

I've put the items in natural clusters rather than priority order, and some of them go beyond the area of overlap between OAI issues and OA issues.

Most of these priorities can be summarized in one:  OAI-compliant archives are already here and already useful; so let's get serious about filling them up and taking advantage of the benefits they offer.

(1) Stimulate preprint archiving by killing or documenting the Ingelfinger Rule.

This is the rule adopted at some journals to bar the consideration of articles that have previously been published or publicized.  It's named after Franz Ingelfinger, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Many researchers in all fields are deterred from preprint archiving by fear that it will disqualify them from publishing the same article later in a journal.  Most of their fears are groundless.  But we can only answer their fears by killing the rule or by documenting where it is and is not still in force.  Moreover, if we know where it is in force, then we know where to direct our requests that it be modified at least to permit preprint archiving.

Note to journals:  You can help the cause by making clear on your web site whether or not you follow the Ingelfinger rule. 

(2) Stimulate postprint archiving by making it a condition of research funding.

In exchange for funding, grantees should agree to provide OA to the results of the funded research.  This could be done through OA journals or OA archives.  Both public and private funding agencies have an interest in adopting this policy, since OA will increase the return on their investment in research.  Public funding agencies have the additional rationale that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay a second fee for access to taxpayer-funded research.

For details and qualifications, see my lists of what private and public funding agencies can do to promote open access.

(3) Persuade more OA journals to follow the example of PLoS and BMC and deposit all their articles in OAI archives.

PLoS and BMC deposit their articles in PubMed Central.  One benefit is sharing metatada for resource discovery.  Another is reassuring users that the articles will survive, and survive in OA form, even if the journals die out, are bought up, or change their access policies.  A third benefit is building a critical mass of literature in the interoperable OAI network, which will bring in more authors, more readers, and more developers who can create data services for the network.

(4) Persuade more publishers to follow the example of Inderscience and archive metadata for all their publications, even if the publications are not open-access and even if they are not digital.

This is more effective and less expensive than conventional forms of marketing, at least for research publications.  It could be done for journals, books, software, music, and movies.  Since it promotes products without undermining sales, publishers will have an incentive to pay the costs of doing it both prospectively for new works and retroactively for older ones.  The benefit for publishers is inexpensive promotion; the benefit for the rest of us, again, is to build a critical mass of literature in the OAI network that will attract more authors, readers, and developers.


The Inderscience OAI repository

(5) Persuade more universities to follow the example of Queensland University of Technology, and make deposit in the institutional repository an expectation for all theses, all preprints, and (with a few exceptions) all postprint publications by all faculty.

One way to go beyond the QUT policy is to enforce it for junior faculty through the promotion and tenure committee and enforce it for senior faculty through the deans who give out merit raises.

Another way is to let deposit in any open-access, OAI-compliant archive suffice.  This will allow physicists to deposit once in arXiv, for example, and spare them to the need to deposit again in their institutional archive.  It will let co-authors from different institutions deposit once rather than many times, if this is their preference.

The QUT policy

(6) Archive raw and semi-raw data, not just articles that interpret or analyze data.

Live up to the principles of the OECD's recent Declaration on Access to Research Data From Public Funding (January 30, 2003), signed by ministerial representatives of 34 nations.

There are frontiers beyond mere OA to data, for example, describing data files with metadata, viewing them in a browser, and querying them even in rudimentary ways without the original application.  We should work on adding all these layers of functionality.  But while we work on them, we should at least make the data files OA through OAI-compliant archives.

The OECD's Declaration on Access to Research Data From Public Funding,2340,en_2649_34487_25998799_1_1_1_1,00.html

(7) Design and build what Jean-Claude Guédon calls an Open Access Citation Index.

With all the measurable data available to us about OA resources, we should be able to craft a measurement of usage and impact that is more nuanced and more accurate than the ISI impact factor, more fair to new journals and other new vehicles of scholarship, more timely, more automated, and less expensive.

The natural place to start is with tools like Tim Brody's Citebase, which rates articles according to several impact measurements including citations to the author and citations to the articles themselves.


But in addition to citations and other directly countable parameters of online files, there are promising research projects that use text mining to unearth hidden relationships among texts expressing something very close to what we mean when we talk about impact, influence, or authority within a field.

Jon Kleinberg's work at Cornell

The Knowledge Discovery Laboratory work at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Just last week (February 25) ISI Web of Knowledge and NEC Citeseer announced that they were joining forces to create a Web Citation Index.  The WCI will measure the citation impact of online scholarship, specifically including OA scholarship.  It will cover OA journals and OA archives, and index journal articles, preprints, conference proceedings, technical reports. Some but not all of the results will be available to users free of charge.

Also see this news story by Barbara Quint on the Web Citation Index

(8) Nurture the development of sophisticated auxiliary tools.

For example, we need software to automate the metadata description of a text.  It will be a long time before this will replace human describers.  But in the meantime software could take the first whack at it and then turn it over to a human to review or correct.  We need software to automate the submission or deposit of new content.  We need software to automate reference linking.  We need OAI-compliant archives to support RSS feeds of new resources, or new resources that meet certain conditions e.g. based on type, set membership, or keyword.

(9) Create a directory of OAI data providers as comprehensive, up-to-date, and useful as the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Archives or data providers need such a list so that they only have to sign up in one place in order to guarantee that they will be noticed and harvested.  OAI service providers need to know what is eligible for harvesting.  Authors need to know where they can deposit their work.

There may be a good reason not to make registration mandatory.  But I don't care if the list isn't official as long as it's sufficient.

Until we have a single, sufficient list, here's my list of the better lists.

(10) Use OAI archives to provide open access to more and more of the literature for which permission is either granted or not needed.

Most public domain literature is not even digitized.  What is digitized, even what is under a Creative Commons license, is rarely on deposit in open-access, OAI-compliant archives.  Therefore, we have a lot of work to do.

* Postscript.  It was an honor to speak at CERN, the birthplace of the web.  By chance, I also spoke on Valentine's Day and the second birthday of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.  If Tim Berners-Lee and CERN had not released the WWW technology into the public domain (April 30, 1992), then open access would be the fringe idea of a few dreamers.

CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication:  Implementing the benefits of OAI
Geneva, February 12-14, 2004

Video of most of the speakers and most of the conference presentations are now online.


Read this issue online

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