Accelerating access to biomedical evidence

Anti-RWA fervor, meet self-reliance: Pre-Prints and Post-Prints can change the world

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.   Ralph Waldo Emerson- Self-Reliance (1841)


Obscured  in all the concern and unhappiness with the introduction of the anti- NIH Public Access Policy Research Works Act and its primary supporter, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), is the fact that PubMed Central is not the only place to find  free full-text articles and archives of biomedical research results.

Institutional repositories, internet-based document servers sponsored by a university, non-profit, or for-profit organizations, allow authors to distribute authorized copies of their scholarship before or after peer review, provided that an author has implicit or explicit permission by contractual arrangement made with a publisher. There are competing definitions for pre-print and post-print, but the most popular assumption is that pre-prints are the author’s version of the scholarly paper before submission to a journal for peer review,  while post-prints are the version of the paper after peer-review corrections recommended by the journal editors but still lacking journal typesetting and other publication enhancements.


According to a fast-growing, self proclaimed repository called ResearchGATE,

Self-archiving is a cost-free way to make your publications more visible. By improving access to your articles, you can help increase the citations your research receives and improve your position in the field. But self-archiving is not only for the benefit of the author – by making your work freely accessible, you give back to the field and aid new research. Indeed, this greater community benefit is the reason behind the recent mandates for public access that many funding bodies and institutions have established (including the NIH, Wellcome Trust and the UK Research Councils). More and more, open access is part of grant requirements, usually because public sources fund the projects and the managing institutions believe that the public deserves access to the research they helped facilitate.

The simplest way to determine how a prospective publisher will react to your desire to deposit a pre-print or post-print is to look up the publisher in  RoMEO to find out if your publishers’ copyright rules allow you to deposit your scholarship elsewhere. RoMEO summarizes publishers’ rules and categorizes publishers by colours, indicating what level of author author rights exists.


On January 7th,  Stevan Harnad was commenting on Research Works Act (H.R.3699) (“Research Works Act H.R.3699: The Private Publishing Tail Trying To Wag The Public Research Dog, Yet Again“) and concluded with his well-know perspective of a green world transforming publishing:

“What the research community needs, urgently, is free online access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output. Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs. With 100% Green OA, the research community’s access and impact problems are already solved. If and when 100% Green OA should cause significant cancellation pressure (no one knows whether or when that will happen, because OA Green grows anarchically, article by article, not journal by journal) then the cancellation pressure will cause cost-cutting, downsizing and eventually a leveraged transition to OA (Gold) publishing on the part of journals. As subscription revenues shrink, institutional windfall savings from cancellations grow. If and when journal subscriptions become unsustainable, per-article publishing costs will be low enough, and institutional savings will be high enough to cover them, because publishing will have downsized to just peer-review service provision alone, offloading text-generation onto authors and access-provision and archiving onto the global network of OA Institutional Repositories. Green OA will have leveraged a transition to Gold OA.”

This message needs to get out in many formats and forums. Berlin 7 was one  high-profile 2009 forum. At Berlin 7Christ Ambruster, a Research Associate from the Max Planck Society, presented a review of the PEER project titled “Green Open Access as a global solution? Some reflections based on the PEER Project“. PEER has been investigating large-scale, systematic depositing of  final peer-reviewed manuscripts and effects on reader access, author visibility, journal viability, and the evolution European research policies . The project has run since September 2008 and will conclude with a conference in May 2012.


Thu, January 26 2012 » Uncategorized

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