Communal repositability wiki?

I continually find it difficult to know what the formal publisher rules are for self-archiving. In my naive days I used to think this area was governed by logic – e.g. that Open Access implied adherence to the BBB declarations implied CC-BY. How silly. The real answer is that there is a huge variation in publisher policies (some seemingly internally inconsistent and many drafted in the era of printing presses). Many of these deserve challenging but are so fuzzy that it’s like punching cotton wool. I used to think this was simple carelessness – now I think it’s deliberate obscurantism.
Here’s a simple question: If I have an article accepted for publication and the publisher has agreed that I retain copyright, can I:

  • self archive my pre-print?
  • self-archive my post-print?
  • self-archive both?
  • self-archive neither?

The answer (which I got wrong) is given later – don’t peek.
So how do we know what the actual policies are? A few months ago I suggested to some of my Blue Obelisk colleagues that we carry out a systematic survey of Open Access policies in Chemistry, and particularly whether the publisher allowed re-use of the data (e.g. was it Open Data?). There were (only) about 60 journals, some very small, so it didn’t seem difficult. However after struggling through about 10 publishers pages I was worn out with the difficulty of getting any sort of grip. So we have put this on hold (but not before we had alerted one published to the value of adopting a CC-BY licence).
Yesterday Elin Stangeland from our DSpace@Cambridge told us how to self-archive and I think it’s generating useful interest and commitment in my colleagues. Unfortunately chemistry is almost the worst subject for any sort of OA. Am I allowed to post my preprint of an article  in an ACS (American Chemical Society) journal? After all I wrote it – surely the ACS doesn’t own the copyright before I’ve submitted it? No, it doesn’t. but as Peter Suber reminds us:

Retention of copyright is neither necessary nor sufficient to allow authors to self-archive. It’s not necessary because authors don’t need the full bundle of rights in order to authorize self-archiving. It’s not sufficient in the sense that many journals (for example, Nature and Science) say that they let authors retain copyright but in the fine print insist on exceptions that deprive authors of the right to self-archive. However, retaining copyright simpliciter or without qualification is more than enough to allow authors to self-archive.

Did you get it right? The answer seems to be that copyright is irrelevant if the publisher requires you to sign that you will not self-archive. There are a zillion publishers, many with umpteen pages of fuzzy pseudo-legal waffle embedded in the promotional material on the mastheads of their journal. So you have to know it for each one.
Now SHERPA/RoMEO – Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving has more-or-less definitive statements about publishers’ policies. Of course the publisher has the correct version and it’s possible for the sites to be inconsistent. Not SHERPA’s fault. It’s a large job. In addition many publishers will actually waive copyright transfer if you ask nicely or are sufficiently feared/valuable. But, since many of us still find it difficult work out. So I suggested it would be useful to have an informal website/wiki where people could record their experiences of self-archiving – either as authors or as repository managers. Dorothea Salo replies…

Dorothea Salo Says:
November 13th, 2007 at 2:44 pm e
I thought about this a year or so ago. I even started experimenting with wiki software. I’d be willing to run it… but it’s not going to work without the investment you mention, and that is a hard problem.
Imprimis, many repository “managers” (scare quotes used advisedly) are part-timers who had the repository loaded on to an existing full-time job. These people are not clued into the zeitgeist. A lot of them don’t even know about SHERPA.
Secundus, a lot of us have “better safe than sorry” imprinted on our brains by management and by the general culture of risk aversion in librarianship, and so if SHERPA doesn’t have the answer, we don’t investigate any further.
Tertius, there aren’t obvious places to get out the word on something like this. We have no journal. The only conference dedicated to us, Open Repositories, travels more than we can afford to. We have no online gathering-place (and if we did, how many of us would know about it? see point the first). And nobody’s leading. I’ve tried. I failed.
Quartus, it’s been tried on a disciplinary basis in law. The results were not outstanding.
I really will do this if someone convinces me there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades of it actually accomplishing something. Thus far, not convinced.

PMR: This is very useful. The law site is actually nicely laid out and although not heavily populated is exactly what is required. I could see that 1-2 repositorians could reasonably populate the wiki and keep it up-to-date. I shan’t finger anyone but there are organizations dedicated to the Opening of publications and they could find it useful to help support an effort like this.
At least, Dorothea, this is helping to change the zeitgeist or spread its influence.
floreat lector

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One Response to Communal repositability wiki?

  1. Yes, it is helping — not least by giving the lie to the “self-archiving is SO EASY!” happytalk that is still far too prevalent in the open-access discourse — and I very much appreciate your carrying the banner for a bit.
    The offer’s still open. I’ll help run such a wiki, and populate it. But one of the prerequisites for my doing so (as your post cunningly implies) is sponsorship from an organization with enough heft to grab attention.

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