We looked last week at how Emerald (perhaps inspired by the problematic new RCUK open access policy) changed its self-archiving policies, becoming a less sparkling green OA publisher. Alas, Springer also recently changed its self-archiving for the worse (from the perspective of authors and readers), dulling its OA sparkle as a result.
Springer’s new policy says that authors may make the post-refereed versions of their articles available immediately on their personal websites but must wait a year before making them available in repositories. This embargo is nothing new with respect to subject repositories — Springer’s previous policy required a year-long embargo for subject repositories. But it is new for institutional repositories — Springer used to allow articles to appear immediately there. This change to a year-long embargo for institutional repositories makes self-archiving harder and more confusing and thus less likely to be attempted. So that’s bad. And in addition to being a bad change, it’s arguably a nonsensical change.
Consider institutional repositories on the Digital Commons platform. There’s a Digital Commons add-on called SelectedWorks that creates personal homepages for repository contributors. Are they personal webpages? Yes. Are they part of an institutional repository? Yes. So there goes that distinction.
Even for institutional repositories on other platforms, the distinction isn’t so clear. OK, sure, the institutional repository and personal homepages are probably on different servers. But the institutional repository is in some ways just an extension of those homepages, a place that the homepages link to. The School of Electronics and Computer Science of the University of Southampton wisely chose to be explicit about the continuousness of these spaces in its open access policy:
3e. Copyright agreements may state that eprints can be archived on your personal homepage. As far as publishers are concerned, the EPrint Archive is a part of the Department’s infrastructure for your personal homepage.
In short, just like Emerald, Springer wants us to believe that two things are mutually exclusive and incompatible, even though they aren’t. Emerald wants us to believe that voluntary and mandated self-archiving are mutually exclusive, which is obviously untrue. (After all, it’s people who support and practice self-archiving who passed all the mandatory self-archiving policies at universities around the world!) And Springer wants us to believe that personal websites and institutional repositories are mutually exclusive. That might initially sound like a reasonable distinction, but it’s confused. And, of course, confusing.