Harvard’s Recommendations to President Obama on Public Access Policy

Professor Steven Hyman, Provost of Harvard, the first US University to mandate Open Access, has submitted such a spot-on, point for point response to President Obama?s Request for Information on Public Access Policy that if his words are heeded, the beneficiaries will not only be US research progress and the US tax-paying public, by whom US research is funded and for whose benefit it is conducted, but research progress and its public benefits planet-wide, as US policy is globally reciprocated.

Reproduced below are just a few of the highlights of Professor Hyman?s response. Every one of the highlights has a special salience, and attests to the minute attention and keen insight into the subtle details of Open Access that went into the preparation of this invaluable set of recommendations.

[Hash-marks (#) indicate three extremely minor points on which the response could be ever so slightly clarified — see end.]

?The public access policy should (1) be mandatory, not voluntary, (2) use the shortest practical embargo period, no longer than six months, (3) apply to the final version of the author?s peer-reviewed manuscript, as opposed to the published version, unless the publisher consents to provide public access to the published version, (4) [# require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open repository #] immediately upon acceptance for publication, where it would remain ?dark? until the embargo period expired, and (5) avoid copyright problems by [## requiring federal grantees, when publishing articles based on federally funded research, to retain the right to give the relevant agency a non-exclusive license to distribute a public-access copy of his or her peer-reviewed manuscript ##]?

?If publishers believe they cannot afford to allow copies of their articles to be released under a public-access policy, they need not publish federally funded researchers. To date, however, it appears that no publishers have made that decision in response to the NIH policy. Hence, federally funded authors remain free to submit their work to the journals of their choice. Moreover, public access gives authors a much larger audience and much greater impact?

?If the United States extends a public-access mandate across the federal government, then lay citizens with no interest in reading this literature for themselves will benefit indirectly because researchers will benefit directly?. That is the primary problem for which public access is the solution?

?It doesn?t matter whether many lay readers, or few, are able to read peer-reviewed research literature or have reason to do so. But even if there are many, the primary beneficiaries of a public-access policy will be professional researchers, who constitute the intended audience for this literature and who depend on access to it for their own work?.

?Among the metrics for measuring success, I can propose these: the compliance rate (how many articles that the policy intends to open up have actually been opened up); the number of downloads from the public-access repositories; and the number of citations to the public-access articles. As we use different metrics, we must accept that [### we will never have an adequate control group: a set of articles on similar topics, of similar quality, for which there is no public access ###]?.


Three suggestions for clarifying the minor points indicated by the hash-marks (#):

[#?require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open repository? #]

(add: ?preferably the fundee?s own institutional repository?)

[##?requiring federal grantees, when publishing articles based on federally funded research, to retain the right to give the relevant agency a non-exclusive license to distribute a public-access copy of his or her peer-reviewed manuscript? ##]

(add: ?the rights retention and license are desirable and welcome, but not necessary if the publisher already endorses making the deposit publicly accessible immediately, or after the allowable embargo period?)

[### “we will never have an adequate control group [for measuring the mandate’s success]: a set of articles on similar topics, of similar quality, for which there is no public access” ###]

(add: ?but closed-access articles published in the same journal and year as mandatorily openaccess articles do provide an approximate matched control baseline for comparison?)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum