Thursday, April 2, 2009

A preprint archive for the geosciences

Today two interesting blog posts about getting hold of geoscientific papers have been published: The Open Source Paleontologist lists several ways to find and retrieve pdfs on your own. Dave Hone picks this up and complains a bit about those people who are too lazy to use these resources but are asking copies directly from the authors-thus causing extra work.

Surely, there are a variety of possibilities to find relevant literature on the web. But the majority of geoscientific papers are still published in commercial, closed access journals. So even if you found your artcle on Google Scholar, you'll frequently end on a page asking you for your credit card, unless you work for an institution which can afford the necessary licenses or it was publishe in an Open Access journal.

Open Access is a fine thing and many interesting papers already appear in open access journals such as PLOS. The idea certainly will become even more popular in the future. But in my opinion it is unrealistic to assume that researchers will favor open access journals for their top results when they have the chance to get their 'Nature paper'.
Other disciplines have reacted on this dilemma and provide and maintain so called preprint archives such as Arxiv. A preprint is a draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a scientific journal. Preprint archives enable authors to quickly circulate their results and most important: copies of archived preprints are freely available!

Unfortunately, there is no dedicated geoscientific preprint archive :(( You can find geoscientific preprints in some institutional repositories and postprints on some homepages etc.., but there is no common access point.

But it should be there! Could a geo preprint archive be a community effort? Of cource it had to include the community, but could a community driven archive work?
Alternatively, libraries could take on that responsibility. So... geolibrarians could you hear me? Give us a working geo preprint archive, ..please.. (maybe you could call it Geoxiv;) ).
Sure, motivating the geo community to contribute will not be an easy job, but maybe one just has to start?


Chuck said...

Great idea, but how?

Robert Huber said...

Well I think libraries and data base people could easily set up such a thing. They could use archiving systems such as Fedora etc to store the docs and manage the metadata.

The far bigger problem would be to motivate enough people to submit preprints! It would not be accepted by the community unless a critical mass would be reached.

Jens Klump said...

Filling Open Archives or Institutional Repositories is a really big issue that has troubled institutions that support Open Access and entire workshops have been devoted to this topic.

I also would like to point out that pre-prints are but one option, another option is post-prints, i.e. a secondary publication of a peer-reviewed paper through an institutional repository.

GFZ Potsdam, my home institution, runs such a repository and has a mandate that obliges its researchers to deposit their publications in the institutional repository. Due to a helpful in-house workflow the rate of compliance with this mandate is by orders of magnitude better than in self-archiving.