Open Access: The sorry state of Indian repositories

India may not have a national Open Access policy in place, but the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), The Department of Science & Technology (DST), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), The University Grants Commission (UGC) have Open Access policies that clearly mandate researchers to deposit their papers in institutional repositories. National institutes such IITs and IISc too have repositories and similar mandates.

Yet, of the 69 Indian repositories listed in the Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) and registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), only 12 repositories added “at least one item during a month” during the period July 2015 to June 2016. Seventeen repositories did not add even a single item during the course of the year of study, while 40 were “irregular” in adding items to the repositories, says a Correspondence published today (January 25) in Current Science.

Worse, some of them are not repositories in the strict sense — they do not host research papers, pre-prints or post-prints. Instead, they have theses, dissertations, book chapters, patents, annual reports, technical reports and research proposals, to name a few.

“Open Access institutional repositories are clearly lagging behind despite the mandate,” says Dr. G. Mahesh from the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, New Delhi and one of the authors of the paper. “Individual researchers are required to deposit their papers in the repository but they don’t. It is very difficult to motivate them to do it.”

One of the reasons why researchers do not deposit their papers in a repository is because they no longer hold the copyrights. “In over 95 per cent of cases, the researchers have already transferred their copyrights to the respective journals,” he says. “Ideally, pre-prints of papers should be deposited in a repository. A large majority of publishers of subscription journals have no problem in researchers depositing preprints in a repository.”

Since researchers transfer their copyrights to publishers when a paper is accepted, it is not possible to deposit the papers in a repository.

“Researchers get greater visibility when they deposit their pre-prints in a repository as anyone can read them.  The institutions too gain. So it is difficult to say why researchers are not doing it,” he says.

It is another matter that except in the case of IISERs, individual researchers in most of the national institutes and government labs under CSIR, ICAR and ICMR do not even regularly update their publication list. It is not uncommon to find the publication list of many researchers, including those at IISc, not updated since 2013 and 2014!