DOE to try a publisher-sensitive pubmed central-like database?

Somehow I got on a NITRD e-mail list (probably a project I was on) and through that list I recently got an announcement of a presentation on PAGES (Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science) which is described as "a web-based portal that will ensure that, after an embargo period, scholarly publications sponsored by the Department of Energy are publicly accessible and searchable at no charge to readers."

I immediately got all excited - sounds a lot like pubmed central and woo-hoo because DOE funds a lot of research in diverse fields.

Then I read down a little ways and saw some strange caveat-like things or, well, not really weasel words but look here (emphases mine):

PAGES is designed to take advantage of the public access efforts of publishers by linking, via digital object identifiers (DOIs), to DOE articles they make publicly accessible.  Each such article serves as the Version of Record, and it is hosted by the publisher.  Thus, PAGES will avoid duplicating the public access efforts of publishers.

When DOE articles are not publicly accessible, PAGES will focus on accepted manuscripts.  Specifically, after an embargo period, it will link, via URLs, to publicly accessible manuscripts hosted by institutional repositories.  For those instances where free public access is offered neither by a publisher nor by an institutional repository, the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information will host the accepted manuscript and display it after an embargo period.  In both of these cases, PAGES will still provide DOI links to publishers’ websites, where articles may be accessed with a subscription or other transaction, thus maintaining a pathway to the Version of Record.

So this sounds very much like the authors were talking to the Executive Director of AIP, who was a DOE physicist (and administrator) prior to taking over at AIP. In his presentations and contributions to committees on scholarly communication he has put forth rental models, FundRef (a way to track research funding through CrossRef metadata), and links to the "version of record" at publishers all as ways to provide public access. I've already commented on rental models and knowing something exists and looking at the abstract may be intellectual access but it's not the real access that someone trying to do science needs. Publishers have long (and continuously) maintained that scientists are perfectly content with access and that, in general, access to the literature is just fine thank you very much.

So that's why I say "publisher-sensitive."

A couple of other weird things - we don't know the embargo period and it seems excessive not to even link to institutional repository copies until after the embargo. If the publisher allows immediate posting of the work in an institutional repository, then why wait? Seems strange.

Also no discussion of carrot, stick, mandate, or whatever. Will this be a condition of funding? Are they just going to crawl the web or whatever open repository harvester thingy to find these things? Hope authors volunteer publication information? Hmmm.

It looks like a similar presentation was given to CENDI.

In that presentation there's also this other thing that could have been written by publishers

Preserves the freedom of researchers to promote and disseminate their research, i.e., preserves researchers’ choice in selecting the journal to which they wish to submit manuscripts.

A bit of fud (maybe?) that publishers have been using in anti-mandate press releases is that mandates would force scientists to only publish in journals that would allow depositing of the manuscript thus taking away their freedom to select an appropriate venue. (seems to me if you publish a journal with lots of stuff funded by a mandate-having agency then you probably need to support compliance with the mandate, but that's just me.)

The original announcement also had this information:

Regardless of where DOE-sponsored articles or accepted manuscripts are hosted, PAGES will enable readers to search them all via a single search box.  Among the metadata thus returned by PAGES will be the DOI for the published article once that DOI is posted by the publisher.  PAGES will also be integrated with other DOE publicly-accessible R&D information and products, such as the 330,000 technical reports in the DOE Information Bridge

Over all definitely a good thing. I'm actually rather amused at how much they're trying to placate publishers. I guess they really don't want to get in to the lobbying and NIH-like battles. I can't say I really blame them. Limited money is best used elsewhere. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. It would be awesome if this got taken up by DOD. Really would be fabulous.

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