Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The OA Interviews: Leo Waaijers

The Netherlands is a leading nation in the ongoing struggle for Open Access (OA). It has been more successful than any other country in creating a network of institutional repositories, and it has led the world in deposit rates — most notably by means of its Cream of Science and Promise of Science initiatives. Significantly, it has achieved this without the need to mandate researchers to deposit their papers. Instead it has incentivised them. Much of the credit for this success must go to the manager of SURFshare Leo Waaijers.

But how successful is successful? Can the Netherlands ensure that the entire nation's research output will eventually become freely available on the Web without a mandate? Waaijers speaks to Richard Poynder.

Leo Waaijers

RP: I believe you are a librarian by training. Can you start by saying something about your background and your current role?

LW: Actually, I am not a librarian by training. I studied mathematics and theoretical physics and I was an associate professor. But after a long odyssey through the academic managerial ranks, including an elected post on the executive board of Delft University of Technology, in 1988 I was appointed university librarian at Delft. Then, in January 2004 I became manager of SURF's DARE program, and subsequently manager of SURFshare, the successor to DARE.

RP: As I understand it, SURF is a collaborative venture of all the institutions of higher education and research in the Netherlands. Its mission is to stimulate and organise the ICT co-operation of these institutions. But what is the specific purpose of the DARE and SURFshare initiatives, particularly with regard to Open Access?

LW: The aim of both programmes is to provide better access to the results of research. DARE's focus was on textual publications; SURFshare is about the production of and access to complex documents.

RP: What do you mean by complex documents?

LW: Complexity here refers to structured multiplicity. I.e. many dislocated authors collaborating on consecutive versions of multidimensional publications (including text, data, visuals, algorithms etc.) that are distributed over a multitude of repositories.

RP: Which implies e-Science I guess. In terms of OA, however, I'm conscious that there are a number of different views as to what it is, and the purpose it should serve. How do you define OA, and what do you see as its rationale and objective?

LW: OA to knowledge means that the only access limit is your own comprehension. The need to know is fundamental in humans: Think of children; think of Eve. Sharing knowledge has always been the critical survival factor of our species.

Green and gold

RP: Ok, but in the context of scholarly literature I guess we are talking about the free availability of research papers (and increasingly primary research data) on the Internet. There are two approaches to OA: the so-called gold and green routes. What's your view on the respective merits of these two approaches?

LW: In terms of the OAI layers: green is data, gold is a service.

RP: When you talk about OAI layers you are referring to the Open Archives Initiative. This assumes a two-layered model in which data providers (research institutions) create institutional repositories (IRs) at an organisational level (and archive their research in them). Third parties then offer services on top of these repositories. Initially it was envisaged that these services would mainly be harvesters like OAIster, which are designed to aggregate the data in OAI-compliant repositories in order to create a virtual archive that researchers can use to search the entire corpus of distributed papers through a single interface.

Most people view gold OA as a complete publishing service, but one in which the costs are covered by means of an upfront Article Publishing Charge (APC), rather than a post factum subscription fee. In referring to any service built on an IR as a "gold" service you appear to be implying that for you publishers too are now just service providers (providing, for instance, peer review).

LW: Right. The point is that green is necessary but insufficient on its own ...


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