Monday 27 February 2012

The COAR Question

Those of you whom attended the Portsmouth meeting last month, and hopefully everyone on the list, should be aware of COAR.  As you know there have been some very tentative discussions going on behind the scenes relating to the question of should UKCoRR become a member of COAR. 

There are a number of obstacles to membership in our way - not least of which is the question of how as a lightweight unfunded organisation we would afford to pay the annual membership fee.  There are also broader policy questions about whether membership of COAR would be in the best interests of UKCoRR's long term Independence of action, policy and governance.  You only have to glance at the recent announcements from us both on the Elsevier question to see that while the two groups have for the most part allied goals that we are likely to come from two different angles on some issues.

COAR is an organisational membership body funded by subscriptions pushing ahead the interests of open access and repositories.  UKCoRR is a individual membership organisation unfunded and independent that pushes forward the representation and development of its members, as well as the role of repositories in the UK.  There are other differences but I encourage you all to study the goals of both COAR and UKCoRR and come to your own conclusion on the compatibility or otherwise of the two organisations.

As I said in Portsmouth, as Chair while I can see a certain simpatico in establishing strong lines of communication and liaison with COAR (or indeed any other similar body) I do have a number of concerns over formal membership for UKCoRR. 

Not least among these are these questions:
  • What does UKCoRR the organisation really get out of membership? 
  • What do UKCoRR members get out of our membership?
  • How closely does membership tie us to COAR's agenda and policy?
  • Is it better to maintain our independence rather than interdependence?
As Chair I wouldn't like to be in circumstances where UKCoRR couldn't be seen to disagree with COAR's position on an issue where our membership felt strongly.  COAR encourages participation of its membership in its governance, but as an unfunded body this would leave our Committee in the awkward position of requiring our employers to fund our travel to Europe to attend meetings on behalf of UKCoRR; something that in these budget conscious times I might anticipate would not be that easy a task to achieve
Rather than UKCoRR becoming a member, would it not perhaps be a better idea for our host institutions to become members of COAR (UK membership is currently negligible)?  Would this better suit the aims of both organisations, and our employers to boot?

As such I am looking to you the membership to give the Committee a steer on this.  Leaving aside the fee question, the core question is: Should UKCoRR explore routes to becoming a formal member of COAR?

Najla Rettberg of COAR has helpfully provided a bit more information from their perspective that I'd encourage you all to read before responding.

I await your thoughts with considerable interest - please feel free to comment here or if you prefer contact myself or any of the Committee offline.

[Update 2/April/2012: As UKCoRR members will know already; following the discussions on the list and inside the Committee it has been decided that membership within COAR is not something that will be pursued. As Chair I've written to COAR to inform them of our decision, and warmly welcomed them to consider entering into a memorandum of understanding and support with us; in much the same way as we have with the RSP and the DRF.]

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