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preservation vs. Preservation

             ** Apologies for Cross-Posting **

This is perhaps a good juncture at which to make it explicit that 
there is "small-p preservation" and "large-P Preservation." Of 
course GNU Eprints, like everyone else (including ArXiv since way 
back in 1991) is doing small-p preservation, and will continue to 
do so: Open Access is for the sake of *immediate* access, today, 
tomorrow, and into the future -- and this, in turn, is for the 
sake of maximising immediate usage and impact, today, tomorrow, 
and into the future. Hence small-p preservation is a necessary 
means to that end.

But big-P Preservation, in contrast, is Preservation as an end in 
itself: as the motivation for archiving in the first place; or as 
a pressing need for ephemeral or fragile "born-digital" contents; 
or as a responsibility for content-providers (journal-providers) 
or content-purchasers (subscribing libraries) or 
content-preservers (deposit/record libraries) who need to ensure 
the perennity of their sold/purchased product.

So it is absurd to imagine (and for that reason needs to be 
stated explicitly, again and again, even though it is patently 
obvious) that Eprints is either oblivious to small-p preservation 
or that its contents are one bit more or less likely to vanish 
tomorrow than any other digital contents that are being 
conscientiously preserved and migrated and upgraded today, 
keeping up with the ongoing developments in the means of 

The difference between preservation and Preservation is that 
preservation is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end 
(which is immediate, ongoing access-provision and usage), whereas 
Preservation is an end in itself.

Why is it so important to make it crystal clear that Eprints and 
OA are *not* for Preservation projects? that their primary 
motivation is *not* to ensure the longevity of digital contents 
(even though Eprints and OA *do* provide longevity, and do keep 
up with whatever developments occur in the means of long-term 
preservation of their contents)?

Because OA's target contents are 85% missing! The pressing 
problem of absent content cannot be its Preservation! Eighty-five 
percent of the 2.5 million articles published annually in the 
world's 24,000 journals are not being self-archived today (and, a 
fortiori, were not self-archived yesterday, or the 
month/year/decade before). What has been -- and continues to be 
-- lost, as a consequence of this, is not the contents in 
question (for they are being Preserved in their 
proprietary-product version, by their producers [publishers] 
along with their purchasers [libraries]).

What has been (and continues to be) lost for the 85% of annual OA 
target content that has not been (and is not being) 
self-archived, is *access*, *usage*, and *impact*. That is the 
true motivation for Eprints and OA self-archiving. And (listen 
carefully, because this is the gist of it!): that content will 
*never* be self-archived by its authors for the sake of 
Preservation, because it *need not be*: its Preservation is 
already in other hands than its authors (or its authors' 
institutions), as it always was, and for the foreseeable future 
will continue to be. The mission of authors and their 
institutions was not, is not, and should not have to be the 
Preservation of their own published journal article output [but 
see Note below**].

Nor, by the same token, is it the mission or motivation of 
authors' institutions to create Institutional Repositories (IRs) 
for the Preservation of their own published journal article 
output. If there is no better reason for creating OA IRs today 
than the Preservation of one's own journal article output, then 
there is no reason for institutions to create OA IRs today, and 
no reason for their authors to self-archive. This is a logical, 
empirical and practical fact, stated (recall, again) at a 
historical moment when 85% of OA target content is still missing, 
even though it is overdue, even though its self-archiving has 
been feasible for years, and even though its continuing absence 
entails that 85% of maximised research usage and impact (i.e., 
impact from usage by all would-be users rather than only those 
whose institutions can afford journal access) continues to be 

To wrongly identify the mission or motivation of Eprints or OA 
self-archiving with the need to Preserve digital contents is to 
provide yet another (strong) reason for authors *not* to 
self-archive. Because Preservation is simply no reason at all 
(for OA self-archiving).

And to subsume the urgent mission of finding a way to generate 
that missing 85% of OA target content under the murky mission of 
the generic Preservation of generic digital content is simply to 
miss the point of OA self-archiving altogether, and to imagine 
that it is merely yet another instance of Preservation-Archiving 
-- whose mission and motivation, to repeat, yet again, is not 
immediate, urgent, long-overdue content-provision, 
access-provision, and usage/impact-maximisation, but long-term 
content-Preservation, as an end in itself.

So please, let us reassure those who might be fussed about it, 
that the contents of OA IRs like Eprints can and will continue to 
be preserved, but that to be Preserved is not their purpose, nor 
the purpose of self-archiving: immediate and ongoing 
access-provision and usage/impact-maximisation is their purpose. 
And that purpose is currently not being met -- not because the OA 
contents are at risk of not being preserved today, but because 
(85% of) the OA contents are at a *certainty* of not being 
*provided* today.

The OA problem, in other words, is not Preservation tomorrow, but 
Provision today. Hitching today's Provision problem to tomorrow's 
Preservation problem is yet another recipe for prolonging the 
non-Provision of 85% of OA's target content.

What is needed for the provision of the missing 85% of OA's 
target content is author motivation; and the empirical findings 
on how OA enhances usage and impact go only part of the way 
toward engaging author motivation. The critical missing bit to 
ensure the provision of the missing content is institutional OA 
self-archiving mandates, *not* the plugging in of OA as merely 
another plank in the institution's generic Preservation platform.

I sense I am repeating myself -- but it appears to be needed, for 
the conflation of the Preservation-archiving mission and the OA 
access-provision mission just keeps recurring, deferring time, 
energy and motivation from OA access-provision, which is Eprints' 
raison d'etre.

[**Note: One last, somewhat subtler point, almost need not be 
stated, but it's probably better to make it explicit too, even 
though it is highly premature and highly hypothetical: If and 
when it should ever transpire -- and there is as yet no sign at 
all that it will -- that 100% OA via 100% self-archiving, having 
been neared or reached, should cause radical changes in the 
journal publishing system, forcing publishers to down-size into 
becoming only peer-review service-providers and certifiers, 
rather than also being the analog and digital product 
access-providers, as they are now, thereby forcing them to 
off-load access-provision and archiving onto their authors' 
institutions, *then*, and only if/when "then" ever comes, 
authors' institutions will inherit the primary-content 
Preservation mission, and not just the supplementary-content 
preservation mission.

But before that hypothetical contingency needs to be faced, there 
is still the very real, unsolved problem of getting that missing 
85% of OA target content systematically self-archived. Let us not 
continue delaying that actuality by getting caught up in or 
deflected by hypothetical speculations.]

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum