Archive for January 17, 2007

Patchwork Mandates

Arthur Sale has published an interesting article, entitled The Patchwork Mandate, in D-Lib Magazine 2007(Jan/Feb); 13(1/2).

The article is about a strategy for achieving an institutional OA mandate in the long term, in a situation where the senior executives of the institution are unwilling or unable to establish a top-down mandate. It’s based on evidence that simple bottom-up strategies, with a focus on the voluntary persuasion of individuals, are “known not to work beyond a pitiful participation level“. Instead, the focus is on getting mandates one by one in individual units within the institution (such as individual departments in a university).

The published article was preceded by a preprint, self-archived on November 11, 2006. In a blog news item “Mandating OA department by department“, Peter Suber commented: “In the full paper, Arthur not only gives reasons to try it out, but practical implementation advice. I recommend the strategy and can add two reasons to think that it will work: Faculty are more amenable to persuasion from other faculty than from administrators or librarians, and examples are more persuasive than arguments. The best way to make the case for a strong OA archiving policy is the natural, viral appeal of a successful example“.

Michael Carroll also posted a comment, dated November 20, 2006, in Carrollogos. An excerpt: “He [Sale] is right for the broader reason that open access advocates have to be incrementalists. Open access has occurred thus far and will continue to grow through the combination of top-down and bottom-up strategies that have been working thus far“.

Funding agencies that support a range of disciplines might also be well-advised to pursue a “Patchwork Policy”, so that differences across diverse research communities can be taken into account.

An example has been provided by the Research Councils UK (RCUK), which published an update of its position statement on access to research outputs on 28 June 2006. Excerpts: “The paper reaffirms the Research Councils’ commitment to the guiding principles that publicly funded research must be made available and accessible for public examination as rapidly as practical; published research outputs should be effectively peer-reviewed; this must be a cost effective use of public funds; and outputs must be preserved and remain accessible for future generations“. “In recognition of the diverse research communities served by each Research Council individual Councils will publish guidelines for their communities on access to research outputs in each field. This will ensure that each discipline is best able to respond in ways aligned to their needs“.

As of the beginning of 2007, five of the eight Research Councils of the RCUK have adopted mandates. They are: 1) The Medical Research Council (MRC); 2) The Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); 3) The Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC); 4) The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and, 5) The Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

A prediction: “Patchwork Mandates” will become increasingly popular.

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