Officially, CERN introduced a self-archiving mandate in November 2003. Amongst other things, this requires CERN researchers to “deposit a copy of all their published articles in an open access repository”.
This suggests that CERN’s mandate came some ten months after the world’s first mandate – introduced in the department of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the UK’s University of Southampton in January 2003.
When I began enquiring about the genesis of the CERN mandate, however, the picture began to seem less clear. I found it hard, for instance, to establish why CERN had introduced its mandate, and who had been responsible for pushing it through.
Amongst those I contacted for enlightenment was scholarly publishing consultant Alma Swan, who said her understanding was that there had always been a mandate at CERN. Originally this was an analogue mandate, with researchers expected to provide the library at CERN with print copies of all the papers they published, but that this was subsequently upgraded to a digital mandate (in November 2003).
Alma kindly emailed the head of the Scientific Information Service at CERN Jens Vigen for clarification. Vigen also found the question intriguing and began digging around in CERN's archives; and today he emailed me a copy of the original memo from CERN's Director General – officially known as CERN/DG/Memo/5, and dated 17th March 1955.
Vigen commented, “Times have obviously changed since then and I must admit I was smiling quite a lot while reading it. However, the mandate for deposit was, as you see, in place from the very first days of the organisation's life.”
Images of the two-page memo are attached below, and can be accessed as a PDF file here.
This still leaves me with a number of questions however:
1. Is it fair to call the CERN memo an OA mandate given, for instance, that the term OA was only coined in 2001, at the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)?
2. Similarly what do we make of the fact that the policy was combined with one on press statements? Could it be that this was not intended to refer to scholarly papers?
3. If it can be classifed as an OA mandate, is it truly the world's first, or is there another dusty memo out there somewhere predating 17th March 1955?
4. If it is an OA mandate, why was it introduced at CERN at such an early date?
5. What was the process by which CERN’s analogue mandate was upgraded to a digital mandate. Specifically, who was responsible, and why was it upgraded?
All comments and further information gratefully received.