Friday 3 June 2011

To Challenge or Not To Challenge?

How far does a repository manager or administrator’s advocacy go? This was the essence of a question I posted yesterday to the UKCoRR discussion list. It was raised by an email I’d received from the Editor in Chief of a journal denying permission for us to archive a paper from one of our academics, where RoMEO had been ambiguous. Now these letters aren’t that unusual in themselves, I know we’ve all had many a knock back from publishers but it’s a little rarer in my experience to get them from editors. What prompted my question was that the Editor was arguing all the tired old points about Open Access that were I to hear them from one of my own academics I’d be straight onto the offensive dismantling the arguments and hopefully illuminating the researcher.

But while the EiC might have been an academic, he wasn’t one of mine – did I have the time and energy to start down what may well be a fruitless path for the hope of perhaps changing the mind of one admittedly fairly opposed academic? Did I perhaps have a responsibility as a member of the repository world to engage with such hold outs whenever or wherever I encounter them? Or should I just shrug my shoulders and move onto to the other dozen pressing tasks I had to perform? I thought the best way to take this forward was to throw the question out to the list and see what others do. My thanks to all those of you who responded – anonymised and edited comments below:

If it's an underling (copy and pasting the party line), we generally don't bother. If it's the E-i-C then we understand their position, it's our standard procedure to clarify these issues, other similar publishers have responded much differently, etc.


When I receive a 'no' from a publisher I act according to the information they provide. I have recently been declined permission to mount items on a repository from very small publishers in the arts, who I believe just did not 'get' open access. On these occasions I responded by telephone and after an informal chat received verbal permission, followed up with email conformation. I find telephone far more effective than email when trying to persuade others of your point of view as you can suss out the objections more easily than in an email. On other occasions I don't bother and just move on to the next submission. I think the key thing here is to pick your battles.


I've received some quite interesting/odd/rude/confusing/confused responses from publishers along the way. I decided not to enter into prolonged debate with any of the ones who refused permission, basically due to a combination of a) lack of time, b) thinking there would be no point, and c) worrying about damaging future relations with the publisher if I came on too strong!”


It’s heartening to see others in exactly in the same situation. I was especially impressed with the idea of phoning the publishers up, although for myself I don’t have the hours in the day (nor the job, given that my role of repository manager is blended with managing an additional two sections!). I think what I’ve taken away from this discussion is that we should, where possible, as repository workers take every opportunity to educate, inform and challenge preconceptions – where time and will power allows! As always I’d love to hear more about your experiences with direct engagement with editors or publishers over rights negotiations, good, bad and indifferent!

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