Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Making PubMed handy

The NLM is now offering PubMed for Handhelds and PubMed on Tap (for PDA's). (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Google v. Medline

There's currently a good discussion thread on the Evidence-Based Library list about whether Google is better than Medline. (Thanks to MedInfo.)

Friday, September 10, 2004

UC eScholarship taking off

There are a number of developments afoot in the University of California eScholarship Initiative. Here are some highlights. eScholarship Editions includes hundreds of Open Access university press monographs. The eScholarship Repository boasts 3472 papers to date. Included in the eScholarship Repository are a couple of niche monographic series, UC Publications in Zoology and UC Publications in Geological Sciences. All eScholarship Repository content may be browsed and downloaded at no cost and with no access restrictions. University of California Publications in Zoology - Fulltext v131+ (2003+); ISSN: 0068-6506. University of California Publications in Geological Sciences - Fulltext v146+ (2004+); ISSN: 0068-645X. Five monographs appear in the UCIAS Edited Volumes, which is part of the broader University of California International and Area Studies Digital Collection.

Statistica Sinica -- online with 1 year embargo

Statistica Sinica is a quarterly statistics journal cosponsored by the Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica and the International Chinese Statistical Association. Nonsubscribers may not access the fulltext until one year after initial publication. Statistica Sinica - Fulltext v1+ (1991+) 1 year moving wall; ISSN: 1017-0405.

OA music

Not all free online music swapping violates the will of the copyright holders. Where do you find digital online music that its makers and owners have consented to share freely? Jon Pareles lists a good number of sources in today's New York Times (free registration required).

Chamber of Commerce endorses NIH OA plan

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the NIH open-access plan. From yesterday's press release: "The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed news by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it plans to provide enhanced public access to all NIH-funded research information. The Chamber has long been an active advocate of more open and transparent access to government information. 'This is great news for American taxpayers and businesses,' said William Kovacs, Chamber vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, which strongly supports the NIH proposal. 'The Chamber encourages the free and timely dissemination of scientific knowledge produced by the NIH as it will improve both the public and industry's ability to become better informed on public policy issues that impact them.'...While welcoming free public dissemination of NIH-funded research, Kovacs also urged NIH to provide free access to all models and data used in support of the research, without which he noted, would make establishing the scientific findings impossible....The Chamber is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector, and region."

OA for developing countries, esp. India

K. Satyanarayana, Open access publications in biomedical research: implications for developing countries, Indian Journal of Medical Research 120, 67-69 (August 2004). In an editorial, the author reviews significant milestones in the development of OA. Satyanarayana then asks, "What is the impact of these initiatives for the developing countries already largely deprived of access to current information," and points out library budget struggles and calls for an evaluation of HINARI and similar projects, while noting, among other considerations, the lack of internet connectivity in these countries and their wariness towards "charity" such as waiving of author payment models. The minor internet presence of Indian journals is also noted. The author calls for the Indian government to meet with "all stake holders on OA publishing and take appropriate policy initiatives."

Publishers lobby the Senate, oppose the OA plan

Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society, has publicly released the September 8 letter he wrote to Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), both of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS. The letter urges the Senators to "to halt the NIH's current efforts to develop a government-run distribution center for scientific research articles." Frank makes the familiar argument that the NIH plan will threaten subscription-based journals. (PS reply.) In this letter he makes the additional argument that the general public already has free online access to some medical information, which is true but beside the point. On the question whether the public should have access to all taxpayer-funded research, Frank changes course and argues that the NIH only funds a fraction of it, as if that were a reason to withhold the NIH-funded portion rather than a reason to provide it and then keep working to provide more. A few other arguments from the letter: "[I]t is not in the best interests of science to place a government agency in the position of gatekeeper for public access to research." (PS: True, but only if the government would close the gate. In this case the government would open the gate. Frank would prefer to give private-sector publishers the right to keep the gate closed, even to publicly-funded research.) "The advent of the Internet makes it easier to disseminate information, but it does not eliminate the costs of publishing." (True but a red herring for two different reasons: first, no OA advocate has ever said that publishing is costless, and second, the NIH plan is about OA archiving, not OA publishing.) The letter is co-signed by a large number of society publishers, most of whom also signed the DC Principles for Free Access to Science.

(PS: If you are a U.S. citizen who supports open access, it's more important than ever to take action. If you are from Iowa, contact Sen. Tom Harkin's office. If you are from Pennsylvania, contact Sen. Arlen Specter's office. They are the ranking members of the Senate committee that will consider the NIH plan, if any Senate committee considers it. If you are from another state, then contact your Senators. If you represent a U.S.-based organization, then join the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and let the ATA use your name to continue this fight. If you are a scientist who belongs to a scientific society that signed Frank's letter, then make it known that the society does not speak for you and that you don't appreciate it putting its publishing mission ahead of its research mission and the interests of its members.)

gpgNet discussion of OA

The Global Public Goods Network (gpgNet) will host an online discussion of open access from September 20 until October 4, 2004. Everyone interested in the topic is welcome to join. Participants are encouraged to read the gpgNet introduction, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and my Open Access Overview. gpgNet is a project of the United Nations Development Programme.

Permanente Journal

Permanente Journal is a free ejournal, wholly produced by the clinicians of the Permanente Medical Groups. There appears to be considerable strength in the area of evidence-based medicine. Permanente Journal - Fulltext v1+ (1997+); ISSN: none. PS -- On September 16, Permanente Journal was granted ISSNs; Print ISSN: 1552-5767 | Online ISSN: 1552-5775. Thanks to Merry Parker, Managing Editor, Permanente Journal.

"A Manifesto for Open Chemistry"

Peter Murray-Rust, Henry S. Rzepa, Simon. M. Tyrrella, and Y. Zhanga, Representation and use of Chemistry in the Global Electronic Age, a preprint forthcoming from Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry. On the exciting potential of combining open access and the semantic web in chemistry. Excerpt: "Almost all of an author's output (compounds, spectra, reactions, properties, etc.) is nowadays computerised and in principle redistributable to the community for re-use. Few journals actively validate the primary data (e.g. spectra) involved in a publication (chemical crystallography being a clear expectation where data are intensively reviewed by machine). We reassert that chemists must now move towards publishing their collective knowledge in a systematic and easily accessible form for re-use and innovation....We urge that authors, funders, editors, publishers and readers move further towards the following protocol: [1] All information should be ultimately machine-understandable in XML....[2] Machine-understandable information for a compound should include a connection table, the IUPAC unique identifier (INChI) which guarantees that the connection table can be checked and regenerated, and a name....[3] Rights metadata. An explicit statement in the data that its re-use is consistent with the Budapest Open Access initiative and a requirement that this statement be preserved when the data is re-used....The main challenge is for chemists to recognise the value of making their data machine-understandable, rather than destroying it with traditional paper or slide-focused publication and dissemination processes."

Excellent site on scholarly communication at UC

The University of California Office of Scholarly Communication has launched a very useful site, Reshaping Scholarly Communication. It has tips for scholars on how to maximize impact, retain copyright, and influence publishers. It recommends both OA archiving and OA journals. It offers background on the economics of publishing and the open-access alternatives. It links to a wealth of detail about what the University of California itself is doing. And finally, it maintains an incredible table of 3,300+ journals, showing the publisher, the list price, the impact factor, the number of online UC uses, and the average price increase over the past two years.

More on OA to germ genomic data

Maggie Fox, Hiding Genome Data Won't Protect Us, Experts Say, Reuters, Sept. 9. 2004. More on the NRC-appointed committee that advocates maintaining open access to germ genome information. Dr. Stanley Falkow, the committee chair, comments: "The sum total of information we get from the study of all pathogens is what we need to really be able to understand and hopefully learn how to outwit these disease agents."

Seven benefits of OA

Paul Chiao and Christian Schmidt, Open Access gains attention in scholarly communication, Molecular Cancer, September 6, 2004. An editorial describing the OA policy of this OA journal, published by BioMed Central, and enumerating seven benefits of OA. Excerpt: "[1] All articles become freely and universally accessible online; so an author's work can be read by anyone at no cost. [2] The authors hold copyright for their work and grant anyone the right to reproduce and disseminate the article....[3] A copy of the full text of each Open Access article is permanently archived in an online repository separate from the journal, such as PubMed Central....[4] Authors are assured that their work is disseminated to the widest possible audience....[5] The information available to researchers will not be limited by their library's budget....[6] Open Access could help to increase public interest in, and support of, research....[7] A country's economy will not influence its scientists' ability to access articles." (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

Another news article on NIH OA plan

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Proposes 6-Month Public Access to Papers, Science, Vol 305, Issue 5690, 1548 , 10 September 2004. (Access restricted to subscribers.) A recap of the NIH six-month proposal includes comments from SPARC's Richard Johnson, who expresses significant support for the initiative, and notes skepticism and opposition on the part of scientific societies and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Re-analysis of newly open-access clinical trials on the use of antidepressants in children

Re-analysis of clinical trials recently made open access has confirmed the link between suicidal tendency and paroxetine, a member of the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs. The link had previously been suspected but was difficult to establish because the studies were not readily available. Toshi A Furukawa. BMJ 2004;329:626 (11 September). The letter concludes: "There is one clear lesson to be learnt. All clinical trials, not only those conducted by drug companies but all of them, must be reported in detail and made publicly available as soon as reasonably possible. Without such policy internationally, neither healthcare professionals nor consumers can make sufficiently informed decisions."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Victory for the NIH plan in the House

By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 388-13 the House of Representatives tonight adopted the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies (H.R. 5006). The bill includes the directive to the NIH to develop an open-access plan by December 1, 2004. On to the Senate!

PLoS co-founder wins prestigious science award

Mike Eisen, Berkeley biologist and co-founder of the Public Library of Science, is one of 57 scientists nationwide to win a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. (Congratulations, Mike!)

OA to genome data outweighs risk

A panel of the National Research Council has concluded that the benefits of open access to genome data on pathogens outweigh the risk of misuse by terrorists. For more detail, see today's press release or the panel's full report, Seeking Security: Pathogens, Open Access, and Genome Databases. From the press release: "Current policies that allow scientists and the public unrestricted access to genome data on microbial pathogens should not be changed, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council, which concludes that security against bioterrorism is better served by policies that facilitate, not limit, the free flow of this information. While individuals or nations trying to develop bioweapons may be able to obtain data on pathogens, any restrictions tight enough to impede their access would probably also hinder efforts to develop vaccines and other countermeasures to bioterrorism, as well as other valuable scientific research....'Open access is essential if we are to maintain the progress needed to stay ahead of those who would attempt to cause harm,' said Stanley Falkow, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and professor of microbiology and immunology, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 'The current vitality of the life sciences depends on a free flow of data and ideas, which is necessary if science is to deliver new biodefense capabilities and improve our ability to fight infectious disease.' "

Also see Randolph Schmid, Panel urges sharing of data on germs, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 9, 2004. Excerpt: "Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge disagreed with the findings, saying that he does not think making such information openly available is a good idea."

Free online geospatial data for state and local governments

DigitalGlobe, which sells satellite imagery and geospatial information, has decided to give some away to state and local governments in the U.S. Quoting from today's press release: "U.S. civil government customers at the state and local level now have the freedom to use, distribute and modify QuickBird satellite imagery products without penalty. This new civil government licensing model, effective September 17, 2004, represents a pivotal change in the commercial remote sensing industry’s traditional treatment of product licensing....According to David Nale, senior vice president of commercial markets for DigitalGlobe, the company's new licensing removes a critical barrier that prevented government organizations from sharing data with essential stakeholders....'As a government agency, it is difficult to justify using tax payer money to acquire products that are only accessible to our agency or a select group of people,' said Craig Tasaka, GIS program manager for the state of Hawaii." (Thanks to Harlan Onsrud.)

House colloquy on NIH OA plan

Yesterday Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) and Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) engaged in a colloquy about the House Appropriations Committee report language proposing the NIH open-access plan (Congressional Record, September 8, p. H6833). For this purpose a "colloquy" is a scripted dialog for entering additional language into the record. A colloquy provides legislative history but does not amend a bill. Both Istook and Regula are members of the House subcommittee that originally proposed the plan.

Mr. ISTOOK....Mr. Chairman, the committee report on the Labor-HHS bill includes language that encourages the National Institutes of Health to adopt a policy that would make available to the public without charge the scientific journal articles that report the results of research that has been supported with NIH funding. As you know, Mr. Chairman, I have been very concerned for a number of years that the public is not always able to access the results of that research, federally funded research, unless they had a university library nearby or could pay often very large subscription fees of the journals, costs that are beyond most families' budgets.

The NIH, in response to language in the bill, has acted quickly to respond to our guidance. It posted the draft policy last Friday, September 3. Dr. Zerhouni, the Director of NIH, took care to seek comment from the various stakeholders involved in the issue, seeking comment from publishers, for-profit and nonprofit groups, from scientists, and from advocates for curing different diseases; and he has held three public meetings. Dr. Zerhouni heard some powerful stories from patients and family members who were struggling to learn as much as they could about treatment for serious diseases that affect them and their loved ones and had previously been unable to access some of the key information that could help them.

Dr. Zerhouni has produced a draft proposal from NIH that carefully balances the interests of these groups; and, most importantly, Mr. Chairman, it moves NIH in the direction of making more research available to the people who financed it, namely, the American taxpayers.

Mr. Chairman, I see the action by the NIH to date as being consistent with the language in our bill, and I would appreciate the chairman's thoughts on this.

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I have been very pleased to see that NIH has responded so quickly and thoughtfully to the House report language. I think it is a very simple proposition: NIH, or the taxpayer, pays for the research, even pays for the journals, and should be able to share the results with the taxpaying public . Our investment in research is not well served by a process that limits taxpayer access instead of expanding it, and I should add public access.

I encourage NIH to move expeditiously to finalize its proposal after considering the comments it receives on its policy. The public deserves nothing less.

The scholarly communication system that scholars deserve

Herbert Van de Sompel, Sandy Payette, John Erickson, Carl Lagoze, and Simeon Warner, Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve, D-Lib Magazine, September 2004. Excerpt:

There is growing dissatisfaction with the established scholarly communication system. This dissatisfaction is the result of a variety of factors including rapidly rising subscription prices, concerns about copyright, latency between results and their actual publication, and restrictions on what can be published and how it can be disseminated. The result is a global debate on how to remedy the system's deficiencies, and that debate has inspired concrete initiatives aimed at reforming the process. These are concerned mainly with access issues and seek to alleviate two longstanding problems. The first, known as the "serials crisis," addresses the often prohibitive prices of journal publications that impede access to scholarly materials. The second, known as the "permissions crisis," addresses the restrictions on use of publications once access has been obtained. The "Open Access" movement focuses primarily on these two problems with two different strategies. The self-archiving school strives for a scholar's right to make traditional journal publications freely available in an open repository. The journal-reform school promotes the emergence of new types of journals that are free at the point of use.

While the open availability of the results of scholarly endeavors is indeed of fundamental importance to the future of scholarship, it is only one dimension of how the scholarly communication process can be transformed. As Geneva Henry has observed, opportunities abound in the world of 21st century publishing and the discussion on transforming scholarly communication must move beyond the debate of subscription-based vs. open access publication. [...]

Our vision is based on our belief that the future scholarly communication system should closely resemble—and be intertwined with—the scholarly endeavor itself, rather than being its after-thought or annex. We consider in this article the aspects of the established system that constrain the scholarly endeavor. Based on those considerations, we describe the desired technological characteristics of a future system of scholarly communication. We argue for a scholarly communication system composed of an interoperability substrate allowing flexible composition of the value-adding services that up to now have been vertically locked in the journal publication milieu. In this loosely coupled system, the units of scholarly communication (i.e., data, simulations, informal results, preprints, etc.) could follow a variety of scholarly value chains in which each hub provides a service such as registering results, certifying their validity, alerting scholars to new claims and findings, preserving the scholarly record, and ultimately rewarding scholars for their work.

Index de Enfermeria -- new from SciELO

Index de Enfermeria is the latest addition to the burgeoning SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online) collection. Index de Enfermeria is part of a major expansion of content within SciELO Spain. Index de Enfermeria - Fulltext v13+ (2004+); Print ISSN: 1132-1296. Running counter to the worries expressed by many of the large society and commercial publishers, SciELO is composed of Open Access online versions, current and archival, of established print, subscription-based journals.

Slashdot discussion of NIH OA plan

Major journals require free online access to drug trial data

Daniel Engber, Top Medical Journals Make Disclosure of Clinical-Trial Results a Condition of Publication, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "Responding to growing concern that drug companies may be concealing unfavorable results of experiments, 11 of the world's top medical-research journals plan to require the disclosure of continuing clinical trials in a public registry. The editors of The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and eight other journals announced jointly on Wednesday that they would publish the results of trials only if the experiments are registered in an online database. Drug companies have been sweeping negative results under the carpet, said Jeffrey M. Drazen, editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine. 'We believe there needs to be a complete record of what's going on, so it's not a game of research hide-and-seek,' he said. The new guidelines require the registration of all trials in a free online database that includes key information relating to the goal of the study and its expected outcomes. The only database that currently meets those criteria is, which is sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health." (PS: Kudos to the journals for doing what they can to ensure free online access to critical medical information. The next step is to see that the same principle applies to peer-reviewed research articles.)

Update. Also see the public statement of the journal editors, Clinical Trial Registration: A Statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, e.g. in NEJM, September 8, 2004.

For more coverage, all of it OA, see articles in today's CBS Market Watch, Globe and Mail, HealthCentral, NewScientist, News-Medical, and Reuters.

Editorial endorsing NIH OA plan

Free up medical research, an editorial in the September 9 Orlando Sentinel (free registration required). Excerpt: "Americans deserve access to information on medical research they support with taxes. Happily, the government's top research agency proposes to provide it....[Because of high journal prices] most people's knowledge of medical research...comes only through brief descriptions in the news. For those who have a keen interest in a particular disease or drug, that just isn't enough. Editors of medical journals are fighting the open access for fear that they will lose subscribers. Their concerns deserve a hearing because their process of allowing medical peers to review the research before publication performs a public service. NIH Director Elias Zerhouni's compromise is to delay its Web publication of the articles for six months after the final manuscript is accepted by the journals. This seems reasonable. The agency will accept public comment on its open-access proposal for 60 days....The potential public benefit is so great that the proposal merits adoption. If only the Food and Drug Administration had the same attitude!"

Update. On September 10, the Fort-Wayne News Sentinel seconded this editorial by reprinting it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Nature cautions NIH on OA plan

Experiments in publishing, Nature 431, 111 (09 September 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) A Nature editorial comments on the magazine's learning experience with its debate on access to the literature as applied to the recent NIH OA plan. They opine:
The impact of the NIH plan on the viability of journals and on non-profit learned societies is potentially serious, and questions as to how it might affect the various sorts of journals have been insufficiently explored ...

Nature, founded on the traditional publishing model, welcomes alternative models that deliver enhanced access, provided that they also foster added editorial and publishing value. Its publishers are experimenting with new publishing models. The Nature forum indicates that the viability of new models remains far from established.

For politicians or state institutions in effect to support one business model would be risky. Diverse approaches and competition are usually preferable, particularly if investment and deployment of technological and other innovations are to be encouraged.

Springer getting back run web-ready

Springer Science+Business has hired SPI Technologies for a two-year project that will "web-enable millions of pages of printed STM journal issues, books and other information sources for end-user delivery" (though probably not in OA form). For more details, see today's press release.

More responses to the NIH OA plan

Bradie Metheny, NIH open access publishing policy receives initial good marks from most stakeholders, Washington Fax, September 8, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "In general, the NIH plan posted on the NIH Guide's web page Friday has received a favorable response from the majority those contacted by the Washington Fax. Comments included 'an excellent starting point,' 'NIH was listening to all parties,' and 'Given the existing business model, these steps are exactly the right ones.' However, misgivings continue in the realm of journal publishing. Many found themselves in the position of the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which has 22 member societies that publish 59 journals. The member societies had yet to review the NIH proposal and were not prepared to make a public statement. The appropriate FASEB boards have plans to meet later in the month to discuss the policy's implications. However, FASEB President Paul Kincade commented [']It does appear NIH Director Elias Zerhouni was listening to what everyone had to say at the recent series of stakeholder meetings.['] John Regazzi, managing director of market development for Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of journals, said no one can argue against giving the public access to NIH information; it is in the public interest. 'But how you do it is the key,' he said. '[The NIH proposal] is moving too fast,' Regazzi argued."

More on the NIH OA plan

Geoff Brumfiel, Biomedical agency floats open-access plan, News@Nature, September 8, 2004 (free registration required). Excerpt: "Comments are invited within 60 days on the [NIH] plan, which broadly complies with some advisory language that was added to the NIH's budget bill by a congressional committee in July. The NIH is expected to decide on the version to be implemented shortly after that....'We are aware of many of the implications of possible changes,' NIH director Elias Zerhouni told a meeting of representatives of scientific societies and patient advocacy groups at the agency's main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, on 31 August. 'At the same time, the mission of the NIH includes delivering research information to the public.'...But some publishers oppose the plan, complaining that they have not been sufficiently consulted on its impact on the established scientific communication system [PS reply]....'Zerhouni is making us all do this experiment,' [PS reply] says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society in Bethesda, Maryland. 'The federal government is trying to regulate the dissemination of information [PS reply] at the expense of an established, diverse publishing operation.' [PS reply] Advocates of open access strongly support the proposed policy change. 'I applaud what he's doing,' says Harold Varmus, former director of the NIH and president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. 'To hide NIH research behind high subscription fees is not fair,' he says."

Another free online collection from Nature

The Nature Publishing Group is offering free online access to a collection of articles on pharmacogenetics.

Sneak preview of PLoS Medicine

PLoS Medicine has not launched yet (look for it on October 19), but today it published its first article as a sneak preview of what's to come: Shereen El Feki, The birth of reproductive health: A difficult delivery. For more details, read the article, see the PLos Medicine front page, or read today's press release.

New OA journal from NPG and EMBO

The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) are launching an open-access journal, Molecular Systems Biology (no web site yet). From today's press release: "Researchers worldwide will be able to access original research in Molecular Systems Biology without charge. Costs of publication will be met in part by an author charge for each article published. The ‘author-pays’ model is intended to allow papers to be made available free of charge online, immediately upon publication, to the widest possible audience. This experimental publishing model has been subject to much recent debate, and both organizations believe that it is timely to explore the new possibilities that it presents. Sponsorship and advertising are expected to help subsidize the total costs of publication. NPG and EMBO will serve the interests of all authors and readers, and will waive fees for qualifying authors without research funding, or those in developing countries." (PS: This is not NPG or EMBO's first OA experiment but I believe it is their first OA journal. Kudos for taking this bold step.)

More on the six month embargo in the NIH plan

Paula Park, NIH unveils open access draft, The Scientist, September 8, 2004. Excerpt: "Papers based on NIH-funded research would be freely available 6 months after their publication, according to a draft National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy released Friday (September 3) in an apparent compromise with journal publishers....Originally, a House Appropriations Committee report suggested that the NIH require the immediate public release of papers for which the agency pays publication costs, as well as requiring that papers on other NIH-sponsored research be released 6 months after publication. But during a July meeting with NIH director Elias Zerhouni, publishers complained that the immediate release of papers would dramatically affect their businesses. Immediate release was not included in the NIH draft....The compromise satisfied neither publishers nor open-access advocates, however. 'The policy is admirable and a step in the right direction, but it's not open access,' said Harold Varmus, chairman, Public Library of Science, and president, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 'The ultimate goal is true open access, with publications available at the time they are issued,' Varmus told The Scientist."

More on the NIH OA plan

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Proposes Public Access to Papers, Science Magazine, September 7, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking to calm the fray over whether scientific results should be freely available. On Friday, it released a draft policy aimed at improving public access to the results of NIH-funded research....In July, a congressional spending panel recommended that NIH post NIH-funded manuscripts within 6 months of publication, or immediately if NIH grant funds were used to pay publication costs. The suggestion...triggered frenzied lobbying on all sides. Librarians, patient organizations, and scientists who think taxpayers should have easier access to NIH-funded research urged NIH to follow the House language. Commercial publishers and many scientific societies lobbied against a mandatory plan, saying it could bankrupt journals. After holding meetings with interested groups, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni told scientists last week that 6 months was 'reasonable'....'We're strongly behind it,' says Richard Johnson of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. Scientific societies had a mixed reaction. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, calls the plan 'an unnecessary expenditure of federal funds for a redundant repository of peer-reviewed literature.' "

Repository of online courses

Dan Carnevale, Nonprofit Group Will Build a Repository of Online Course Content, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 8, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "A nonprofit education group plans to use a $1.5-million grant to create an online repository to help colleges looking for ready-to-deliver online course content find institutions willing to provide them. The new resource, called the National Repository of Online Courses, will be developed by the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, in California, which plans to announce the effort today....The institute will spend tens of thousands of dollars refining courses to make sure they're ready for widespread distribution, Mr. [Gary] Lopez [executive director of the Monterey Institute] said. In order to break even, it will require colleges and organizations that can afford to do so to pay to use the materials. But he said the institute would keep the prices as low as possible. 'We're not looking for anybody to line their pockets with this,' he said. 'Basically our purpose is to be a break-even organization.' "

One assessment of the OA movement

Richard Wellen, Taking on Commercial Scholarly Journals: Reflections on the 'Open Access' Movement, Journal of Academic Ethics, 2, 1 (2004) pp. 101-118. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far: "This paper focuses on the 'open access' movement in scholarly publishing, a movement of research librarians, scholars, research funding bodies and other stakeholders of the scholarly research process. Open access advocates argue that scholarly communities need to organize against the currently unworkable system whereby academics donate articles for free, yet have to buy them back at often exorbitant prices from journal publishers. In particular, they seek to replace subscription-based funding of journals with a range of alternatives that includes self-archiving and publication fees by researchers and their sponsors. The central claims of my study are twofold. The first is that the open access movement has indeed highlighted the need for the reform of scholarly publishing markets and practices. My second claim, however, is that certain proposals and models for reform are premised on over-optimistic views about disintermediation in scholarly communication as well as exaggerated assertions about the benefits of removing price barriers when larger issues about the system of 'open science' remain to be addressed." (Thanks to Issues in Scholarly Communication.)

Update. There is now an OA edition of this paper. Thanks, Richard.

Four library associations support NIH OA plan

Four library associations --the ARL, ALA, AALL, and SLA-- have publicly released their August 31 letter to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan. Excerpt from the letter: "We believe that the public has a right to the information that results from research funded by their tax dollars. Our organizations represent more than 90,000 librarians, information specialists, library trustees, and friends of libraries. This proposed initiative will vastly expand and improve public access to much needed medical literature....Despite the promise of the Internet and information technologies, [rising prices mean that access to journal literature] is deteriorating with each passing year. In 2001, for example, U.S. research libraries spent three times more money for journal subscriptions than in 1986 -- yet received 5 percent fewer titles. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index rose just 62 percent. Clearly, such costs limit what libraries can make available to the research and education communities and the public."

Good advice for scientists

Michael Seringhaus, Scientists, consider where you publish, Yale Daily News, September 8, 2004. Excerpt: "For scientists, publishing a paper in a respected peer-reviewed journal marks the culmination of successful research. But some of the most prestigious and sought-after journals are so costly to access that a growing number of academic libraries can't afford to subscribe. Before submitting your next manuscript, consider a journal's access policy alongside its prestige -- and weigh the implications of publishing in such costly periodicals." (PS: Good advice. Here's the missing half: if there aren't OA journals in your field, or if your short-sighted promotion and tenure committee narrows your options, then you can publish in conventional journals and still provide OA to your work through self-archiving.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More on the NIH OA plan

Susan Morrisey, NIH Unveils Draft Plan, Chemical & Engineering News, September 7, 2004. A brief overview of the new plan.

"Information prescriptions" work, and would work better with OA

Donna M. D'Alessandro and three co-authors, A Randomized Controlled Trial of an Information Prescription for Pediatric Patient Education on the Internet, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 158 (2004) pp. 857-862. Excerpt: "We conducted a randomized controlled trial of parents visiting an academic general pediatric practice....The intervention group was offered computer training and received the IP [information prescription] and training summary handout....Parents of children in pediatric practices commonly use the Internet for general and children's health information. In this study, IPs were associated with specific parental attitude and behavior changes resulting in increased Internet utilization for general and child health information and for specific high-quality information resources. Pediatricians can implement IPs in their office."

Here's how John O'Neil summarizes the result in today's New York Times: "A new kind of prescription can be filled online, but it does not involve using the Internet to order drugs. Physicians call it an information prescription, and a study released yesterday found it to be effective in guiding parents toward reliable Web sites....[A] large body of research had [already] found that well-informed patients tended to do better. The Internet has made medical information more accessible than ever. But the health care field has struggled over the last decade to find ways to tap that potential while helping patients avoid the many sources of misinformation that have become more available as well. In the new study, about half of 197 parents of patients at the pediatric clinic of the University of Iowa were randomly chosen to receive a short session of Internet training and an information prescription. The prescription was on a form that listed three Internet sites the study described as authoritative and that left room for the pediatrician to add others....Over the next few weeks, the parents who received the information prescriptions used the Internet significantly more than those who had not. And their searches appeared to be guided in large measure by their doctors' recommendations: two-thirds of the sites they reported using had been included in the lists." See John O'Neil, Information's Healing Power, New York Times, September 7, 2004 (free registration required).

(PS: Imagine how much more useful this practice could be if the NIH adopts its proposed open-access plan. Open access would remove the access barriers to a very large and continuously growing body of of peer-reviewed medical literature that doctors could "prescribe" to their patients --and that patients could then access from home without payments, passwords, or permission.)

More on the NIH OA plan

NIH schlägt Open Access Modell vor,, September 7, 2004. Another brief, unsigned account of the NIH open-access plan.

More on the NIH OA plan

Mary Mosquera, NIH plans public access to research results, Government Computer News, September 7, 2004. A brief overview.

More on the NIH OA plan

NIH Proposes Making Clinical Trial Data Free to Public, Medical News Today, September 7, 2004. An unsigned account of the plan and the reaction to it based on Rick Weiss's story in yesterday's Washington Post.

More on the NIH OA plan

Dee Ann Divis, NIH proposes free research access, United Press International, September 6, 2004. Excerpt: "With two ill children facing blindness and early death from a rare genetic disorder, Sharon Terry needed information -- information her doctor could not provide her. Information on the disease was available, much of it paid for by federal research dollars, but it was out of reach in expensive, specialized medical journals. The journals had become so costly, closely held or difficult to access that the Terrys -- like many others desperately researching their family's health problems -- ended up using other peoples' passwords and getting students to obtain the material for them....The public can comment on the draft of the [NIH] policy for the next 60 days. It is likely some sort of policy will go forward, however, driven by the rationale that the taxpayer is entitled to access, as well as the NIH's desire to manage its portfolio of research better. 'When we do clinical trials, we would like to be able to link that to the paper that was published,' Zerhouni told UPI. 'The way to do that is to have an archive, an NIH research archive, and frankly we don't have that....It would allow us to also do peer review more effectively, do analysis of our portfolio more effectively so we can see what the entire production of agency is.'...Pat Furlong, executive director of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, just wants the papers posted on the Internet. Her son, a teenager with MD, died because he was given an inhalational anesthesia in the hospital. 'The physician did not have the access to the information he needed for my son to survive,' Furlong told the [August 31 stakeholder] meeting."

New OA platform coming from Max-Planck and Karlsruhe

The Max Planck Gesellschaft and Fachinformationszentrum Karlsruhe have teamed up to develop eSciDoc [no web site yet], an open-source internet platform for open-access scientific communication, publication, and collaboration. For more information see today's press release from the MPG. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

P2P sharing of bibliographic data

Jeen Broekstra and seven co-authors, Bibster - A Semantics-Based Bibliographic Peer-to-Peer System, apparently a preprint. Abstract: "This paper describes the design and implementation of Bibster, a Peer-to-Peer system for exchanging bibliographic data among Computer Science researchers. Bibster exploits ontologies in datastorage, query formulation, query-routing and answer presentation: When bibliographic entries are made available for use in Bibster, they are structured and classified according to two different ontologies. This ontological structure is then exploited to help users formulate their queries. Subsequently, the ontologies are used to improve query routing across the Peer-to-Peer network. Finally, the ontologies are used to post-process the returned answers in order to do duplicate detection. The paper describes each of these ontology-based aspects of Bibster. Bibster is fully implemented on top of the JXTA platform, and is about to be rolled out for field testing." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Goettinger Declaration

German citizens and organizations should consider signing the Göttinger Erklärung zum Urheberrecht für Bildung und Wissenschaft (July 5, 2004), a public call for the reform of German copyright law to better serve education and science.

More on the NIH OA plan

Julianne Basinger, NIH Invites Comment on Proposal Requiring Free Online Access to Research It Supports, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 7, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "The National Institutes of Health released a draft proposal late Friday that would require researchers who receive NIH grants to provide the agency with electronic copies of final reports on their study results, which would be posted online in a federal digital archive that is free to all....Public comments on the proposal will be accepted until November 3....Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, said on Monday that the NIH proposal is 'not acceptable.' Most scientific journals already post articles on the Web, he said, and allow nonsubscribers to read them for a fee that can range from $5 to $30. Even so, he said, reposting the articles on PubMed Central 'is an unnecessary expenditure of federal funds for a Web site that is redundant.' But supporters of the proposal said the NIH had made a concession to publishers by allowing the six-month delay between a study's publication and its posting on PubMed Central. 'People who need it right away will have to be subscribers' to the scientific journals, said Peter Suber, a research professor of philosophy at Earlham College who is directing an open-access drive for a group called Public Knowledge. [I also said more about this.] 'It would be more in the public interest to provide immediate open access.' Even so, he called the NIH proposal 'a very big step forward' in making study results available to a wide array of researchers, physicians, and patients who otherwise might not have access to the information because they cannot afford expensive subscriptions to scientific journals."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Data showing that OA increases citation impact

Tim Brody, Citation Analysis in the Open Access World, a preprint forthcoming from Interactive Media International. Excerpt: "OA is now firmly on the agenda for funding agencies, universities, libraries and publishers. What is needed now is objective, quantitative evidence of the benefits of OA to authors to researchers, their institutions, their funders and to research itself. Web-based analysis of usage and citation patterns is providing this evidence. One of the many misconceptions about the OA debate is that it is primarily about economics. Although the journal pricing/affordability problem certainly helped draw attention to OA, it has now become a distraction from the deeper problem: the research access/impact problem....[E]very potential user that an article loses is lost potential impact for its author, its author's institution, its research-funder, and for research itself....[Summarizing the data:] Articles with OA versions consistently receive more citations than those that do not. This OA advantage is biggest within the year before and the two years after an article is published (an early-access pre-print advantage followed by a new-article post-print advantage), but older OA articles also continue to be cited more in these fields."

More on the Nobel laureates' open letter

Ranty Islam, Das Geschäft mit dem Wissen, Die Welt, September 6, 2004. On the open letter by 25 Nobel prize winners in support of the NIH open-access plan. Islam connects the NIH plan to German developments such as the Berlin declaration and the Springer Open Choice plan. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

More on OA to government information

The Ohio State Auditor's office is conducting a seminar for public officials from around the state to learn about their obligation to keep meetings and records open to the public. From an editorial in today's Tribune-Chronicle: "This should be especially useful for elected officials and other government employees who handle public records or conduct public meetings. The gamut of responsibilities are rarely explained adequately to those holding these positions and therefore, through no fault of their own, they hinder our participatory form of government."

DASER presentations now online

The presentations from the Digital Archives for Science and Engineering Resources Summit (Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 21-23, 2003), are now online. (Thanks to Charles Bailey's Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)

Open content licenses in for-profit businesses

Roger Clarke, Open Source Software and Open Content as Models for eBusiness, a refereed paper presented it at the 17th International eCommerce Conference in Bled, Slovenia in June 2004. Excerpt: "The search for viable eBusiness models continues. But important information is being overlooked. Discussions of open source software all too often focus on the limited context of Microsoft appearing to feel threatened by what it portrays as unbusinesslike competition from Linux and; whereas that debate is merely one small facet of the whole. Moreover, in addition to software, a great deal of text, image and sound content is readily available, rather than being constrained by tight copyright clauses. Because discussions have been too superficial, too little of the business world has grasped how open models are working in those organisations that have adopted them. Their experiences draw attention to several key assumptions that are inherent in conventional economic models, but that are not applicable in these new markets. Rather than being merely unworldy and communitarian, open source and open content herald a new wave of business activity that transcends naive economic rationalism, and embody implications for business models that deserve serious study by eBusiness leaders." (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Rick Weiss, NIH Proposes Free Access For Public to Research Data, Washington Post, September 6, 2004. Excerpt: "The proposal, posted on the [NIH] Web site late Friday and subject to a 60-day public comment period, would mark a significant departure from current practice, in which the scientific journals that publish those results retain control over that information. Subscriptions to those journals can run into the thousands of dollars. Nonsubscribers wishing to get individual articles must typically pay about $30 each -- fees that can quickly add up for someone trying to learn about a newly diagnosed disease in the family....Whatever the outcome, both sides agree change is inevitable, given society's rising expectations of easy access to information from the Internet and the enormous interest in health -- a topic that NIH officials say accounts for about 40 percent of all Internet queries....In an interview Friday, Specter said that because of his concerns about the ramifications of open access, he would not add supportive language to the Senate appropriations bill. But he said that he generally likes the open-access principle and that he hopes a reasonable policy will emerge with public input in the next two months."

More on the NIH OA plan

Susan Morrissey, NIH Weights Open Access, Chemical and Engineering News, September 6, 2004. Excerpt: "As NIH moves ahead with the formulation of its draft policy to make agency-funded research freely accessible to the public, it held the final two of three meetings designed to give its stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in on the issue. The two meetings, convened last week by NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, involved intramural and extramural scientists and public interest groups. A group of publishers and editors participated in a similar meeting in late July....[S]everal organizations representing publishers and professional societies --including the American Chemical Society-- have joined in writing a letter to Zerhouni expressing their strong opposition to government-mandated open access....Zerhouni, who is dedicated to this issue, has also received support for open access from outside groups. For example, a group of 25 Nobel Laureates submitted a letter supporting the model proposed by Congress."

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Two reviews of Scopus

Péter Jacsó has written a review of Elsevier's Scopus for Thomson Gale and Jill O'Neill has written another for NFAIS.

PLoS letter supporting NIH OA plan

Vivian Siegel, writing for the Public Library of Science, has released her August 5 letter to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan. Excerpt: "It is not only appropriate but necessary that NIH should take steps to ensure that the results of government-funded research are publicly available. Certainly as a matter of principle, citizens should be able read the reports of important clinical and scientific studies that their tax dollars pay for, and that they sometimes participate in....There is no question, then, that NIH must intervene to change the status quo....Certainly, different publishers of scientific and medical journals rely on different business models. However, support for the mandatory deposition of NIH-funded research articles in PubMed Central has been expressed by publishers and scientific societies of all stripes --from the National Academy of Science to the American Society for Cell Biology to, indeed, the Public Library of Science. The breadth of these endorsements suggests that increased access to the results of government-sponsored research is compatible with conventional business models in scientific publishing, as well as the more recently developed 'open access' business model."

It's the status quo, not OA, that's anomalous and hard to justify

Andy Gass, Open Access As Public Policy, Public Library of Science, released September 3 in advance of publication September 21 in the October issue of PLoS Biology. Excerpt: "After months of often dizzying rhetoric from virtually all camps, one concrete development has indisputably emerged from the fray: governments around the world have begun to take an interest in the question of who can and can’t read the results of the scientific research they fund. 'We are convinced,' concluded a recent report from the Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom's House of Commons, 'that the amount of public money invested in scientific research and its outputs is sufficient to merit Government involvement in the publishing process' (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee 2004). United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni echoed the British assessment, asserting that 'the public needs to have access to what they've paid for,' in a July 28 meeting of stakeholders in scientific and medical publishing. 'The status quo,' he added, 'just can't stand'....Actually requiring that publicly funded works be included in [preexisting] publicly funded electronic archives like PubMed Central, as the US Congress might, would be less a paradigm shift or a radically interventionist mandate than a sensible extension of existing policy for most governments and their funding agencies. Increasingly, it seems, this is the view being adopted by policy makers --that it is the status quo, rather than prospective policy revision, that is anomalous or hard to justify."

New version of OJS

The University of British Columbia Public Knowledge Project has released Open Journal Systems version 1.1.8. OJS is open-source journal management software. The new version supports LOCKSS, delayed OA (an embargo period that can be set by the article or by the issue), and publishing in French and Spanish (in addition to English and Portuguese).

Graf on commercial re-use and derivative works

Klaus Graf takes issue with some of what I said about OA, commercial re-use and derivative works in SOAN for 9/02/04. Graf argues that the BBB definition of OA permits commercial re-use, and is not indeterminate about it. He also argues for the Berlin definition over the BBB definition.

The public interest in open communications networks

Mark Cooper, The Public Interest in Open Communications Networks, Consumer Federation of America, July 2004. Excerpt: "Unlike most consumer issues, where price is the advocates' central concern, in the matter of communications and the Internet, their primary focus has been on another aspect of market performance: innovation. They view open communications networks as an environment friendly to innovation driven by consumer choice and decentralized decision-making....This Issue Brief summarizes the public interest in open communications networks by providing an analytic framework for evaluating the impact of open communications. It applies the framework to two critical public policy issues currently being considered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or the Commission) and the courts – nondiscriminatory access to telecommunications networks and oversight of services delivered by Internet protocols (IP-enabled services)." (Thanks to DocuTicker.)

Creative Commons comes to Taiwan

Jason Pan, Taiwan launches knowledge-sharing network, Taiwan News, September 5, 2004. Excerpt: "With the aim of promoting the free flow of ideas and supporting knowledge sharing in the public domain, Taiwan launched a 'Creative Commons' network yesterday, to join 23 other countries already leading the drive in this international movement. Spearheaded by the Institute of Information Science (IIS) at Academia Sinica, supporters of the 'Creative Commons' Taiwan project said it heralds a new era of change in public information access, by jettisoning the heavy burdens of existing copyright laws."