Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I'm happy to announce that this blog is changing its name from FOS News to Open Access News. The new name is both more accurate and more self-explanatory than the old one. The field covered by the blog is now better known as the "open access movement" than the "FOS movement". This wasn't true when the blog launched, but it's true now. I'm proud of how widely the term "FOS" became associated with this movement, but even happier with the spread of the term "open access" since the launch of the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002. "Open access" is now the term of art I use in my own writing, and the term preferred by most researchers, editors, publishers, librarians, journalists, and activists who discuss these topics. At first I retained the "FOS" name for my blog and newsletter because of the hard-won branding identity they had built up. But I've long felt a competing pressure to use the same term that I was encouraging everyone else to use. More.

Steve Hitchcock's Core metalist of open access eprint archives has moved, reorganized, and changed its name to Explore Open Archives. It's now maintained by the OpCit Project. Bookmark the new OpCit edition of this valuable guide. It's the most thorough and up-to-date directory of OAI-compliant eprint repositories on the net.

Friday, June 27, 2003

An editorial, Scientific publishing picks up speed, in the June 24 issue of CMAJ, is mainly about fast-tracked publication of articles about SARS, but it also includes some positive comments about open-access electronic archives. An excerpt: "Perhaps we need 2 tracks to publication, in the model of, say, physics and computer science, where the fast lane is for preprint publication on individual or open-access servers and the slow lane is reserved for publication in print-based journals. Other than possible damage to existing journal revenue streams, we see few disadvantages in keeping the fast lane open".

Avi Rushinek and Sara Rushinek, What Makes a Publisher Important? Ubiquity, 4, 12 (May 13-19, 2003). Excerpt: "Evaluating the quality of a journal publisher is many times a controversial issue. This is especially the case as it pertains to the promotion and tenure decisions of faculty members. For that reason, many academic articles have been written about this subject. Yet, these articles may not address some issues when applied to environments outside the academic community. One such example is from the perspective of a forensic expert witness testimony. In such an environment, the traditional academic approach may not be the best and only approach. It may be too theoretical or too esoteric. It may take too much time to conduct these academic studies, leading to out-of-date results. What can be done to supplement the traditional academic methods of comparing the quality of different journal publishers, authors and articles, especially for lay people who do not know the domain, cannot invest a lot of time in studying it, and need to get objective, immediate and up-to-date answers? Our response is using the Internet search engines to compare articles." (Thanks to CIT Infobits.)

The presentations from the conference, Death of the Book? Challenges and Opportunities for Scholarly Publishing (Sydney, March 7-8, 2003), are now online.

More on the Sabo bill....Catherine Zandonella reports the story in today's issue of The Scientist. Excerpt: "Rep. Sabo drafted and introduced the bill after the PLoS approached him and explained that while federal tax dollars support research, access to the results is limited to scientists whose libraries can afford high subscription fees and to those lay people lucky enough to live near a public institutional library. 'Most people are shocked when they find out they cannot access the results of studies that their tax dollars paid for,' said Sabo's legislative assistant Lisa Tomlinson, who was involved in writing the bill....Without copyright, journals would still be able to publish articles much as they do now, but they would not be able to control the distribution or republishing of the articles. Publishers say they need copyright in order to control a publication's quality....Advocates of open access say that publishers should not own the copyright because the amount of work that the journal does—procuring peer review, editing, and laying out the article on the page—does not justify ownership. 'Their [the publisher's] contribution to the finished product pales in comparison to contributions from scientists and the general public,' said Michael Eisen, cofounder of PLoS and a geneticist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley."

This may be old news, but I just learned that Ian Witten and David Bainbridge have provided free online selections from their book, How to Build a Digital Library, Morgan Kaufmann, July 2002 (700 pp, paperback, $49.95).

More on the Sabo bill....Jeffrey Brainard reports the story in today's Chronicle of Higher Education (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "A Democratic member of Congress filed legislation on Thursday that would make research papers ineligible for copyright protection if written by scientists who received 'substantial' federal financing for the work. The intent of the bill is to provide free and widespread public access to the papers....The bill does not provide a dollar threshold for how much federal financing would be deemed 'substantial,' and would leave it to individual federal agencies to set those standards. The bill is not meant to drive subscription-based scholarly journals out of business, nor is that an expected result, said Michael S. Erlandson, Mr. Sabo's chief of staff....Mr. Sabo's bill lacks a co-sponsor. As a member of the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, he will need support from Republican lawmakers for the bill to come to a vote. Mr. Erlandson said he expected the bill to attract co-sponsors and stimulate debate, and said that he did not expect partisan opposition."

More on PLoS and the Sabo bill....Sharon Begley reports the story in the June 26 Wall Street Journal (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "In a challenge to the profitable business of science publishing, a marquee group of biomedical scientists is trying to move peer-reviewed research out of the exclusive world of expensive medical journals and make it freely available to everyone. Hoping to facilitate that effort, Rep. Martin O. Sabo (D., Minn.) Thursday is introducing federal legislation that would exclude from U.S. copyright protection papers describing any research financed largely with federal dollars. Journals such as Cell, Neuron and Nature wouldn't own the papers they publish, as is now the case, a situation that enables them to charge for access to the documents."

In Canada, copyrights extend 50 years after the death of the author, but in France they extend 70 years. What is the status of works more than 50, but less than 70, years after an author's death? What if a Canadian web archivist thinks they are in the public domain and their French publisher thinks they are not? We're about to find out. Jean-Michel Tremblay is the Canadian maintainer of Classiques des Sciences Sociales, an open-access archive of public domain books. The French publisher is Presses Universitaires de France. PUF wants Tremblay to remove from his archive all PUF-published works that are still under French copyright, even if they are not under Canadian copyright. Tremblay refuses. PUF faces a dilemma: if it seeks a remedy in a Canadian court, it will lose. If it seeks a remedy in a French court, it will win but the remedy will not apply in Canada. Perhaps that is why PUF is bypassing courts and taking its grievance to the Syndicat National de l'Edition, a trade organization of French publishers --although it's far from clear how the Syndicat can help PUF where courts cannot. For details, see Karen Bastien's story in the June 21 Libération (in French).

(PS: I thank Milad Doueihi for sending me this story. Milad draws attention to the jurisdictional tangles here that create conflicts about internet governance and copyright extension. I'd add that Tremblay is in a very strong legal position. Moreover, his position will be identical to many other web archivists in nations with short copyright terms. Perhaps this is one reason why the US and EU think copyright harmonization is so important. Tremblay's strong legal position also shows that nations willing to roll back the term of copyright might offend other nations but will give their own citizens and publishers a legal gift --not to mention an invigorated public domain and spur to scholarship and creativity.)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Yesterday Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) officially introduced the Public Domain Enhancement Act. Quoting Lofgren: "Our Founding Fathers recognized that society has an interest in the free flow of ideas, information and commerce,” said Lofgren. “That is why copyright protection does not last forever. This bill will breathe life into older works whose long-forgotten stories, songs, pictures and movies are no longer published, read, heard or seen. It is time to give these treasures back to the public." News coverage.

The state of Missouri has launched an open-access archive of Missouri Supreme Court opinions, starting with the first in 1783. The archive currently includes all cases up to 1871 and plans to include all cases down to the present. (Thanks to ResearchBuzz.)

More on the Sabo bill....Paul Elias has written up the story for the AP, focusing more on PLoS than the Sabo legislative proposal. Excerpt: "U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat, introduced legislation Thursday that would give immediate public access to all research papers created mostly with federal money, regardless of which journal published them. The federal government doles out more than $50 billion in research funds a year. Many scientific journals, such as Science and Nature, own the copyrights to the research papers reprinted in their publications and charge for access to them. Scientists such as Nobel laureate Harold Varmus have railed against that system for years, arguing the public and scientists operating on a shoe string are excluded from access because of the high costs of subscribing to the journals. They also say it inhibits scientific collaboration. 'Unlimited access to scientific research will speed discoveries and medical advances,' said Varmus, president of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York."

More on the Sabo bill....Keay Davidson reports the story in today's San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: "The San Francisco-based campaign for a 'Public Library of Science' should benefit from legislation expected to be introduced today by Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., campaigners say. Sabo's proposed Public Access to Science Act would forbid the copyrighting of scientific research that was substantially supported by federal tax dollars. If Sabo's scheme pans out, it could ensure free public access to taxpayer- bankrolled scientific research published in journals that currently charge steep subscription fees, up to hundreds of dollars a year."

The July issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. Of interest in this issue is a copyright perspective (on the RIAA and compulsory licensing), reflections on COPA and CIPA, and a section on open-access journals commenting on many recent articles and arguments.

More on Sabo's open-access bill....In today's New York Times, Warren Leary reports that the bill will be called the Public Access to Science Act. Excerpt from Leary's story: "The measure places results of research financed primarily by the government into the public domain so access cannot be prohibited by copyright, said Dr. Michael B. Eisen, a co-founder of the [Public Library of Science], and a biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The bill also calls on federal agencies to improve access to their research results."

In the same press release announcing its new TV spot, PLoS announces that Representative Martin O. Sabo (D-MN) "is drafting legislation that would put publications describing research substantially funded by taxpayer dollars into the public domain." Quoting Sabo: "This is a good idea whose time is overdue. We only progress as a society when research is available to all of our best minds at any time. Citizens should have access to publicly-funded research anytime." I'll report more details on this legislation as I learn them. So far, Sabo's web site is silent on the subject.

The Public Library of Science has created a 30-second TV spot to air in San Francisco, Boston, and Washington DC. It's also available online, in QuickTime and Windows Media formats (both high and low res versions, depending on your connection speed). The spot started running June 23, although it was only announced today. As far as I know, this is the TV debut of the open-access movement.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In Hacking for Free Speech, Chris Sprigman describes hacker groups that try to penetrate the internet censorship walls erected by countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China. The article appears in the June 24 issue of Writ.

Reporters Without Borders has issued its second annual report, The Internet under Surveillance - Obstacles to the free flow of information online. Excerpt: "The Internet is the bane of all dictatorial regimes, but even in democracies such as the United States, Britain and France, new anti-terrorism laws have tightened government control of it and undermined the principle of protecting journalistic sources. This report is about attitudes to the Internet by the powerful in 60 countries, between spring 2001 and spring 2003."

I just made an HTML version of the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing and put it online.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

More on the Information Access Alliance opposition to the Kluwer-Springer merger....The Alliance has just released a white paper, Publisher Mergers: A Consumer-Based Approach to Antitrust Analysis, by Thomas Susman and David Carter. From the executive summary: "Over the past two decades, increased concentration in the publishing industry has been accompanied by significant escalation in the price of serials publications, eroding libraries' ability to provide users with the publications they need. Nowhere does this seem more troublesome than in the market for scientific, technical, and medical (STM) journals and legal serial publications where pricing, as well as marketing practices for electronic publications, threaten library budgets and ultimately the widespread availability of important writings to the public. In this paper, the Information Access Alliance (Alliance) describes the issues that have emerged as the industry has become increasingly concentrated and advocates for a new standard of antitrust review that we urge be adopted by state and federal antitrust enforcement agencies in examining merger transactions in the serials publishing industry. The Alliance strongly encourages a shift in the paradigm for analyzing mergers among publishers of STM and among publishers of legal serial publications toward a more consumer-focused approach. When reviewing proposed mergers, antitrust authorities should consider the decision-making process used by libraries --the primary customers of STM and legal serial publications-- to make purchasing decisions. Only then will these mergers be subjected to the degree of scrutiny they deserve and adequate access be preserved."

More on the JISC purchase of BMC memberships for all 180 UK universities....Tony Delamothe reports the story in the June 21 issue of BMJ.

OCLC and RLG have announced the launch of PREMIS (PREservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies), a working group of the two organizations charged with implementing a practical metadata framework for the long-term preservation and access of digital content.

Gerry McKiernan's presentation for the ALCTS Scholarly Communications Discussion Group meeting at the ALA annual meeting (Toronto, June 23) is now online.

Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). I haven't covered CIPA much here, because it only overlaps sliightly with open access issues. But the decision is worth noting as another incursion on the free flow of information, this time in order to protect children using internet terminals in libraries receiving federal funds. The court acknowledged that internet filters are very imperfect, and can only block porn by blocking much non-porn at the same time. This "overblocking" problem didn't bother the Court because adults could always turn off the filters. Some libraries are responding to the decision by planning to inform patrons that filters may be turned off on request, no questions asked. Others are planning to turn down federal funds. See the Court's ruling and news coverage about it.

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Andrea Foster reports on the campaign for the Public Domain Enhancement Act. (The story is only accessible to subscribers.) The PDEA is Lawrence Lessig's simple idea: if copyright holders pay a token $1 fee after 50 years, then they may renew their copyright. Otherwise, their work would enter the public domain --far sooner than it would under current law. Foster's article focuses on the PDEA's beneficial consequences for film, but in fact the act would enlarge the public domain for every category of creative work. (PS: In Eldred, the Supreme Court held that extending the term of copyright was (1) permissible, not mandatory, and (2) within the discretion of Congress. The PDEA asks Congress to accelerate the transfer of works into the public domain, but in a way that doesn't harm copyright holders who want the maximum term for their own works. It should be a no brainer. To help Congress see the light, sign the online petition for the PDEA. Also see letters to Congress in support of the PDEA from film preservationists and archives.)

From the latest Update from BioMed Central: "A number of BioMed Central journals have now received news about their 2002 impact factors. Arthritis Research & Therapy has an impact factor of 3.44, and Breast Cancer Research has an impact factor of 2.82. These journals have been ranked highly among other well established journals in each field. This is an impressive opening rating for such young journals - both of which were launched in 1999".

Monday, June 23, 2003

More on NLM standardized DTD's....Robin Peek describes the new standards in the June 23 Information Today. Her conclusion: "Hopefully other standard setting organizations will take a good long look at this new proposed standard and will elect to partner with NLM to make it a standard that matters."

The June 19 Economist profiles LOCKSS ("Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe") in an anonymous story, Storing E-Text for Centuries (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "Despite its complexities, LOCKSS, which is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Sun Microsystems and others, has shown that it works. A prototype version was installed at some 80 libraries worldwide to test the concept under real conditions. Lots of teething problems remain. But the biggest challenges may be economic rather than technical. Some publishers, in particular the more commercial ones, are none too keen on having their content cached elsewhere, although most of their concerns have been dealt with....More importantly, starting in 2004, the project will need to stand on its own financial feet. And that can only mean one thing: libraries and perhaps publishers, too, will have to make a contribution. Ms Reich is currently putting together an organisation, which will be called LOCKSS Alliance, whose mission will be, among other things, to maintain the software, and ensure that there are a sufficient number of caches."

Sunday, June 22, 2003

The Bethesda statement on open access publishing was released on June 20. It's based on an April 11 meeting of foundations, scientists, editors, publishers, and open-access proponents, hosted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. I participated in the conference and signed the document. I wish it went further on a few points, but it makes significant headway e.g. in asking foundations to pay the processing fees charged by open-access journals. The public and private funding agencies in the room agreed that this was something they could and should do to promote open access. We welcome comments from every quarter. In a few months the participants will meet again to take public comments into account and draft a revised version of the principles. Read the statement, send your comments to me or the FOS Forum, and spread the word. (I'll forward to the Forum any comments sent directly to me, and I'll make sure that the Forum comments are known to the conference organizers.)

More on the JISC purchase of BMC memberships for 180 UK universities....Kate Galbraith covers the story in the June 20 Chronicle of Higher Education (accessible only to subscribers). Quoting Jan Velterop, BMC's publisher, "The aim now is to really change the way publishing is done, make it a successful model. [Under the BMC publishing model] material can be open-access, which has great benefit for scientific efficiency and scientific equity." Quoting Philip Pothen of JISC: "This deal will not do away with [the $128 million UK universities spend every year on journals] in a stroke. [But the conventional publishing model] is costing universities a lot of money."