SPARC 2008: The Policy Environment

in DigiLib BLog
December 4th, 2008

The second day of the SPARC Digital Repositories Meeting 2008 in Baltimore was no less exciting than the first, but it was shorter, and also contained less information immediately useful to us at BU. So I nursed my wrists, which had flared up with RSI for the first time in weeks (sign of a good, informative conference, no?) and took fewer notes.

Description from the program: “One of the challenges facing all repositories is the establishment of policies that positively affect the submission, accessibility, and re-use of materials. The wide spectrum of deposit mandates and recommendations currently in effect reflect the diverse nature of governmental and organizational funding objectives. This panel will provide three perspectives on these policies, representing current practices in Europe, Japan and the United States.”

1. David Prosser, Director, SPARC Europe
“Public Policy Drivers for Change in Europe”

Scholarly community, as Prosser sees it, is being impacted by:

  • the knowledge economy;
  • accountability and assessment – value for money spent;
  • e-science/e-research; and
  • concerns regarding access to data and public sector information.

Measuring success can take many forms:

  • impact in the relevant fields measured by number of citations;
  • who is citing whom;
  • number of downloads for each published item;
  • patent registration; and
  • rate of technology transfer.

The EU’s open access policies are still “young” and in the process of being continually tested. It’s been accepted that some situations will require an embargo period for publication of items in a freely accessible repository. This is considered a sub-optimal course of action, so generally the embargo period is encouraged to be set at a maximum of six months, with the ideal being zero – any embargo at all is a compromise, as far as open access advocates are concerned.

Prosser quoted Daniel Coit Gilman, the first president of Johns Hopkins University, as saying the following about the university press in 1878: “It is one of the noblest duties of a university to advance knowledge, and to diffuse it not merely among those who can attend the daily lectures–but far and wide.”

[VZ: To this I will add a quote from the Massachusetts Constitution, to which I was pointed recently:

Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country…

Promotion, rather than hoarding. Preserving rights and liberties by disseminating knowledge. Clear enough.]

[The speaker who described the situation in Japan was too difficult for me to understand, alas, from the back of the room. Tried to find his slides, and failed.]

3. Bonnie Klein, Defense Technical Information Center, USA
U.S. Federal Government Repositories & Public Access to Grant Research

The U.S. is running some federal repositories: CENDI,, All of these are concerned with federally funded grant research, and provide venues for disseminating publication requirements, as well as distribution of and access to research results. CENDI is an interagency working group of senior scientific and technical information (STI) managers from 13 U.S. federal agencies. WorldWideScience is more of a portal, and was launched in 2007.

In all, 26 government agencies fund over 1000 grant programs, information on all of which is available on The results of work funded by government grants often must be published and/or disseminated openly, unless they’re classified. They take many forms. Publications are the characteristic product (journal articles, peer-reviewed papers, books, dissertations, abstracts, interim and final tech reports). Other common products of federal-grant-funded work are websites, new networks and collaborations, technologies and techniques, inventions, patent applications, licenses, new equipment.

Klein listed some disadvantages of publishing results, and I did not have time to write them down, but mostly they amounted to secret information. There’s a slippery slope between classifying information for, say, security reasons and hoarding it, but that seems to be a problem inherent to knowledge work – I doubt there will ever come a day when we’ll have completely rigid classification criteria for knowledge, given that we keep coming up with new stuff. So we’ll just have to navigate situations as they come up.

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One Comment on SPARC 2008: The Policy Environment

  • Vika,

    It’s really been helpful to read your summaries. Thanks for this.

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