The e-archiving debate

Arguably, the majority of scientists and scholars seek to have their work published in order to make an impact in their field of work or community of practice. Here we explore the e-archiving debate which pits alternative methods of publishing against the more traditional ones.

Traditionally these authors send reports to publishers in exchange for for effective dissemination services and the unique recognition provided by the publishers who organise new knowledge with authority.

Nevertheless, many authors struggle to be accepted by the publishers of their choice. In addition the charges made for access to ‘peer-reviewed’ journals are clearly a barrier to an author reaching a wide audience.

There is a commonly held view that e-archiving and in particular self-archiving will solve the communication problems faced by many authors. By storing their own works in interconnected and interoperable institutional Archives they can be harvested into global “virtual” archives, citation-linked and freely navigable by all. It is argued that self-archiving should enhance research productivity and impact as well as providing powerful new ways of monitoring and measuring it.

There is a wealth of detailed argument which explores these issues. The best articulation of the e-self-archiving argument I have found is by Harnad, S., Carr, L. & Brody, T. (2001) How and Why To Free All Refereed Research From Access- and Impact-Barriers Online, Now.

I am keen to see the Knowledge Community used by authors who wish to archive their own works and communicate with lively communities of practice. For those authors who are not part of institutions and without access to an archive the KC provides a free to use and ‘ready-made’ archive with a growing audience of active participants to reach out to and explore dialogue with. I would also like to explore with institutions how the KC can be used to feed in content from their archives to support active interaction with the communities of practice.

To help people and their introduction to the debate in a few definitions and some background information may be helpful

What is an archive?

  • An archive is here understood in it’s broader sense as a repository for stored information

What is an e-archive?

  • An e-archive is here understood as an electronic repository for stored information

What is self-archiving?

  • Allows authors to store their own work on-line in their own institution’s (University) electronic repositories

Key drivers behind e-archiving and self-archiving

These include:

  • increasing access to scholarly research
  • fostering innovation
  • enhancing scientific communication

The Open Archives Initiative (OAI)

The OAI develops and promotes interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content. The OAI has its roots in an effort to enhance access to e-print archives as a means of increasing the availability of scholarly communication. However the OAI mission is now more broadly about opening up access to a range of digital materials.

Open in this context means from the architectural perspective – defining and promoting machine interfaces that facilitate the availability of content from a variety of providers. Openness does not mean “free” or “unlimited” access to the information. Some data repositories have adopted protocols which permit more or less unrestricted access to their metadata, while others use various methods to restrict access (e.g., by IP address of origin).

Examples of Open Archives Initiatives include:

  • The UK FAIR initiative has funded a number of projects to implement OAI
  • Caltech’s CODA [Collection of Open Digital Archives] has been set-up using the publicly available and the Virginia Tech e-theses software. From July 2002, e-submission of theses at Caltech is now compulsory. Caltech have Use Licences in place for their repositories which identify the rights and conditions which must be accepted if a paper is to be deposited.
  • CERN Document Server
  • Budapest OAI
  • Lund University, Sweden, have implemented an e-Prints service offering departmental branding which can sit within a departmental websiteLund
  • FIGARO, a European e-publishing initiative for the academic community. FIGARO will build an e-publishing infrastructure to foster innovation & enhance scientific communication
  • MIT are using DSpace which has a core digital preservation element and an information model includes a much wider community and aspects of revenue earning on premium services.
  • Google is using OAI-PMH to harvest information from the National Library of Australia (NLA) Digital Object Repository. For more information see

Technical challenges to OAI?

There is freely available software to enable institutions or disciplines to build OAI compliant data providers. For example:

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