The Accelerating Worldwide Adoption Rate for Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates

In response to Alma Swan’s graphic demonstration (posted yesterday and partly reproduced below) of the accelerating growth rate of Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates (now including NIH, Harvard, Stanford and MIT), Richard Poynder has posted some very useful comments and questions. Below are some comments by way of reply:

FIGURE: Accelerating Growth Rate in Worldwide Adoptions of Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates (2002-2009, in half-year increments) by Research Funders, Institutions, and Departments/Faculties/Schools (Swan 2009)


(1) The latest and fastest-growing kinds of Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates are not only self-chosen by the researchers themselves, but they are department/faculty/school mandates, rather than full university-wide mandates. These are the “patchwork mandates” that Arthur Sale already began recommending presciently back in 2007, in preference to waiting passively for university-wide consensus to be reached.

(The option of opting out is only useful if it applies, not to the the deposit itself [of the refereed final draft, which should be deposited, without opt-out, immediately upon acceptance for publication], but to whether access to the deposit is immediately set as Open Access.)

(2) Another recent progress report for Institutional Repositories, following Stirling‘s, is Aberystwyth‘s, which reached 2000 deposits in May.

(3) Richard asks: “Will the fact that many of the new mandates include opt-outs affect compliance rates? (Will that make them appear more voluntary than mandatory?)”

According to Alma Swan’s international surveys, most authors report they would comply willingly with a self-archiving mandate. The problem is less with achieving compliance on adopted mandates than with achieving consensus on the adoption of the mandate in the first place. (Hence, again, Arthur Sale’s sage advice to adopt “patchwork” department/faculty/school mandates, rather than waiting passively for consensus on the adoption of full university-wide mandates, is the right advice.)

And the principal purpose of mandates themselves is to reinforce researchers’ already-existing inclination to maximise access and usage for their give-away articles, not to force researchers to do something they don’t already want to do.

(Researchers need to be reassured that their departments or institutions or funders are indeed fully behind self-archiving, and indeed expect it of them; otherwise researchers remain in a state of “Zeno’s Paralysis” about self-archiving year upon year, because of countless groundless worries, such as copyright, journal choice, and even how much time self-archiving takes.)

(4) Richard also asks: “What is full compliance so far as a self-archiving mandate is concerned?”

Full compliance is of course 100% compliance, and the longer-standing mandates are climbing toward that, but their biggest boost will come not only from time, nor even from the increasingly palpable local benefits of OA self-archiving (in terms of enhanced research impact), but from the global growth of Green OA Self-Archiving Mandates that Alma has just graphically demonstrated.

(5) “What other questions should we be asking?”

We should be asking what university students and staff can do to accelerate and facilitate the adoption of mandates at their institution. (See “Waking OA?s ?Slumbering Giant?: The University’s Mandate To Mandate Open Access.”)

And the right way to judge the success of a mandate is not just by reporting the growth in an institution’s yearly deposit rates, but by plotting the growth in deposit rate as a percentage of the institution’s yearly output of research articles, for the articles actually published in that same year.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum