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November 24, 2006

Mandating Open Access: Step by Step, Department by Department

Arthur Sale, The Patchwork Mandate, a working paper, self-archived November 11, 2006. Excerpt by Peter Suber OA News:

This document is written mainly for repository managers who are at a loss at what policies they (or their universities or research institutions) ought to deploy. I make no bones about stating that there are only two pure policies: [1] requiring (mandating) researchers to deposit, and [2] voluntary (spontaneous) participation.

The obvious and no-risk solution is for the institution to require researchers to deposit their publications in the institutional repository. There is ample evidence that this is acceptable to over 95% of researchers, both in pre-implementation surveys and in post-implementation evidence. One Australian university is leading the world in collecting 70% of its annual research output and the fraction is rising....

An institutional-wide requirement to deposit in the IR is the logical and inevitable end-point. In fact it is exactly what is needed. Once such a policy is in place the IR manager’s approaches to researchers and heads of centers and all the plethora of feel-good activities actually work. People who are required to deposit their publications are grateful for advice. The occasional chase-up call is not resented. Just about everything that the university can put in place (for example publicity for deposits, awards for the best author or paper, assistance with self-archiving, download statistics, etc) will begin to work as it resonates with every academic in fulfilling their duty.

A mandatory policy will approach a capture rate of 100% of current research publications, but over a couple of years. Figures of 60-90% can be expected in a short time. See [this] for some data on how mandates actually work....

In the absence of mandates, every encouragement policy known to Man fails to convince more than 15% to 20% of researchers to invest the 5 minutes of time needed to deposit their publications. The percentage does not grow with time....This is a global experience....

So, many repository managers find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They can't convince the senior executives to bring in a mandate, and they know that voluntary deposition does not work. Fortunately there may be a middle way or even a transitional way ahead. I call it the patchwork mandate....So what is the patchwork mandate? Simply this:...Since you can't get an institutional mandate, you work towards getting departmental (school/faculty) mandates one by one. Each departmental mandate will rapidly trend towards 100% and needs little activism to maintain this level....

I think that the patchwork mandate strategy will probably work. We are trialing it in Australia. It won't achieve 100% content instantly, but it is a clear way to work towards that. You can even explain it to your senior executives and they probably won't stop you. They may even encourage you to try it.

Just remember that voluntary persuasion of individuals is known not to work beyond a pitiful participation level. Self-archiving needs to be made part of the routine academic duty, and this requires a policy endorsement by someone.

Comment. 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.

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