Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Making the Most of the New Federal Agency OA Policy

So, at this point I think most people have either read about the new White House Open Access policy or read the memo itself. This is rightly lauded as a big step forward, and it could have a major effect on institutional repositories (IRs) and libraries. The requirement that agencies have "a strategy for leveraging existing archives, where appropriate," strikes me as an opportunity for existing IRs to get involved with this policy, especially since IRs hold a wide variety of resources beyond just journal articles that research that stemmed from federal funds could be published in, such as books and conference articles, as well as hold data sets (Burns, Lana, and Budd 2013) which are also to be made public under the new policy.

However, IRs as they currently are have a major weakness. As Arlitsch and O'Brien (2012) have noted, many IRs are currently using the Dublin Core metadata, even though it is not the best tool for journal articles, since important citation data such as "journal name, volume and issue number, and page numbers span of the article is usually entered into a single field, such as DC.Relation or DC.Source in simple Dublin Core, and there is no specified format or consistency" (p72). This makes it difficult for retrieval tools, such as Google Scholar, to find archived content in IRs, which diminishes their potential for providing access to federally-funded research to the public. Yet, just below the part of the memo that invites partnership with IRs is this requirement: "a strategy for improving the public’s ability to locate and access digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research". Agencies could potentially use this to push IRs away from Dublin Core, by requiring that, if they want to be in partnership with federal agencies on OA, they need to support metadata standards sufficient to improve access to archived research. This would improve access to all content in IRs, not just the federally-funded content.

This could also be a great opportunity for IRs and libraries to come together to create retrieval tools for OA materials to rival Google Scholar. While GS is a useful, if flawed, tool, there are many that worry about making ourselves even more dependent on Google. Google also has a tendency to kill unprofitable services, and so the library world could solicit support from the creation or their own major mutli-IR OA retrieval tool, since GS might not be "an approach for optimizing search...while ensuring long-term stewardship of the results of federally funded research". This could be done under the auspices of the Digital Public Library of America (though god help me I'm still not sure what exactly the DPLA is supposed to be) or something new. Either way, libraries and IRs could create a tool that, unlike GS, would be open about what materials it is indexing, improved display, allow for scholars to have easier access to citation data (Meho and Yang 2007).

Arlitsch, K. & O'Brien, P. S. (2012). Invisible institutional repositories: Addressing the low indexing ratios of IRs in Google Scholar. Library Hi Tech, 30 (1), pp.60 - 81. doi:10.1108/07378831211213210 
Burns, C. S., Lana, A., & Budd, J. M. (2013). Institutional repositories: Exploration of costs and value. D-Lib Magazine,19(1/2). Retrieved from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january13/burns/01burns.html
Meho, L. I., & Yang, K. (2007). Impact of data sources on citation counts and ranking of LIS faculty: Web of science versus Scopus and Google Scholar. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology58(13), 2105-2125. doi:10.1002/asi.20677

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