Source: morganes-photographe.deviantart.com

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.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is Associate Dean for Collections and Scholarly Communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah. He speaks and writes regularly on issues related to libraries, scholarly communication, and higher education, and has served as president of NASIG and of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

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7 Thoughts on "The ROARMAP Open Access Registry: New and Greatly Improved"

The ROARMAP data on the US agency Public Access plans is spotty at best. DOE was the first out, last year, but all the fields say no data: http://roarmap.eprints.org/514/. There is partial data for NSF, which just came out. Every one I looked at, empty or otherwise, lists a date of August 2013, but no plans were issued at that time, most quite recently. This dummy date makes the US mandate graph jump up suddenly. http://roarmap.eprints.org/view/country/840.html The taxonomy categories do not seem to work very well for these mandates.

The August 2013 date makes _some_ sense, assuming ROARMAP set up placeholder entries for the agencies that were impacted by the OSTP directive after the directive was issued. What led to that date being incorrect was the agencies failing (or being unable) to create and announce their policies within the timeline specified in the directive (whether that timeline was realistic or not is another question entirely). The directive indicated that agencies should have their policies released/announced/submitted (can’t remember the exactly language) within six months of the issue date of the directive, which was February, 2013. That would have had all of those policies seeing the light of day in August 2013, had any of the agencies met the directive’s timeline.

August was when the drafts were to be submitted internally to OSTP, for review. Whoever set that date has no understanding of how US policy is made.

Are there any truly mandatory policies, such that noncompliance results in a faculty member’s being fired? The most “mandatory” I know of is at the University of Lieges, which “mandates” that any articles to be considered for tenure and promotion review must be posted to the OA site. That has real teeth, but even it is voluntary–though professors would probably be insane not to comply.

There are funding agency policies where continuance of current grant funding, or future grant funding is dependent upon compliance. Cutting off the money is about as mandatory as it gets, though compliance monitoring seems to vary quite a bit.

There are also IHEs (like the U of Liège) that say only deposited papers will count towards your tenure bid, and in the UK the only RCUK-funded papers that can be submitted to the REF are those that have been deposited according to the OA rules. So expressions of “mandatoriness” will vary from place to place and by type of institution. And they also vary by degree, of course; not all “real” mandates are characterized by the same degree of compulsion.

This is not exactly correct in respect of the UK REF. If the paper has been RCUK-funded, it must be deposited according to their rules if it is to be eligible for the REF. However, if the paper is not RCUK-funded, which covers a lot of HSS scholarship, then it must be deposited according to the REF’s own rules, which are much looser and more accommodating to Green OA. In fact, there is a fair bit of pressure on RCUK to come into line with REF rather than vice versa because of the costs involved in the preference for Gold OA that it institutionalizes. Will be interesting to see whether OA is anything like the same priority for the next government – the politician and civil servants who were most gung-ho for the policy have all moved on and the pressure to cut public expenditure while protecting science budgets may well mean that funding for APCs looks like a soft target. Wellcome, of course, will continue to be a law unto themselves but they can afford to be.

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