Clumsy solutions point the way to OA?

There’s a thought-provoking column, entitled: The best way to solve our biggest problem: Be clumsy, by Doug Saunders, in The Globe and Mail, September 22, 2007. Excerpt:

When governments face big, nasty problems, they hear contradictory stories from citizens: a) “We need to be forced to change our behaviour;” b) “We need to have regulations to keep things under control;” c) “We need to spend some money on an alternative;” d) “This isn’t a problem at all and you shouldn’t get in our way.” Most times, leaders will choose one of these stories and find a solution that fits it.

The Clumsies argue that our leaders mistakenly strive for elegance, which “means pursuing just one of these stories and, in the process, silencing the other voices.” More often than not, they say, better solutions can be found by giving each of the stories, however contradictory, a piece of policy.

The “Clumsies” are identified in the column as those whose manifesto is the book Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World, edited by Marco Verweij and Michael Thompson.

The focus of Doug Saunders’ column is on “the most pressing issue of our age – climate change“. He argues that “There are some fundamental paradoxes in the climate-change problem that make any single solution self-defeating“.

As is pointed out in the Bangalore Declaration [PDF]:

The resolution of many of the world’s problems, such as emerging infectious diseases, environmental disasters, HIV/AIDS or climate change, cannot be achieved without incorporation of the research from developing countries into the global knowledge pool.

Complex problems such as these require the cooperation of many people in the research and development process. OA provides a powerful framework for co-operation. (Excerpted from The Future of Science is Open, Part 1: Open Access, Bill Hooker, 3 Quarks Daily, October 30, 2006).

Might some paradoxes posed by the open access movement also defy any single solution?

An example is provided by a conflict between two recommendations in the European Research Advisory Board Final Report, Scientific Publication: Policy on Open Access, (EURAB 06.049), December 2006. The first recommendation is:

1. The publication policy should not compromise the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they feel is most appropriate.

The fourth recommendation is:

4. EURAB recommends that the Commission should consider mandating all researchers funded under FP7 to lodge their publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible within 6 months at the latest.

These recommendations are also included in: EURAB’s Proposed OA Mandate: Strongest of the 20 Adopted and 5 Proposed So Far, Stevan Harnad, Open Access Archivangelism, January 15, 2007.

But, how to deal with journals, such as those of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), when its copyright policies do not permit OA within 6 months? (At the SHERPA/RoMEO website, search for information on copyright policies & self-archiving for the publisher American Association for Cancer Research).

If an author, following recommendation #1, chooses to publish in an AACR journal, and is not able to obtain a waiver of the AACR copyright policies (e.g. via mutual acceptance of an appropriate Author Addendum), then recommendation #4 (OA within 6 months) cannot be achieved without violation of this particular publisher’s copyright policy.

What to do? A solution (a somewhat “clumsy” one?) is to permit some violations of recommendation #4, but only via an acceptance of what Peter Suber has called the “dual deposit/release strategy“, and Stevan Harnad has called the “immediate deposit / optional access” strategy. (The latter ID/OA strategy has a focus on University-based Institutional Repositories). An excerpt from the ID/OA version of this strategy:

The deposit — of the author’s final, peer-reviewed draft of all journal articles, in the author’s own Institutional Repository (IR) — is required immediately upon acceptance for publication, with no delays or exceptions. But whether access to that deposit is immediately set to Open Access or provisionally set to Closed Access (with only the metadata, but not the full-text, accessible webwide) is left up to the author, with only a strong recommendation to set access as Open Access as soon as possible (immediately wherever possible, and otherwise preferably with a maximal embargo cap at 6 months).

Please note the word “preferably” in the final part of this excerpt. This permits an author to avoid violating copyright.

Another excerpt from the ID/OA version of this strategy:

[In the meanwhile, if there needs to be an embargo period, the IR software has a semi-automated EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST button that allows any would-be user to request (by entering their email address and clicking) and then allows any author to provide (by simply clicking on a URL that appears in the eprint request received by email) a single copy of the deposited draft, by email, on an individual basis …

Another somewhat “clumsy” strategy? (Perhaps, but it’s one that does provide a solution, by permitting recommendation #1 to prevail over recommendation #4, while still providing a means for individual readers to obtain access).

The CIHR Policy on Access to Research Outputs involves a conflict in principles somewhat analogous to the one outlined above (in relation to the 1st and 4th EURAB recommendations). The first of CIHR’s “guiding principles” is:

* Committing to academic freedom, and the right to publish;

The fifth “guiding principle” is:

* Effective diffusion of research results;

Stevan Harnad’s advocacy of an IR-deposition strategy for CIHR is provided in his blog post No Need for Canadian PubMed Central: CIHR Should Mandate IR Deposit, Stevan Harnad, Open Access Archivangelism, June 10, 2007.

See CIHR Policy on Access to Research Outputs for some additional comments about the policy.

My own view? The CIHR access policy and its implementation will evolve (and, in doing so, may utilize a variety of “clumsy” solutions).


1 Comment »

  1. tillje said

    CIHR’s Policy on Access to Research Outputs is Now in Effect, Ian Graham, Ph.D., Vice-President, Knowledge Translation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Posted February 4, 2008.

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