High Energy Physics
4 / June 2001
on the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and
Peer Review Journals in Europe: A Report
European Organization for Nuclear Research
(Switzerland), 22-24 March 2001
A workshop on the Open Archives Initiative and Peer Review
Journals in Europe was held at CERN, in Geneva, from March 22nd
to 24th. The purpose of this workshop was to mobilise a group of
European scientists and librarians who want to play an active role in
organizing a self-managed system for electronic scholarly
communication. Such a system should be compliant with the technical
standards proposed by the Open Archives Initiative (OAI).
The immediate deployment of OAI-compliant e-print repositories was a
concrete objective of the workshop. The workshop had a second
(exploratory) objective, related to the certification of writings
submitted to archives.
Internet, and especially
the Web (born at CERN) opened new prospects and brought new
expectations regarding the dissemination of scholarly publications.
The high-energy physics community was the first one to take full
advantage of the new technologies: the first e-print server created
in 1991 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by Paul Ginsparg was a
stimulating experiment and still is a very interesting model.
today hosts over 160,000 full-text papers, and the monthly
submissions are close to 3,000. Other important servers were
created in the same field (e.g. CERN
server, 170,000 fulltext documents), or in other fields: CogPrints
(Cognitive Sciences Eprint Archive), RePEc
(Research Papers in Economics), NCSTRL
(Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library), etc.
The "Sante Fe
(October 1999) pointed out the need for cooperation; building
heterogeneous archive servers would result in a very confusing
scholarly communication schema. The Open Archives Initiative
originated from this convention, and it's aim is to develop a
protocol that would allow different archive servers to be
Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (version
1.0) was released in January, and two meetings were held in the
beginning of this year (Washington,
DC and Berlin,
Germany) in order to promote the OAI and present the protocol
The Geneva Workshop
The call for a European
contribution to the "Open Archives initiative" originated
from the Access Division of LIBER
(Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche), in
agreement with the activities of the OAI steering committee .
The organizing commitee was composed of: Raf Dekeyser (LIBER, Access
Division; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Herbert Van de Sompel (OAI
Executive; Cornell University) and Corrado Pettenati (Head of CERN
The workshop had both a concrete and an exploratory objective: it
aimed to promote the creation of OAI-compliant preprint archives in
the context of co-operative agreements among institutions, and to
explore new ways of implementing the essential peer-reviewing
process. The main point was to discuss innovative solutions for the
self-archiving of refereed scientific literature.
Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting
As an opening, Herbert Van de Sompel made a presentation of the
protocol he developped with Carl Lagoze, with the support of a small
community of alpha-testers .
The protocol was designed with easy implementation in mind. It's
intentionally easy, in order to provide low-barrier interoperability
solutions for the e-print community. The interoperability standards
aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of e-prints, and may
even have a wider scope, for all kinds of digital materials. The
harvesting process is based on "data providers", which
choose to use the OAI protocol as a means to expose their metadata,
and "service providers" which issue OAI protocol requests
to data providers, in order to build value-added services .
Promote Scholarly Communication by Electronic Means
The first part of the workshop was dedicated to the presentation
of some already existing archive servers (such as CERN, arXiv, RePEc,
etc.), as well as the presentation of tools and services built to
improve the processes of electronic publication (OpCit, the Open
Citation Project; TIPS, Tools for Innovative Publishing in Science;
MPRESS, Mathematics Preprint Search System; Roquade, Electronic
Publishing Services for Scientists; etc.). The OAI protocol seems to
be the key for a better coordination of all these resources. All the
presentations made during the different sessions can be viewed:
The Certification of Scientific Publications
The Open Archives Initiative and it's underlying information
technologies open new perspectives and may be the foundation stone of
a new scholarly communication schema, but this change should not lead
to the loss of what made the value of the previous, traditional model:
certification through the peer-review process. The existing
peer-review was an efficient way to validate scientific papers. Even
though the electronic environment offers new possibilities, the new
certification mechanisms should be very cautiously experimented (open
peer-review, open comments, forums...). This important question was
discussed by participants representing all the actors involved in
scholarly communication: commercial publishers, learned societies,
Closing Session Report and Final Recommendations
1. Peer Review
The certification of scholarly work remains a fundamental part of
a system for scholarly communication. Even though the existing
peer-review mechanism fulfils certification in an appropriate way,
the electronic environment allows for novel approaches to accord
quality stamps to scholarly works. Such novel mechanisms would still
have to prove their validity; however, this burden of proof should
not prevent experimental work being done in this area. Such work
was actually strongly encouraged. The experimentation may lead to the
reinvention of peer-review, but may also move the existing
peer-review system outside of the realm of established publishers.
Statistics could easily be extracted from a fully electronic
communication system. They could be used to obtain quality
assessments for scholarly works: usage counts of a work, automatically
extracted citation information with a scope beyond the core journals,
amount of discussion generated by a paper submitted in a system with
open peer-review and peer-comment, etc.
Learned societies as well as scholars have to take up their
responsibility regarding peer review. A better rewarding of
peer-reviewers could be a means to encourage scholars to take part in
the quality assessment process (e.g. through publishing their
name). Experiments in the area of certification of works in an
electronic environment need to be funded.
2. Economic Aspects
Preprint servers storing uncertified material introduce marginal
costs, that can be paid for by the authors, the research institutions
and/or by the public, as has generally been the case in the
paper-based communication system. Offering an open access to
uncertified materials souldn't be very difficult.
However, the peer-review process, as it is currently conducted,
still has a cost, even in a fully electronic scholarly communication
system. New models may reduce the costs, since cost elements would
mainly be e-mail costs and small incentives for the reviewers.
There seemed to be consensus that the document producer (author,
laboratory, research institute...) should cover these peer-reviewing
- It is the author who gets the intellectual reward for the
- Covering the costs should make the author more
aware of the publication cost.
- The dissemination of scholarly
work should be considered to be an essential part of the process of
publicly funded research.
This model seems to be reasonable, but might be problematic in
some poor countries. There is a need for an inventory of current economic models for
electronic journals. Different models should be investigated.
Digital communication actually increased the libraries'
expenditure, that's why libraries should play an active role in
helping to build a new scholarly communication system. Funding could
be obtained from savings on current expenditures: redundancy
elimination, a better selection of the purchased journals on the
basis of the quality of the peer-review process.
3. Protocol for Certification
Concrete actions were
suggested to address the exchange of certification-related metadata
using the OAI protocol in a trusted environment. The representatives from the
American Physical Society and the Los Alamos arXiv volunteered to
participate in a prototype. The OAI representatives will work to
facilitate such a prototype and involve technical experts from the US
and Europe. The OAI will also pay full attention to related standardization work conducted by other
organisations such as the W3C, the Dublin Core, the German certification metadata effort, etc.
Libraries should both
establish technical systems to support scholarly communication and
increase the awareness of the academic community regarding ongoing
issues in scholarly communication.
LIBER especially, as a research library organization in Europe, should take some
responsibility and help in the determination of the required metadata
standards for efficient interoperability of the archives. LIBER could
also be of help in creating an integrated environment for the use of
classification schemes. Furthermore, LIBER could organize some
concerted action for supporting the technical framework brought
forward by the OAI.
LIBER and the individual
libraries, in collaboration with other organizations like
SPARC(-Europe?) or ICOLC, should also be more active in raising
awareness regarding the OAI and how the OAI framework can
play a role in the reform of scholarly communication.
5. Organizational Structure
As the activity of e-print servers grows in Europe, there may be a need for a European
coordinating organization. Taking into account SPARC's activities so far, it is uncertain whether SPARC(-Europe)
could play a facilitating role in the promotion of e-print-centred systems. More recent SPARC activities at least suggest this
The need for a new coordinating organization is not evident; the coordination could also
be a new task for LIBER. The OAI itself will seriously look into
having a broader European involvement both in its Steering Committee
and in its Technical Committee.
Challenged to name the three most urgent recommendations, the audience suggested the
- Conduct work in the area of using the OAI protocol for certification-related metadata.
Create certification schemes building on existing efforts, where possible.
- Some credible library organizations should get in touch with scholarly publishers to
promote the concept of exposing metadata of the materials (articles, books...) they publish via the OAI protocol.
- Increase the amount of institutional and/or departmental OAI-compatible e-print servers and
take action to promote submission of scholarly work to those servers.
The Open Archives Initiative is far from being just an interesting
concept. The OAI Protocol offers a very powerful technical framework,
and will widely contribute to the rise of a new scholarly
communication system. Its success depends on the implication of
libraries, publishers, learned societies and researchers. The
Workshop on the Open Archives Initiative and Peer Review Journals in
Europe was a very stimulating one, and showed that we are not
too far away from a new scholarly communication model, more efficient
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for Nuclear Research
Scientific Information Service
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For citation purposes:
the Open Archives initiative (OAI) and Peer Review Journals in Europe
: A Report", High Energy Physics Libraries
Webzine, issue 4, June 2001
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Maintained by: HEPLW
Last modified: 2001