The fact that the PEER European Project (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) has managed to establish a fruitful communication channel between publishers and repositories was repeatedly highlighted along the PEER End of Project Conference held last Tue May 29th in Brussels. This ability for fostering a successful collaboration between stakeholders initially at conflicting positions is undoubtedly one of the main PEER outcomes and it would be good news for the Open Access movement as a whole if these communication channels could remain open in the future. As Norbert Lossau put it, favouring pragmatism over ideology could be very useful for jointly outlining evolving business models.
The second most important achievement of the PEER project was being able to establish a tested publisher-repository transfer infrastructure which can be deployed beyond the project. A good number of PEER components and technical findings -such as the PEER Depot dark archive, adoption of the TEI format as an unique metadata interchange standard or SWORD as standard transfer protocol, the way usage is dealt with or the use of the GROBID component for automatic metadata extraction- are potentially re-usable for other ongoing or future publisher-driven transfer initiatives and especially valuable for automatic item transfer into repositories within an hegemonic Gold Open Access scenario that was also frequently predicted along the meeting.
Additional publisher-driven deposit initiatives such as Japanese 'Zoological Science meets Institutional Repositories' were mentioned along the conference as well as COAR involvement in the interoperability strand pottentially offering opportunities for follow-up work. Besides that, the JISC-funded SONEX Group has repeatedly underlined along its analysis of deposit use-case scenarios the strong workflow similarities between PEER and the JISC Open Access Repository Junction (OA-RJ) Project carried out at EDINA in Edinburgh. The RJ Broker feature -which performs a very similar role to the PEER Depot 'moulinette'- is currently being enhanced and will shortly be offered as a service through the UK RepositoryNet+ Project.
The figures associated to the PEER project are certainly impressive: 53,000 stage-two manuscripts (aka post-prints in SHERPA RoMEO terminology) from 241 journals published by 12 mainstream publishers were processed by the PEER Depot resulting in 22,500 EU manuscript deposits (including embargoed papers) released into six different IRs plus into a long-term preservation archive at the KB in The Hague. Two submission routes were designed: automatic publisher-driven deposit and 11,800 invitations to authors for self-archiving their papers, the latter one resulting in just 170 author deposits (or 0.2% of total PEER deposits).
The large difference between deposit figures associated to the two deposit routes led PEER researchers to conclude that authors sympathise with OA but don't see self-archiving as their task, therefore "Green OA not being the key road to optimal scholar information systems". The PEER Usage research -one of the three research team projects within the PEER Research strand along with Behavioural and Economics research- proved also that although current findings reflect the position of a relatively early stage in PEER development, Open Access repositories are not really a threat to publishers (thus confirming the so-called "no effect" publisher hypothesis). In fact, making pre-prints visible in PEER repositories actually generates more traffic to publisher sites, although the ever growing rates of publisher downloads make it hard to supply an accurate measurement of the impact on publishers of post-print availability in repositories. Ian Rowlands from CIBER Research Ltd estimated that publisher full-text downloads increased by 11.4% as a result of earlier version of papers being available at the IR.
Gold vs Green OA
While testing Green Open Access and its economic consequences for the publishing ecosystem in Europe was the main PEER goal and Green OA was the preferred workline when the Project started back in Sep 2008, the Gold Open Access route seems nowadays to be winning hearts and minds of those trying to promote access to research output on a wide basis. PEER has produced quite a number of evidences on the fact that Green OA does not harm journals nor publishers, but in the meantime attention has shifted to Gold Open Access and hybrid journals as a way to ensure that final publisher/PDF versions of the papers are made available.
This is probably the strongest argument in favour of Gold OA, but there are also very good ones that support Green OA. As a result, a lively debate is taking place these days inside the Open Access community on which OA model should receive main support from the government bodies. Many voices argue as well that both models should co-exist, as the research output coverage will be wider as a consequence. And there is finally an important fact to be accounted for after watching PEER result of 99.8 vs 0.2% automatic vs author-driven deposit: author self-archiving rates should not be systematically used as reliable indicators of the strength of Green OA, since there is nowadays a wealth of alternative ways to populate repositories that do not imply self-archiving obligations for authors. In fact CRIS systems, their integration with IRs and the resulting alternative workflows for content ingest into repositories were not mentioned at all last Tuesday despite having already been proved effective by a recently released UKOLN report. When trying to offer a fair estimation of Green OA relevance based on the wider deposit picture, the contribution to repository population from these alternative workflows should also be considered.