In February of last year I wrote here in the Kitchen about the varieties of institutional open access (OA) mandates, suggesting distinctions between those that are “not real” (i.e. not truly mandatory, despite being so labeled in some cases), those that are “real” (i.e. truly mandatory, at least in principle), and those that are not only real in principle but also “powerful” (i.e. equipped with mechanisms to compel compliance). In the course of writing that piece I consulted repeatedly what was then called the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP), which at the time gathered together what were presented as examples of mandatory OA policies adopted by universities, research institutions, and funders.
In the course of doing so, I discovered a pervasive pattern of errors and misinformation: a great many of the policies characterized by ROARMAP as “mandatory” were in fact nothing of the sort, and in many cases the non-mandatory policies were selectively quoted in ROARMAP in ways that made them sound more mandatory than they actually were. So I wrote a second piece explaining what I had found and providing many examples.
This second piece provoked an angry response from one of ROARMAP’s managers, who (in the comments section and on his own blog) suggested that discussing such problems is not in the interest of the scholarly community and wondered whose interests I was trying to serve by raising them.
I’m happy to report, however, that shortly after that contentious exchange, PASTEUR40A — a partnership that “supports the aim of encouraging the development of matching policies on Open Access and Open Data in the European Union” — undertook a project to correct these errors and to improve ROARMAP generally, with the result that ROARMAP now appears to be a much more trustworthy source of good information about institutional and funder OA policies.
A report, coauthored by Alma Swan, Yassine Gargouri, Megan Hunt, and Stevan Harnad, has just been published under the aegis of PASTEUR40A. Titled “Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness,” it describes clearly and in detail a number of significant ways in which ROARMAP has been “update(d) and upgrade(d)”; notably, these activities included updating and correcting links to institutional policy documents and creating a new classification scheme that more accurately reflects the mandatory or optional nature of those policies. (In recognition of the fact that many of these policies involve no mandate at all, the acronym now stands for Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Archiving Policies.)
One example of this improvement can be seen in ROARMAP’s entry for the OA policy at Oregon State University (OSU). In my original piece, I cited this entry as a particularly egregious example of the misinformation ROARMAP was, at the time, purveying: it characterized OSU’s policy as a “mandate” and provided a quotation from it that was truncated in such a way as to exclude the comprehensive waiver provision that allows OSU authors to decide for themselves whether or not to deposit. Today, the entry for OSU is both more detailed and more accurate, and while it does continue to create some confusion around the mandatory nature of the policy (saying simultaneously, for example, that “deposit of item” is “required” and that deposit can be waived), it no longer quotes the policy selectively and misleadingly, and it provides much helpful detail, including the policy’s adoption date.
PASTEUR40A and ROARMAP are to be heartily commended for undertaking what must have been a very labor-intensive project, and turning what had been a highly mixed bag of useful and misleading information into a much more consistently helpful resource charting the spread and growth of OA policies throughout the world.