Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SIIA argument against Google Library

Keith Kupferschmid, Are Authors and Publishers Getting Scroogled? Information Today, November 26, 2005. Keith Kupferschmid is VP for intellectual property policy and enforcement for the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), a trade association that lobbied Congress to kill the open-access PubScience in 2002. SIIA's official position on Google Library (from a sidebar in Kupferschmid's article) is that Google is "acting in direct contravention of well-established principles of copyright law," and that its "blatant disregard for copyright owners and copyright law makes the Google Print Library Project a large-scale commercial infringement of copyright, the likes of which have not been seen since Napster." Kupferschmid's article makes the case for the SIIA position.

(PS: If you're wondering why this is presented as journalism rather than an unpaid advertisement, the answer seems to be that the January issue will give equal time to the Google position.)

Profile of OA and the OAI repositories

Belinda Weaver, Information breaks free, The Courier Mail, November 26, 2005. Excerpt:
Once upon a time, academic research was locked down very tightly. Only subscribers could get hold of journal articles and conference papers. Then along came the open access movement, with its belief that the results of scientific research should be available to anyone, without charge. Backed by scholars and librarians, the movement seeks to get as much research as possible into the public sphere. Since taxpayers funded research, their argument went, taxpayers should also have access to it. To facilitate open access, some academics began depositing their work openly on the Web. This benefits business, general practitioners and medical specialists, students, government, engineers – anyone who needs to access new research. Collections online range from archives of working papers and technical reports to the full text of theses, conference papers and journal articles. The best tool to find them is OAIster. This acts as a search engine for all the different open access collections registered with the tool. At present, there are 572, but the numbers grow daily. The service has doubled in size in the past 12 months. It now indexes more than six million items.

More on the book-scanning revolution

Jon Boone, Competing search engines create a din at the library, Financial Times, November 26, 2005. Excerpt:
[A]s president of the New York Public Library, which is in the process of scanning into computer form as many of its books as possible, Dr [Paul] LeClerc can see a future when he will never have to leave his office and travel across the world to get what he needs. "All the paradigms are shifting at the speed of light because the way of delivering information is changing so fast - it's a revolution as profound as the invention of the printing press." It is all because of a global battle to turn the web into a vast book repository that was sparked last year when Google announced a deal with some of the world's great libraries, including the NYPL, Harvard and Michigan universities to "digitise" books. The European Union, which baulked at the idea of an American company acting as librarian to the world, announced its own plans for an online library and last month Microsoft said it had struck a deal with the British Library to make digital copies of some of its world-famous holdings. This week the US Library of Congress raised the stakes further with plans, again with the support of Google, to build a World Digital Library of books, video, photographs and other media that can be replicated digitally.

Google Book Search hack

The day after Google launched Google Print last year, we blogged, "Google says it has disabled printing and image-copying when browsing book pages, but we'll see how long that lasts." Now we know.

From a November 18 posting on the CustomizeGoogle blog:

CustomizeGoogle 0.38 makes it easy to removes [sic] image copying restrictions in Google Book Search.

Thanks to Gary Price in yesterday's Search Engine Watch. Here's more from his story:

I don't believe this feature allows you to print Google Book Search content by just clicking and selecting print. When I tested, I didn't see pages from a book but only the material surrounding the actual page. However, using the right-click menu (now easily enabled for CustomizedGoogle) and placing a cursor on a page from a book, I was able to quickly isolate the page (as a JPEG file) and then print, save, convert, etc. I was also able to isolate direct urls to book pages and send them via email. You can even save book pages as wallpaper on your PC....Of course, limits about how many in-copyright "Sample Pages" you can view are still in place and the "copyrighted material" text is still visible on each page. Google Book Search does offer the full view of public domain materials. It will be interesting to see how (if at all) Google and participating publishers respond to this new option since it's coming from such a highly lauded software program.

WIPO meeting on digital content for education

WIPO has issued a press release briefly summarizing its Information Meeting On Educational Content And Copyright In The Digital Age (Geneva, November 21, 2005). Among the other presentations, Mia Garlick spoke on Creative Commons licenses and Jan Velterop spoke on open access.

Blog comment on the Royal Society statement

Piotr Konieczny, Science only for the elite? Voice of the Prokonsul, November 25, 2005. Excerpt:
While [the Royal Society] declares that "Funders should remember that the primary aims should be to improve the exchange of knowledge between researchers and wider society" in the same breath they state "We think it conceivable that the journals in some disciplines might suffer. Why would you pay to subscribe to a journal if the papers appear free of charge?". Why? Wake up. Why should I pay for it, in the first place? First of all, scientists publish their papers for prestige (fame) first, to get their data to the scientific community second, and for personal profit a distant third....It's the journal publishers who are profiting, not the authors, and definitely not the public. Paying for a journal made perfect sense in the print and paper media....Money saved from publishers greedy hands can be used either to make content cheaper and more accessible to everybody....Second, isn't science supposed to serve humanity?...So if you really want to 'improve communication between scientists and the wider society', stop charging for your articles - especially since the primary contributors don't care either way....Sure, some business model is needed - but there are many choices 'to have the cake' and 'eat it', as long as you don't think of publishing a journal as a profit enterpise....I see no problem at all with in the scientific industry moving to free content. In such a move, everbody wins - well, everybody except the publishers. They were needed and did their job before the advent of the net. Now it is time to thank them for their job and tell them goodbye. From a useful tool they have become a parasitic relic of the past - and the sooner academic publishing realises it, the better for all of us. Let's hope Royal Society stops looking into the past and does something more useful then trying to see who if Einstein is more popular then Newton (and they call this 'science'? sheez). Definitely not a proud day for the Royal Society.

Walt Crawford on Google Library and the OCA

The December issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. The bulk of this issue is an extended commentary on Google Library and the Open Content Alliance. He acknowledges Open Access News as one of his main sources, quotes me often (thanks), and reaches conclusions similar to mine. If you've been following OAN, the chief benefit of his essay is to see the many news reports and comments brought together in one place with his annotations. I found this useful myself.

Cory Doctorow on the Royal Society statement

Cory Doctorow, Royal Society: rent-seeking is more important than science, BoingBoing, November 25, 2005. Excerpt:
Arguing the need to sustain the Royal Society's now-outmoded publishing model despite its inferiority at advancing science relative to PLOS and others (like BioMed Central) is an embarrassment to the Royal Society. The five-hundred-year Dark Ages were a period when alchemists labored in secret. Every alchemist jealously guarded his research outcomes, so whenever an alchemist discovered the hard way that drinking mercury was poison, that knowledge died with him (literally). The Enlightenment accomplished real alchemy: converting research into knowledge through the application of full disclosure. Once alchemists began to share their research outcomes, they became true scientists, and the hundred years that followed made more progress than the half-millennium that preceded it. Open Access science publishing is the latest installment in the saga of the Enlightenment: the evolution of a sustainable publishing model that makes research outcomes available to every single researcher in the world, gratis, without prejudice or burden. The Royal Society should respond to this by adopting the Open Access publishing model, not by fearmongering.

An open idea exchange

Ideologi is "an open proposal for the creation of a universal exchange of ideas." (Thanks to Open Business.) From the web site:
ideologi (pronounced "ideology") is an Internet-based system that facilitates ad hoc brainstorming sessions (called Exchanges) that individuals and organizations around the world can join. Users (called Participants) of ideologi can either submit answers to a countless number of active Exchanges, or submit their own questions to initiate an Exchange within ideologi....Each participant is involved in judging and scoring the answers submitted from her fellow participants. In order to expedite the process of review (called the Discovery Process) participants score a fraction of the entire pool of answers in a series of Discovery Phases. The units of credit used for scoring for each Exchange are called Ions. Once an answer is awarded the high score in an Exchange (which is then given the title of Prime Directive), each user receives a percentage of the financial reward (if any) established by the Initiator. The portion of the reward given to each user is based on the number of Ions they accumulate in an Exchange relative to the total number of Ions accumulated by all of the other participants. Although there is only one winning answer in an Exchange, there’s never a single winner in terms of Ions or financial rewards. Since participation in a basic Exchange does not require participants to risk anything other than their rank in Ideologi, participants can answer an unlimited number of Exchanges at any time.

Incumbents v. innovators

Russell McOrmond has written a one-page summary of Canadian copyright reform. His first paragraph could also introduce a one-page summary of open access:
Recent advances in communications technology [have] drastically reduced the marginal cost (cost per additional unit) of production, reproduction and distribution of creativity. Peer-to-peer methods make the reproduction and distribution costs so close to zero to not be worth metering. This economic reality split the creative industries between the beneficiaries of established ways of doing businesses (incumbents), and those who wish to harness this change to use competitive and new methods of production, distribution and funding of their creativity (innovators).

Self-archiving survey questions

Anita Coleman, DLIST 2005 Survey - Self-Archiving and Scholarly Communication Behaviors in LIS - Instrument, self-archived November 25, 2005.
Abstract: This is the instrument of the complete 68 questions used in the dLIST 2005 study of LIS scholarly communication behaviors, specifically those related to self-archiving. It is being made available here, in an attempt to help improve the comparability of open access/self-archiving studies. That is, studies of self-archiving in other disciplines or about the use/non-use/value of specific archives and repositories can also use it. Note: Sections are conditional depending on whether participants had self-archived in dLIST, self-archived anywhere, or not self-archived at all (thus participants did not have to answer more than 50 questions). Besides non-use, there is also a section of questions about the value/use of dLIST.

More on the Royal Society statement

There's now a Slashdot thread on the Royal Society statement.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Institutional Repository workshop

The presentations from New Zealand's Institutional Repository Workshop (Wellington, November 23, 2005) are now online. Also see Arthur Sale's report on the workshop.

RCUK unmoved by Royal Society statement

Simon Aughton, Free online research endangers not-for-profit publishers, PC Pro, November 25, 2005. Excerpt:
'The worst-case scenario [according to the Royal Society] is that funders could force a rapid change in practice, which encourages the introduction of new journals, archives and repositories that cannot be sustained in the long term, but which simultaneously forces the closure of existing peer-reviewed journals that have a long-track record for gradually evolving in response to the needs of the research community over the past 340 years. That would be disastrous for the research community.' Dr Astrid Wissenburg, who co-ordinated the [open-access] consultation for RCUK, said: 'The priority for the Research Councils is to ensure the availability and accessibility of the outputs of research funded by the taxpayer. This broad principle, together with concern for value for money, long-term preservation of research and maintaining quality assurance through peer-review, has been supported by nearly all of the submissions to the consultation.'

Google thwarted by limited fair-use rights in Europe

VNU Staff, Google digitisation faces Euro legal challenge, Information World Review, November 24, 2005. Excerpt:
Google has acknowledged that it cannot digitise copyright material from European libraries, according to the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). ALPSP chief executive Sally Morris said that at a meeting with Google last month --also attended by the Publishers Association (PA), the International Publishers Association and the Association of American University Presses-- the search giant agreed it was "absolutely the case that it is not allowed to [digitise in-copyright material from libraries] in Europe". The American "fair use" law, which Google has used as a justification for its scanning of in-copyright material from libraries in America, is, Morris said, broader than its European equivalent, "fair dealing". Google is currently embroiled in lawsuits in the US with both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over its actions. Morris said Google's acknowledgement meant that if it wanted to digitise copyright books from European libraries, it would need to find a solution - even if it successfully defends the US lawsuits. She now plans to devise a system that will make it easy for Google - or any other organisation digitising books, such as the Open Content Alliance and Microsoft - to get the permissions they need. She told the Bookseller : "The fact Google recognise they can't do this without permission in Europe gives us a threshold to work out a way for them to get permission. In America, they have the law on their side. Here, they accept they don't." Her suggestions, put to Google at the meeting, include a Canadian model whereby, if it proves impossible to locate a copyright owner, a licence is granted so the material can be used legally. "We are waiting for them to come back to us on these issues," added Morris, "but they said they were interested."

Business models for ebooks

Bob McDowall, The direction of e-books? IT-Director, November 23, 2005. (Thanks to LIS News.) After noting that "[t]o date, no prevailing business model has emerged for the development of e-books," McDowall reviews what users want and what publishers are willing to provide. Bottom line: don't expect OA to ebooks any time soon. On the other hand, McDowell doesn't even mention Project Gutenberg, the Open Content Alliance, and related OA initiatives.

Open Canada Digitization Initiative

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) has announced the launch of the Open Canada Digitization Initiative (no web site yet). (Thanks to Digitizationblog.) From the November 17 press release:
Leaders of Canada’s major research libraries held a national summit at Emerald Lake, BC, November 1-3, 2005. The summit outlined plans for online access to Canada’s recorded heritage. At the conclusion the participants declared their commitment to a coordinated and sustained program to digitize Canada’s information and knowledge resources - with 2006 as the catalyst year. “Our vision is that Canadians will be able to know themselves through their heritage and the world will have the opportunity to better know Canadians” declared CARL President John Teskey. “Our common aim is to provide easy online access to the extraordinary wealth of written and other records by and about Canadians.” The Emerald Lake participants included members of the library, archives and museum communities. The group strongly endorsed ‘Open Governance’ for the initiative.... [Said Ernie Ingles, Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, University of Alberta, and the Chair of the CARL Planning Committee:] “There will be an open invitation for everyone who is willing and able to come and play their own unique part in developing our collective Canadian online memory. We would like to hear from local history societies, archives organizations, genealogists and others across the country.”...The Open Canada Digitization Initiative will act in concert with the Canadian digital information strategy presently being developed by Library and Archives Canada CARL calls on governments and funding bodies to support this initiative, to ensure that Canadians will know themselves and that the world will know Canada - now and for generations to come.

Digitizing what researchers need

JISC and CURL have released a report, Digitisation in the UK: The Case for a UK Framework. Excerpt from the executive summary:
In just a handful of years, an enormous amount of richly detailed and flexible digital material has been amassed in the UK as technology has expanded to make it possible: a conservative estimate suggests £130 million of public money has been spent on the creation of digital content since the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, this growth has been as unstructured as it has been phenomenal, and the material has accumulated in the absence of a UK framework for digitisation to advise on content, standards and sustainability, rather than in response to one....Moreover, digital projects have tended to be driven by supply rather than demand, spurred by opportunity instead of actual need. A wealth of material in museums, libraries, archives and journals remains undigitised, despite the pressing need to sustain the momentum, to continue to create resources of increasing value and comprehensiveness for the end user. The very existence of powerful search facilities is changing users’ behaviour and expectations. Future digitisation programmes must respond to this and need to be more clearly informed by researchers’ needs....In 2005, JISC and the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) commissioned Loughborough University to undertake an in-depth investigation into the current state of digitisation in the UK, and this document draws on its findings....Loughborough’s research uncovered deep fragmentation in all components of the digitisation infrastructure: the records of available material, the provision of e-resources for different disciplines, the metadata and standards used, the advisory and support services, the availability of funding, the differing priorities of funders, and variable hosting, delivery and authentication methods. Yet the very interconnectedness of the elements of the digitisation process, where each impacts on the other, makes it both easier and more essential to place them within a framework which can make formal links that resonate across all operations. All shortcomings identified in Loughborough’s study can therefore begin to be addressed, from inadequate metadata to lack of collaboration, by uniting the various sectors through a UK framework for digitisation. A UKwide strategy would assist in filling gaps in provision, cut across the efforts of individual funders and digitising organisations, reduce overlaps between support services and assist in the provision, take up and use of resources. Fears that any such ‘nationalisation’ might stifle local innovation can be allayed by emphasising the flexible nature of the framework we envisage; one which would issue clear guidelines rather than prescriptive demands, which would draw up ‘gold standards’ to be regularly reviewed. Such a framework, then, should be coordinated and distributed, rather than centralised, and ensure effective networking of expertise across different sectors.
Also see the JISC press release (November 24, 2005).

Launch of Exact Editions

Adam Hodgkin has announced the launch of Exact Editions, a web platform "which replicates and aggregates exact copies of printed magazines and periodicals for web distribution and reliable searching." Some of its periodicals will be OA, and some will be priced and accessible only to subscribers, at the publisher's option. From the announcement (November 24):
Exact Editions has been steadily gathering momentum over the last six months and has been conducting private trials since September. The time has now come to gradually take the wraps off our system and see what the world at large can make of it. The first magazines available from the Exact Editions service are two Open Access science magazines from the Public Library of Science. Exact Editions is now working with thirty of the UK's leading consumer publishers and welcomes inquiries from magazine publishers large and small. Daryl Rayner, one of Exact Editions' founders, welcomed the PLoS magazines to the service: 'We have chosen to experiment with these two outstanding, freely available, open access magazines because we wish to demonstrate the usefulness of our delivery platform as an additional access route. Most of the magazines we are working with are consumer offerings and will only be available to their subscribers. But all magazines benefit from the company of others and we hope to offer titles from all specialist consumer interests'. There is a feedback form on the site and we look forward to hearing from you!

More on the Royal Society statement

Richard Wray, Keep science off web, says Royal Society, The Guardian, November 25, 2005. Excerpt:
The Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science, yesterday joined the debate about so-called open access to scientific research, warning that making research freely available on the internet as it is published in scientific journals could harm scientific debate. The Royal Society fears it could lead to the demise of journals published by not-for-profit societies, which put out about a third of all journals. "Funders should remember that the primary aims should be to improve the exchange of knowledge between researchers and wider society," The Royal Society said....Open access proponents said the Royal Society position statement confuses open access publishing...with author self-archiving. The latter, which has already been carried out in some disciplines for years, relies on academics publishing on the internet articles that have been accepted by journals. A spokesman for the Royal Society said: "We think it conceivable that the journals in some disciplines might suffer. Why would you pay to subscribe to a journal if the papers appear free of charge?"

(PS: Does the RS want "to improve the exchange of knowledge between researchers and wider society" or does it want to subordinate this improvement to the financial interests of the publishing industry? I have more comments in yesterday's blog postings.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Interview with director of Google Book Search Europe

Jens Redmer, Google Book Search: fostering public access in a controlled way, Indicare, November 23, 2005.
Abstract: Interview by Knud Böhle with Jens Redmer, Google Book Search Europe. The interview makes the essence of Google Book Search clear: an innovative and powerful Online Public Access Catalogue integrated into Google’s overall index and search service for the Internet. Due to the focus of the INDICARE Monitor questions centre on content protection, usage limitations, and copyright.

The public domain for music and science

Knud Böhle, Governing the interrelation of information markets and the public domain, Indicare, November 24, 2005.
Abstract: The journal article reviewed here (Holtgrewe 2005) attempts to explore the changing boundaries and interrelations of information markets and the public domain in the light of digital technology, digital goods and changing intellectual property regimes. The music sector and scientific publishing are the cases studied in more depth. The concepts used are derived from a sociology of knowledge understood as an “interactionist” and “constructivist” endeavour.

Another Oxford journal adopts a hybrid OA model

R. Watts, Open access: the die is cast, Rheumatology, December 2005. An editorial. Excerpt:
The philosophy behind open access is that publicly funded research should be freely available to all as soon as is practicable. Whilst this is a very laudable aim, the requirement has forced learned journals to consider how best to respond to the challenge of this new environment. What is clear is that the traditional model of free authorship and the reader paying is no longer tenable for journals with a significant authorship holding such grants. We at Rheumatology have taken a very proactive attitude in responding to this challenge. We analysed our submitted and accepted manuscripts during 2004, demonstrating that 38% of accepted papers with a declared source of funding had funding from one of the major UK and USA funding agencies which have either already adopted, or are expected to adopt, an open access deposition policy. Loss of these manuscripts would pose a very real threat to the quality of the journal. Financial modelling indicates that continuing the traditional model is not viable in the long term. We have, therefore, been forced to consider alternative business models, including partial or full open access and publishing the journal online only. We have decided to adopt a partial or optional open access model since this will enable those authors who must, as a condition of their grant, place post prints in an open archive/repository to do so, whilst also enabling those who do not wish to do so to continue to submit and publish papers in the traditional manner. Our publishers, Oxford University Press, have developed an optional open access model for their Press-owned journals, called Oxford Open, and our system will be very similar. Rheumatology will, we wish to reassure our authors and readers, continue to be published both in print and on-line. We are therefore delighted to announce that, commencing 1 January 2006, authors wishing to publish using an open access system will be able to do so in Rheumatology....Authors will be offered the choice of using open access once their manuscript has been accepted. Thus, the editorial decision process will not be affected by open access. The charge for open access in 2006 will be £1500 ($2800) per article, or the discounted rate of £800/$1500 per article for authors whose institutions have an online subscription. There will also be discounts available for authors from developing countries. Further details of submitting and charges for open access publication can be found via the journal website.

(PS: In general I applaud this step. I can't tell, however, whether Rheumatology will demand payment in order to let its authors live up to their prior agreements with funders. If so, I cannot approve. These authors have an obligation to their funding agencies and should not have to pay a third party in order to fulfill it. Moreover, these authors may not want OA publication in a journal, merely OA deposit in a repository. If the journal really expects to be paid in these circumstances, then I recommend that authors look for another journal.)

Elsevier editor imagines the ideal journal

Chris Leonard, 14 Steps to the Perfect CS Journal? Computing Chris, November 21, 2005. (Thanks to Richard Ackerman.) Excerpt:
OK - imagine for one crazy moment that I am in charge of Elsevier and I was about to embark upon a mission to make our journals the most attractive place to publish for computer scientists. What qualities would that journal (or journals) need to have? Having spoken to many people in the last year, I have come to the conclusion that the following points are (more or less) important. If I have missed any, please let me know.

FREE ACCESS - at least at the point of use. Subscribers access the journal for 1 year, then all articles are available to everyone who wants them? ...
UPDATEABLE ARTICLES - following the example of versions on arXiv, authors should be able to update their articles whenever new date or results are available. Old versions remain available as well....
SOME PROFIT - a commercial company needs to make a profit to survive. What would be an acceptable level of profit to make (after tax)? Any excess could go to reducing the costs of the journal subscriptions....
RAW DATA - all articles to have raw data available on the web in an open, interchangeable format....

Leonard is the Elsevier Publishing Editor responsible for theoretical computer science journals. He played a role in the experiment with free online access at Elsevier's Information and Experimentation announced in August.

Scholarly plug-ins for Firefox

The Center for History and New Media is developing open-source tools for scholarship to run on Firefox. From the announcement:
The Center for History and New Media is building an open-source package of tools for libraries and museums that will work right in the web browser, where most research is now done. We are calling the project SmartFox: The Scholar's Web Browser, and it will enable the rich use of library and museum web collections with no cost --either in dollars, or probably more importantly, in secondary technical costs related to their web servers-- to institutions. This set of tools will be downloadable and installable on any of the major open-source browsers related to the increasingly popular Firefox web browser....SmartFox will enable users, with a single click, to grab a citation to a book, journal article, archival document, or museum object and store it in their browser. Researchers will then be able to take notes on the reference, link that reference to others, and organize both the metadata and annotations in ways that will greatly enhance the usefulness of, and the great investment of time and money in, the electronic collections of museums and libraries. All of the information SmartFox gathers and the researcher creates will be stored on the client's computer, not the institution's server (unlike commercial products like Amazon's toolbar), and will be fully searchable. The Web browser, the premier platform for research now and in the future, will achieve the kind of functionality that the users of libraries and museums would expect in an age of exponentially increasing digitization of their holdings.

Update. SmartFox is a stand-alone browser based on the Firefox source code, not a Firefox plug-in.

OA repository of Medline citations

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has launched the MEDLINE/PubMed Baseline Repository (MBR). From the announcement (November 23):
A freely accessible Web site, the MEDLINE/PubMed Baseline Repository (MBR), developed by staff in NLM's Lister Hill Center is now available. The MBR...contains various resources derived from or pertaining to the MEDLINE/PubMed baseline files which are produced after the records have undergone annual maintenance. One MBR resource, the MBR Query Tool, is restricted to use by NLM's registered MEDLINE/PubMed licensees. MEDLINE/PubMed licensees may prefer to search the baseline files via this Web-based Query Tool rather than, or in addition to, locally mounting all the baseline files obtained from NLM's ftp server....Researchers have expressed interest in having access to MEDLINE citations in the state they were at a given moment in time. The MBR was set up to provide this capability. NLM has stored the end of year baseline MEDLINE/PubMed database for each year maintained with MeSH vocabulary for the upcoming year starting in 2002 along with a selection of the associated MeSH Vocabulary data files. The 2006 baseline files will be available in December 2005.

More on the Royal Society statement

David Dickson, Open access deemed 'dangerous' by Royal Society, SciDev.Net, November 24, 2005. Excerpt:
The world's oldest scientific society has warned that the spread of open access journals — as well as open archiving — could have a "disastrous" impact on scientific publishing, possibly forcing some peer-reviewed journals to close. Proponents of open access deny this claim, saying there is no evidence to support such alarmist statements, and that its authors have confused various strands of the open access debate.

More on the Royal Society statement

Polly Curtis, Society urges caution over open-access publishing, The Guardian, November 24, 2005. A summary of the Royal Society position statement on OA. See my blog postings earlier today (1, 2, 3) for details and comments.

The Royal Society position statement on OA

The Royal Society issued position statement on open access (November 24, 2005). Excerpt:
Recent technological advances are leading to dramatic changes in the exchange of knowledge, and particularly the publication of journals. One of the most important changes is the publication of articles and papers on the world wide web, rather than solely in the form of printed journals. Most journals now have electronic versions on the world wide web and this has increased access to scientific papers....The Royal Society welcomes the exploration of these new developments where the aim is to improve the exchange of knowledge between researchers and with wider society. At present, all papers appearing in Royal Society journals can be accessed free of charge 12 months after their publication. However, the Society believes that the approach of some organisations to the 'open access debate' is threatening to hinder rather than promote the exchange of knowledge between researchers. This is partly because some participants in the debate appear to be trying to pursue another aim, namely to stop commercial publishers from making profits from the publication of research that has been funded from the public purse. While some companies do appear to be making excessive profits from the publication of researchers' papers, this should not be the primary factor guiding future developments in the exchange of knowledge between researchers....Among the potential dangers are that researchers will stop submitting papers or subscribing to existing journals, particularly if they choose only to deposit papers in repositories and archives....Any viable new open access model must adequately cover the costs of high quality, independent peer review....Furthermore, models in which researchers are charged to submit or publish papers introduce a new disincentive to the exchange of knowledge. Such financial barriers will be more acute for researchers with the least amount of funds, such as those at the very early or late stages of their careers or in developing countries....To inform discussion, the Royal Society recommends a thorough study of proposed new models, including an assessment of the likely costs and benefits to all. Funders should resist the temptation to act before being informed by such a study, and should not introduce policies that force researchers to adopt new models that are untried and untested.

For more, see (1) the Royal Society's press release on today's position statement, (2) its previous position statement on the RCUK policy from July 2005, and (3) its written testimony to the House of Commons Scientific and Technology Commmittee inquiry into scientific publications and OA from June 2004.

Comment. Five quick comments. (1) OA is compatible with publisher revenue, even profit. For example, BMC is for-profit OA publisher. The RS misunderstands the purpose of OA, which is to improve access to science, not to harm publishers. As I put it in my OA Overview, "The purpose of the campaign for OA is the constructive one of providing OA to a larger and larger body of literature, not the destructive one of putting non-OA journals or publishers out of business. The consequences may or may not overlap (this is contingent) but the purposes do not overlap." (2) There is no danger that researchers will stop submitting their work to peer-reviewed journals and submit them only to repositories that perform no peer review. The professional rewards of research attach to peer-reviewed publication, not to unrefereed archiving. The OA movement has always been about OA to peer-reviewed research, not about bypassing peer review. It's possible that authors will stop submitting their work to non-OA peer-reviewed journals, and prefer OA peer-reviewed journals, but that's a very different and very welcome development. (3) The objection that OA journals discriminate against indigent authors has always been weak and was recently made even weaker by the discoveries that fewer than half of OA journals even charge author-side fees and that many more non-OA journals do so than OA journals. (4) The RS call for a study is oblivious to the many studies of OA that have already been undertaken. The draft RCUK policy in particular is based on the extensive hearings and evidence-gathering process conducted by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in 2004 and summarized in its report, Scientific Publications: Free for All? The RS should know about this; it submitted a lengthy brief to the committee. (5) For my response to the RS objection that OA archiving will endanger journals, see my comment, earlier this morning, on the Australian news story on the RS statement, which I saw and blogged before I saw the RS statement itself.

Harnad's reply to the Royal Society

Stevan Harnad has posted a detailed reply to the Royal Society's objections to the draft RCUK policy. His posting to the AmSci OA Forum has already triggered a good discussion thread. Excerpt:
The Royal Society's statement (below, with comments) is not only ill-informed, failing even to grasp what either Open Access or the proposed RCUK policy is about and for, but it is a statement for which the Royal Society (RS), a venerable and distinguished institution, will have profound reason to be ashamed in coming years. The RCUK proposed to require RCUK-funded -- i.e., publicly-funded, tax-payer-funded -- research journal articles to be made freely available online to all those would-be users world-wide who cannot afford access to the journal in which they were published. This is called Open Access (OA) self-archiving; it is a supplement to -- not a substitute for -- the existing peer-reviewed journal publishing system. And it has already been practised, and has co-existed peacefully, with the journal system for over a decade and half now (for researchers have been self-archiving their articles for at least that long), even in certain areas -- notably some branches of physics -- in which 100% of the articles are being self-archived immediately upon publication or even earlier, and have been for years. The physics publishers -- the American Physical Society and Institute of Physics Publishing -- have both reported publicly that they have detected no subscription decline at all as a result of self-archiving....This crucial distinction [between OA archiving and OA journals] is completely clouded over in the RS statement, and the self-archiving mandate keeps being treated as if it were an OA publishing mandate. The result is a large number of rather shrill and intemperate non sequiturs that do the RS no credit.

Royal Society opposes RCUK policy

Anna Salleh, Fight over 'open access' looming, ABC News (Australia), November 24, 2005. Excerpt:
The scientific body that was a pioneer of peer-review journals says moves to provide immediate and free online access to research could have "disastrous" consequences for science. The UK's Royal Society warns against "hasty" adoption of plans by public agencies to require scientists they fund to deposit research in large online "open access" databases. The Society, which publishes seven peer-reviewed journals, says the proposed new models for open access publishing are "untried and untested" and there is no evidence they are economically viable. It says the proposed move could stop researchers submitting papers or subscribing to existing peer-reviewed journals, which could cease to exist and leave researchers with lower-quality services. The Society also says that a drop in journal subscriptions could also stop learned societies from running conferences from the profits raised by selling journal subscriptions. One example the Society opposes is a Research Councils UK (RCUK) proposal to make future grant recipients ensure their published peer-reviewed research papers are made publicly available at or around the time of publication. Professor Stevan Harnad of the University of Southampton in the UK, who first recommended this particular model, argues it will supplement, not substitute, existing peer-reviewed journal publishing. He says there is a difference between open access journals (peer-reviewed journals that provide free and immediate access to their content) and open access archiving (where researchers put conventional journal articles into open access online archives). He says the RCUK is not proposing to mandate that researchers publish in open access journals, merely that they provide open-access to their existing peer-reviewed articles.

Comment. Two quick replies. (1) The Royal Society, like so many others, misunderstands the draft RCUK policy. The policy mandates deposit on OA repositories, not submission to OA journals. Harnad's reply is on point. (2) The claim that OA archiving harms journal subscriptions has been answered many times, but the RS shows no sign of following the argument. There's evidence that deposits in OA repositories reduce a journal's downloads but no evidence that they reduce a journal's subscriptions. The RCUK policy protects journal subscripitions by not requiring deposit of the published version of an article but only the final version of the author's manuscript. It also allows publishers to impose an embargo on the OA edition if they wish. Some non-OA journals report that OA after a very short delay actually increases submissions and subscriptions. In physics, where OA archiving is most extensive and where high-volume OA archiving has coexisted with non-OA jornals for 15 years, journal publishers report no harmful effect on subscriptions. It's time to turn down the static, see what is being proposed, and take advantage of the benefits of OA for scientists as authors, scientists as readers, all who fund them, and all who benefit from their work.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More on the Web Citation Index

Mark Chillingworth, Thomson corals open access into single index, Informationi World Review, November 23, 2005. (That should be "...corrals...") Excerpt:
Thomson Scientific is releasing a single tool for searching and accessing online open access content. The Web Citation Index (WCI) from the abstracting and indexing (A&I) specialist will become part of its ISI Web of Knowledge platform and connect together pre-print articles, institutional repositories and open access (OA) journals, IWR can exclusively reveal. WCI uses the same technology as the Web of Science and provides users with general search and citation search engines, alerts, search history and linking services. At the heart of WCI is technology that crawls the internet searching for research documents that are freely available. Once the software has located the document it indexes it, locates the citations within the document and automatically links these to the cited document. This technology is the result of a partnership between Thomson and electronics giant NEC, who provided their CiteSeer scientific library system. "We married their technology with the ability to index citations, combining algorithmic and editorial processes," said Jim Pringle, Thomson vp of development, government and academic. Thomson has formed an editorial team to assess the material being indexed. All content will be judged on a set of criteria that includes; who hosts the archive and is it well maintained, what selection process does the archive have, document formats and whether full text is available. "The goal is to index all repository material, but it has to conform to scholarly standards," Pringle said, "It brings a consistent resource for pre-prints are difficult to find and brings them into professional research." Pringle said the OA and institutional repository community needed a serious index and search tool to make their content more "discoverable". Although a shot in the arm for the OA community, Pringle was quick to back traditional publishing models. "Peer review journal literature continues to have an important future; I don't see the repository movement calling that into question. This is part of the process by which repositories are finding their way."

(PS: It really looked like the ISI folks got it until Pringle implied that one must support "traditional publishing models" in order to support peer review.)

Timo Hannay on Google Library

Timo Hannay, Deaf, dumb and blind, EPS, November 22, 2005. Another contribution to the EPS debate on Google Library. Hannay is the Director of Web Publishing for the Nature Publishing Group. Excerpt:
The spat over the Google Print Library Project shows that Google needs to wise up, publishers need to wake up, and copyright needs a shake up. Indexing the world's books so that they are as searchable as web pages will be seen by our descendants as one of the great achievements of this generation. At last light will fall on the darkest recesses of the world's libraries, and wisdom that has been visible to almost no one will suddenly be only a click or two away from a large and growing proportion of humanity. But though the promise is sublime, the process by which it is being fulfilled verges on the ridiculous, and none of the main players is blameless....Start with Google, though it is perhaps the most blameless of all. Google has a logo that looks like it belongs in a toy store and a motto that says, "don't be evil", but it also has a $100 billion stock market capitalization and effectively controls access to a large and increasing proportion of human knowledge. Like Tom Hanks's character in the film Big, it is a child that woke up one day to find itself in the body of adult. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the gung-ho way that Google has pursued the indexing of library book collections. In particular, its failure to engage properly with copyright holders until forced to do so by letters of complaint and lawsuits seems downright dumb – it surely could have had many publishers on side if only it had been more adroit at handling the politics and psychology of the situation. That it failed to do so is a disservice not to publishers, but to Google's own users and shareholders....

Yet far more than being angry with Google about the Library Project, publishers should be furious with themselves for not having already spotted and exploited the same idea. It took Apple to show the reluctant and clueless music industry how to sell its back catalogues online, and now Google is leading book publishers – kicking and screaming – down the same path. Both episodes are to the great shame of those industries, which don't deserve to prosper if they remain blind to such huge opportunities when they heave into view. Whatever the current legal arguments, the full-text indexing of books is inevitable. This is not because Google (or their rivals) want it, but because readers want it. Publishers' slowness to recognise this has weakened them strategically because they will be less able to define and control whatever services eventually emerge. But instead of ruing past mistakes, publishers should concentrate on future opportunities, which could still be substantial. Despite their protestations, Google Print, including the Library Project, has the potential to greatly enhance most publishing businesses – if only they don't let this opportunity go to waste. At a stroke, thousands of old and obscure titles that used to be worth precisely nothing will start to appear before the eyes of millions of potential buyers. Providing that publishers can come up with ways to satisfy the resulting demand, which will be spread thinly across large numbers of titles, this 'long tail' might collectively be worth as much as the far smaller numbers of titles that are currently in print. Contrary to popular belief, many publishers understand this. Their locking horns with Google over the Library Project attempt to reassert control over 'their' content with an eye to the longer-term risks of disintermediation....

Current copyright laws were designed for a world in which it was infeasible either to restrict what a reader could do with a book after he purchased it, or for that reader to make and distribute countless pristine copies. The system worked well because the very limitations of existing technologies assured a degree of balance between the two extremes of overbearing control and widespread piracy. The digital world has increasingly made both extremes possible, resulting in a monumental battle over which one will prevail. While this plays out, we see each side come up with competing absurdities: as content vendors spend money to reduce the value of their products to paying customers (e.g., by restricting where a DVD can be played), search engines systematically flout copyright law by delivering cached copies of third-party web pages. If we had enlightened and forward-thinking legislators, they would have long since stepped in to redefine this balance and to clarify fundamental issues that have been left unresolved: Is it legal to make a full-text index without the copyright-holder's explicit permission? What about distributing copies of other people's web pages? Thanks to Google and its peers, everyone from the schoolchild to the scientist has come to depend on these activities, and hundreds of billions of dollars of commercial value has been built on them. Given this, it is insane that their legal status is still open to question. Have legislators been deaf to the questions that are still being asked a decade or more after the web entered everyday life?...So while Google has to mature, it is publishers and politicians who still have the most to do. They must adapt their businesses and laws to work in a new, unfamiliar land edging into view on the horizon, a place that our children are already colonising. This is a world in which our abilities to find, reinvent and share are being set free from the limits of the physical world. The future is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Another sign of progress

The Texas A&M University Libraries are looking for a metadata librarian. Excerpt from the job ad:
[E]xperience with one or more of the following standards: Dublin Core, METS/MODS, OpenURL, OAI-PMH, TEI, or others. Experience with creation and/or management of digital objects in various text, image, sound, and/or video formats. Knowledge of institutional repositories and open access publishing....

Open-source dictionary of Swahili

Adrian Brune, Defining Moment For Swahili, Hartford Courant, November 20, 2005. (Thanks to Wired Campus.) Excerpt:
With more than 80 million speakers in East and Central Africa, Swahili is the most widely spoken language in Africa, though a fully updated dictionary of the language has not been produced for 30 years. [Martin Benjamin, a visiting assistant professor of Swahili at Wesleyan University] aims to change that with the Kamusi (Dictionary) Project, an effort to document and produce a comprehensive guide to Swahili using the Internet....Benjamin compares his project to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia drafted largely by a band of worldwide literati. He emphasizes, however, that, unlike Wikipedia, he vets every entry for accuracy, sometimes within minutes, before he posts them....By spring 1995, Benjamin had entered 21,000 words into the database, and the Kamusi Project went live. It was one of Yale's first academic websites.

Indian president wants Indian libraries digitized and OA

Prez calls for digitisation of libraries, Deccan Herald, November 22, 2005. (Thanks to LIS News.) Excerpt:
President A P J Abdul Kalam wants all libraries in schools, colleges and universities to be digitised within the next four years. At the valedictory of Mahabharata Utsav, organised by the Mahabharata Research Foundation, here on Monday, the President said the digitisation of books has to be in regional languages. Knowledge has always been the prime mover for prosperity. It is important to take up the mission of integrating all forms of knowledge and culture into our digital library....The President unveiled a state-of-art Digital Mobile van to document, conserve, digitise and disseminate manuscripts. He suggested that the mobile digital library can become a partner of the Digital Library of India portal, a project aimed at providing free-to-read searchable collection of one million books.

International agreements on OA to data

Peter Schröder, Cherishing the Memory of Science: Towards International Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding, a presentation at the 19th International CODATA Conference, Special Session on the WSIS (Berlin, November 10, 2005). Excerpt:
To be able to climb the shoulders of the scientific giants of Newton's time, access to a limited corpus of written sources, letters, journals and books in libraries and archives was sufficient. Finding your scientific way in the expanding universe of our contemporary global science system requires capacities and facilities of quite another order. Since the brain capacity of researchers has not increased, climbing the ladder to the shoulders of science's giants now calls for access to ever more extensive and complex ICT facilities : giant databases, mega repositories of scientific journals, colossal archives and the contiously expanding Internet to connect researchers with information....[T]he next step in physics demands a Large Hadron Collider that will produce 12 to 14 Petabytes of digital data per year, the full capacity of about 16 million CD ROM's, to be analysed by some 6.000 researchers, scattered around the world, but tightly knit by the Grid computer-network of our global science system. In this way use of ICT has made collections of scientific data in many respects comparable to musical scores: to be used time and again for a diversity of performances by a diversity of artists for the different audiences of society. Optimum access to research data should enable researchers from all over the world to compose the full score for our knowledge based international society. Consequently, access to the gold mine of research data has become quickly a major issue in international science policy and research management. The traditional exchange arrangements between scientific colleagues no longer suffice to guarantee the necessary openness of access to digital data resources. Optimum access requires formal agreements on the conditions of access on the national and international levels....At the meeting at ministerial level of OECD's Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy on January 30, 2004, the ministers responsible for science policy endorsed a Declaration on Access to Research data from Public Funding including a draft set of principles and Guidelines. The Declaration will be an important step towards further international scientific co-operation.

Samassekou calls for OA

H.E. Adama Samassekou, Open Access For All: A Required Step Towards A Society Of Shared Knowledge, keynote presentation at the 19th International CODATA Conference, Special Session on the WSIS (Berlin, November 10, 2005). Samassekou is the President of the African Academy of Languages, President of the WSIS PrepCom of the Geneva Phase, and Former Minister of Education of Mali. Excerpt:
The issue of access to raw or fundamental scientific data must be distinguished from the one of access to Scientific Literature....Our position on this matter is unambiguous: the fact of making digital data accessible would allow a better peer review while offering to other scientists, who are not able to duplicate the same experiments or same calculations, the possibility of taking part in an inclusive way to the world research dynamical movement, while, of course, fully acknowledging former works. It means that Open Access to scientific articles as well to raw data, shall be guaranteed to all, whenever the data and scientific information being disclosed in articles, as is very often the case, are the result of research works supported by public or philanthropic funds....The online publication cost is very low, and printings costs have kept decreasing. Paradoxically, the very prices of subscriptions to scientific journals, have kept increasing as librarians are denouncing. It is thus not astonishing that the large scientific publishing organizations are reporting considerable profits. Who thus pay the bills? All the society ! Not only the scientific community which must repurchase freely donated material, but also all the private and association sector which should be entitled to freely benefit from this aid from public authorities and philanthropic institutions. Why should this situation be allowed to continue to exist ? Would historical inertia not be held responsible ? Fortunately, a movement exists, a movement in the true direction of History, the Open Access movement which is represented during the WSIS by the Working Group on Scientific Information, and which proposes various solutions to get out of this current situation as fast as possible....One may also recommend Open Access journals, without publication charges, and which would be subsidized or implemented by national and international organizations. Another solution, nonexclusive of the others, would be, as some are preaching it, to access, in Open Archives, to the preprints or reprints of articles published in subscription journals?...It is clear that financially handicapped scientists, fighting for their intellectual survival, cannot and shall not accept to be considered as second class researchers, and to have free access only to six months old archives. More inclusive and innovating policies should and could be implemented....Open Access is an essential condition of an evolution towards a society of shared knowledge, and this is not a concern only of intellectual or philosophical nature, because the consequences of the current system are quite simply dramatic, even tragic. The current system goes against the efforts of all governments, whoever they are and wherever they are, to reinforce their economies, which, everywhere, are struggling at the beginning of the third millennium....In economical terms, the Keynesian multiplier effect is seriously dampened, and public expenditures are playing a much less effective role than has been forecast. The current system, if it were to persist, would be some sort of a forced rent or toll on scientific information, and would constitute also in this way a forced contribution from all innovating entrepreneurs whose researchers are also freely donating the contents of their publications as members of the scientific community. In countries in the "South", the damage is even larger, because the access cost to this costly information becomes an annihilating factor, and then we find before us a digital divide at the content level which adds up to the digital divide at the level of access means.

PubChem keeps growing

PubChem now includes structures and toxicity data from EPA DSSTox (Environmental Protection Agency Distributed Structure-Searchable Toxicity public database network).

House of Commons to debate RCUK policy

I've learned that the UK House of Commons will debate the draft RCUK open-access policy in Westminster Hall between 2:30 and 5:30 pm on December 15, 2005. As far as I can tell, there's no online announcement yet where I can send you for further details, but I'll post new information as I learn it.

(PS: The RCUK policy is based heavily on the July 2004 report, Scientific Publications: Free for All? by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. It's possible that many MPs want to reassert their support for a strong OA policy in the face of intense lobbying by publishers.)

Update (11/24/05). I've confirmed with the secretary for the committee that the debate will take place on schedule whether or not the RCUK announces the final version of its policy by the 15th.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Working group recommends strengthening NIH policy

Finally. The Public Access Working Group that advises the NIH on its public access policy has recommended strengthing the policy in the two ways most needed: (1) change the request to a requirement and (2) shorten the permissible delay to six months.

The working group has not yet made a public statement. But the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) issued a press release today summarizing and supporting the working group's recommendation. Excerpt:

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a national coalition of over 60 library, non-profit, and patient advocacy groups, today praised the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Working Group (PAWG) for recommending that researchers be required to deposit published articles resulting from NIH funding in PubMed Central (PMC), NIH’s online database of journal literature. At a November 15 meeting of the working group, a majority of members also called for articles to be freely available in PMC within six months of their publication in a journal. The current NIH policy is voluntary for funding recipients and allows access to be delayed for up to one year. Data presented to the working group indicates that less than five percent of eligible papers are being deposited in PMC. The Public Access Working Group’s recommendation is considered significant because of Congressional concern that the current policy has failed to achieve the goals set out by the policy. This past summer, the House and Senate called on NIH to report on the policy’s progress by early 2006....Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), says “We are pleased that the Public Access Working Group has pointed the way for NIH to achieve its goals of archiving NIH research, advancing science, and providing taxpayers with access to research.” SPARC is a founding member and administrator of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

Non-OA distribution of digital info in Africa

A. Alemna, M. Cobblah, Relevant Issues in the Provision of Digital Information in Africa, Library Hi Tech News, 22, 9 (2005).
Abstract: Purpose – To share with a global readership the progress made and the infrastructure in the making to create digital resources and utilize digital resources in libraries in Africa. Design/methodology/approach – Comparisons of how digital libraries evolved or transitioned in more developed parts of the world with Africa. Issues of intellectual property are key interests that need to be reinforced in Africa as the digital library movement matures. Findings – Africa is ready to pursue developing digital libraries in a more earnest way but lacks some basic resources. Information technology is expanding throughout Africa but at a slower pace, yet with intense efforts directed towards training and implementing more automation. Research limitations/implications – A more serious infrastructure needs to be established to see the launch of more digital library components in African libraries. The understanding is there but the resources remain undependable and costly to implement on any serious scale. Practical implications – Serious infrastructure issues need to be resolved in addition to working out the economic and commercial limitations, the legal situation and creating a digital rights roadmap for seeing the digital library provision in place. Originality/value – The need to catch up with trends in libraries worldwide is sincere and efforts are well underway to create more electronic resources and make digital libraries more of a reality in already information deprived regions of the world.

(PS: Cobblah doesn't mention OA or discuss OA issues. I suggest that it's relevant anyway.)

Google could change publisher business models

Bill Rosenblatt, Rights management and the revolution in e-publishing, Indicare, November 21, 2005. Excerpt:
Abstract: Google Book Search and the handful of developments in its aftermath are ushering in the next wave of digital publishing. Discoverability and rendering of copyrighted works on the Internet add up to the most disruptive force to publishers' lines of business at least since the emergence of desktop publishing in the 1980s. Digital rights management plays a crucial role in this e-publishing revolution. In this article, we outline the big changes in online publishing today, and we discuss the role that DRM plays in new online content distribution, discovery, and retail initiatives, and how it should play a role in the future.

From the body of the article:

Developments like Google Book Search show that technology companies have the potential to force dramatic changes to publishers' business models and supply chains. Publishers must realize that once content is out there on the Internet, control over rights is the key to control over their industry's future. If they do not act soon, then Internet technology companies will take over their supply chains, they will be marginalized into lesser relevance in the content world, or both.

Profile of Brewster Kahle and the OCA

Heidi Benson, A man's vision: world library online, San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 2005. Excerpt:
Founder of the Internet Archive, Kahle is an ebullient technology visionary of the type Northern California cultivates. He has been widely recognized as a digital guru and a catalyst for change. Now, his vision is helping shape the debate over how a book library should reside on the Internet. His idealistic yet pragmatic approach -- providing free digital access to works in the public domain -- could be a bridge to detente in the war between publishers and Google Inc. While Google has alienated authors and publishers with its plan to digitize books still in copyright, Kahle has moved gingerly, forging collaborations with Google's fiercest archrivals -- Microsoft and Yahoo -- to create a kinder, gentler digital library effort called the Open Content Alliance. The alliance, focused on books no longer under copyright -- that is, books published before 1923 -- echoes the computer industry's open source movement, which has sought to spur innovation by enabling software engineers to freely share their code...."Folks are using the Internet as a library, and they're using it many times every day," Kahle continued. "We're seeing much more traffic on the Internet then we ever did in our public library system, but what's available on the Internet isn't the best we have to offer. Almost everything on the Internet has been written since 1996 -- and most of it has been written for the Internet." Kahle's dream is to collect online the great books on which modern civilization is based. "Do you know what's carved above the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh? -- 'FREE TO THE PEOPLE' -- what a goal!" Kahle said. "I can believe in this! At the Internet Archive, we think of our mission as 'universal access to all knowledge.' "That should be carved over our door."..."Brewster Kahle is an activist, not an empire-builder," said Paul Saffo of the Palo Alto-based Institute of the Future. "What I've always admired about Brewster Kahle is his attitude -- 'let's get the job done and find out what the wrinkles are,' " said UC's [Paul] Duguid. "If they would team up -- with Google's strength and Kahle's philosophy," Duguid mused, "that would be great."...Before taking the podium at the Presidio, Kahle told a visitor, "I applaud Google's efforts. They've got a bold vision. But their approach seems to have caused lawsuits. "C'mon, guys! Let's get the businesspeople back at the table, and send the lawyers back to their cubicles!"

Freedom of access is inseparable from freedom of expression

Parliaments must ensure freedom of information and freedom of expression, UNESCO, November 21, 2005. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
"Freedom of expression is inseparable from freedom of information, the basis for access to knowledge", said former UNESCO Assistant Director-General Henrikas Ioushikavitshius speaking on behalf of UNESCO at a parliamentary panel in Tunis last week.....The issue was considered from two angles: [1] parliaments’ ability to obtain information they need for their work; and [2] legislation guaranteeing citizens' rights of access to information. The Parliamentary panel provided an opportunity for participants to obtain first-hand information on the issue of access to information as well as to exchange and compare their experiences. They expressed their will to adopt a legislative framework and relevant budgets in this field and to monitor the follow-up of the decisions adopted by the WSIS, in cooperation with IPU.

Another call for IP balance

Alfred B Engelberg, Property rights and danger of a new form of colonialism, a letter to the editor in the Financial Times, November 21, 2005. Engelberg is an intellectual property lawyer from Palm Beach. Excerpt:
A failure to strike the appropriate balance between intellectual property rights and open access to knowledge can harm innovation, competition and economic growth in both developed and developing countries. Put simply, patents of poor quality and overly restrictive access to copyrighted materials containing important knowledge are bad for the global economy....Similarly, there are rising complaints from the biomedical research community that patents claiming research tools are impeding the quest for important new knowledge. Other industries complain that their ability to make rational investment decisions is hampered by organisations that accumulate large patent portfolios solely for the purpose of bringing complex patent infringement litigations that create years of uncertainty. These examples illustrate the deteriorating balance between intellectual property rights and free competition....The time has come not only for a pause in the imposition of greater levels of intellectual property rights protection but, more importantly, for a careful re-examination of whether the existing rules regarding both the creation and enforcement of those rights are balanced in a manner that truly supports sustainable development.

OA and other kinds of openness in Biblical Studies

Tim Bulkeley has blogged some notes on a discussion about Digital Openness and Biblical Studies at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting (Philadelphia, November 19-22, 2005). Excerpt:
But we did decide...that we need to create a climate in which openness in Biblical Studies is on the agenda. By "openness" we mean (some or all of these things, and perhaps others): [1] openness of access: the current (closed) "publishing environment" means that our output, monographs, articles etc. appear in costly forms that are difficult (at least for scholars outside Western academic institutions, in particular 2/3 world and independent scholars) to access. Note that this is of real interest to scholars, we publish to influence others, to propagate our ideas, to gain tenure or promotion - all of these goals are assisted if people can actually read our work! [2] openness of creation: in software programming circles there is a buzz around "open source" projects....What projects could Biblical Scholars contribute to that would be our Linuxes or Moodles? [3] human openness: the "guild" model of scholarship and its practices (including for example the peer review system) have served Biblical Studies well, but they are - or have become - barriers to "outsiders".

LOC-Google press release on World Digital Library

The Library of Congress and Google have issued a joint press release on the World Digital Library (November 22). Excerpt:
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin announced today that Google is the first private-sector company to contribute to the Library's initiative to develop a plan to begin building a World Digital Library (WDL) for use by other libraries around the globe. The effort would be supported by funds from nonexclusive, public and private partnerships, of which Google is the first. The concept for the WDL came from a speech that Billington delivered to the newly established U.S. National Commission for UNESCO on June 6, 2005, at Georgetown University....In his speech, Billington proposed that public research institutions and libraries work with private funders to begin digitizing significant primary materials of different cultures from institutions across the globe. Billington said that the World Digital Library would bring together online “rare and unique cultural materials held in U.S. and Western repositories with those of other great cultures such as those that lie beyond Europe and involve more than 1 billion people: Chinese East Asia, Indian South Asia and the worlds of Islam stretching from Indonesia through Central and West Asia to Africa.” Google Inc. has agreed to donate $3 million as the first partner in this public-private initiative. Google Co-Founder and President of Technology Sergey Brin said, “Google supports the World Digital Library because we share a common mission of making the world's information universally accessible and useful. To create a global digital library is a historic opportunity, and we support the Library of Congress in this effort.”...The content of the World Digital Library, like that of American Memory, will be primarily one-of-a-kind materials, including manuscript and multimedia materials of the particular culture....The Library and Google recently completed a yearlong cooperative digitization of about 5,000 books in the public domain. The pilot developed procedures for handling and tracking fragile material as well as developing specifications for high-quality scanned images. Google will continue its scanning efforts by digitizing works of historical value from the Library of Congress' Law Library. In making the announcement, Billington emphasized the little-known fact that more than one-half of the book collections of the Library of Congress are in languages other than English. Like the materials in American Memory, those in the World Digital Library will either be in the public domain or made available with special permission. “A World Digital Library would make these collections available free of charge to anyone accessing the Internet, and it could well have the salutary effect of bringing people together by celebrating the depth and uniqueness of different cultures in a single global undertaking,” said Billington. “We are grateful for Google's contribution to this important initiative, and we will seek contributions from other private sector companies with an equally enlightened self-interest.

Helping researchers in the same niche know about one another

The U.S. National Library of Medicine is inviting users of Medline and PubMed to list their names and research projects on a public web site in order to facilitate collaboration and information sharing.

(PS: Mutual awareness like this within a research niche could prevent the kinds of problems documented by Zhenglun Pan and four co-authors in the December PLoS Medicine.)

OA World Digital Library

David A. Vise, World Digital Library Planned, Washington Post, November 22, 2005. Excerpt:
The Library of Congress is launching a campaign today to create the World Digital Library, an online collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials from its holdings and those of other national libraries that would be freely accessible for viewing by anyone, anywhere with Internet access. This is the most ambitious international effort ever undertaken to put precious items of artistic, historical, and literary significance on the Internet so that people can learn about other cultures without traveling further than the nearest computer, according to James H. Billington, head of the Library of Congress. Billington said his goal is to bring together materials from the United States and Europe with precious items from Islamic nations stretching from Indonesia through Central and West Africa, as well as important materials from collections in East and South Asia....Billington said he envisions the initiative as a public-private partnership. Yesterday, he said that the Library of Congress has accepted $3 million from Google Inc. as its first corporate contribution....During the past year, Google has digitized about 5,000 books from the Library of Congress as part of a pilot project to refine the techniques to make copies of fragile books without damaging them. In the next phase of the project, Billington said Google will digitize books and other materials from the Library of Congress Law Library....Brin and Billington said Google would only digitize materials from the Library of Congress that are in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright protection. Brin said he will help raise additional private funds to finance the World Digital Library. Billington said the $3 million gift from Google will be used over the next few years to develop the details of the project and pay for global outreach.

Microsoft uses a CC license for new sharing protocol

Microsoft is using a Creative Commons license for a new spec it has created for sharing calendar data, contact lists, bookmarks, OPML files, and similar data sources in which users sometimes do and sometimes don't want to propagate their changes to willing others. For details see Ray Ozzie's blog posting, the CC blog posting, or the Microsoft FAQ.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Cornell's legal encyclopedia wiki

The Cornell Law School is building an OA legal dictionary and encyclopedia on a wiki called Wex. However, at least at first, it will limit editing privileges to approved authors. "Potentially, anyone qualified [may write and edit entries]. We limit access to the Wex authoring apparatus as a way of ensuring that the quality of material here remains high, and free of vandalism of various kinds. If you're interested in becoming an author or editor, or if you want to know more about our selection criteria, take a look at the article on editorial contributions."

(PS: I've noticed this mutation at a number of academic wikis recently. It's an interesting middle ground between top-down quality control, which is secure but stodgy, and emergent quality control, which is communitarian but anarchical.)

FAST PSP will search the web, your desktop, and Elsevier's corpus

Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) launched its Personal Search Platform (PSP) in October. PSP will search the web, your desktop, and the proprietary content of participating vendors all at the same time. According to Mark Chillingworth in today's Information World Review, Elsevier is talking to FAST about searching Elsevier content. Note that FAST is already the engine running Scirus.

(PS: Will FAST PSP exclude OA content because no one will pay to have it included? Or will FAST PSP include OA content because it's free for crawling and will enlarge and enhance the index?)

Harvard's participation in Google Library

Katie Hafner, At Harvard, a Man, a Plan and a Scanner, New York Times, November 21, 2005. Excerpt:
Mr. [Sidney] Verba is overseeing [Harvard's] partnership with Google, which plans to create searchable digital copies of entire collections - tens of millions of books - at five leading research libraries....For Mr. Verba, the decision to support Google's plan was not easy or obvious. He has a unique perspective on the legal and intellectual debate because his various professional roles connect him to every aspect of the creation and use of books. "It's been dominating my life for the last year and a half," said Mr. Verba, a prominent political scientist who has been a professor at Harvard for more than 30 years. Even now, he is cautious about the implications of the ambitious project. Until two years ago, the congenial and energetic Mr. Verba was chairman of the board of Harvard University Press. And in that position, he witnessed mounting anxiety about the future of publishing, especially with the advent of digital texts. "Scanning the whole text makes publishers very nervous," he said. "I have sympathy with that. They have to be assured there will be security, that no one will hack in and steal contents, or sell it to someone." And as the author or co-author of 18 books, he understands the worry that Google's digitization project might cause writers over loss of income or control of their work. Many of his own books are still in print. But as a librarian and a teacher, he argues that the digital project will meet the needs of students who gravitate to the Internet - and Google in particular - to conduct their research. And he says he believes the project will aid the library's broader mission to preserve academic material and make it accessible to the world. He was taken aback when Google was sued, first in September by a group of authors, then last month by five major publishers. "It's become much more controversial than I would have expected," Mr. Verba said. "I was surprised by the vehemence." For the time being, Harvard has confined the scanning of its collections largely to books in the public domain and limited the initial scanning to about 40,000 volumes. But it hopes eventually to scan copyrighted books as well, depending on the outcome of the legal dispute. "The thing that consoles me," Mr. Verba said, "is Google's notion of showing only the snippets, which have everything to do with what's in the book, but nothing to do with reading the book."...[After hearing Verba's initial concerns] Google did return, some nine months later, details in hand. "It was clear they had done their homework," said Mr. Verba, who was careful not to talk about parts of the project that fall under a nondisclosure agreement. "They had designed a very efficient means of doing the digitization, in a nondamaging, cost-efficient way. And they were willing to invest a large amount of money."..."It's a fascinating time, and very confusing," Mr. Verba said of the copyright controversy. "And if you ask me if I have a clear view of fair use, the answer is no. It's all up in the air." Another concern for the plaintiffs in the lawsuits is the second digital copy that Google gives to the libraries as part of each agreement. But Mr. Verba maintains that those second copies will be used only for archiving and preservation, in keeping with a research library's charter. "We think and hope it is legally the appropriate approach," Mr. Verba said of the Google project. "But we're taking it day by day."

Purdue talking to Google

The Purdue University Libraries are talking to Google about digitizing Purdue's books.

Open courseware at WSIS

OCW draws attention at world summit, a press release from MIT, November 21, 2005.
At the World Summit on the Information Society this week in Tunis, Tunisia, MIT OpenCourseWare co-hosted a half-day event with the United Nations University, "Widening Access to Knowledge Through Open Sharing: The Growing OpenCourseWare Movement." More than 100 people attended the Nov. 14 forum, which featured presentations by prominent leaders from the global education community. The proceedings focused on the burgeoning OCW movement -- which now includes participating universities on five continents -- and how to best to leverage OCW resources to improve education around the globe. "I am surprised by all the OpenCourseWares, open educational resources and other 'open movements' around the world. It is truly a global movement, and MIT started it all with OCW," said Professor Shigeru Miyagawa, the MIT Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture, who represented OpenCourseWare. "A UNESCO official told me that MIT is a 'trailblazer.' We set the world in motion with this OpenCourseWare Movement, and as the UNESCO official said, 'Nothing can stop it now.'" The keynote address at Monday's event was given by G.M. Reed, director of the U.N. University's International Institute for Software Technology. Featured speakers included leading educators from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, Keio University in Japan, the Université Paris 3-Sorbonne in France, the African Virtual University, the UNESCO Information Society Division and MIT, among others. "I'm also gratified that so many people around the world know about MIT's OpenCourseWare, and the respect that they have for MIT and our faculty because of it," Miyagawa said. "I chaired the panel on 'The Growing International OpenCourseWare Movement,' and it was truly amazing to hear about OpenCourseWares being launched in Japan, France and other American schools such as Tufts. Everyone who attended our discussion 'got it' -- OCW is about sharing educational content freely and openly with anyone who wants to use it."

Humanitarian project combines distributed computing and OA

PC users enlisted in hunt for new AIDS drugs, Canadian Press, November 21, 2005. Excerpt:
A massive project is harnessing the power of tens of thousands of personal computers around the world in a bid to winnow out potential drugs to more effectively fight the global scourge of AIDS. A virtual supercomputer grid, created by IBM, will allow individuals and businesses to donate down-time on their personal computers via a secure website. The idle PCs will be used to run millions of computations in the search for chemical compounds that could eventually provide more effective HIV therapies, the company was to announce Monday. "This project was created about a year ago . . . essentially to create a virtual supercomputer devoted specifically to humanitarian purposes," said Stanley Litow, IBM vice-president for corporate community relations....Promising compounds would be published in open-access scientific journals so that other researchers could retrieve data for their own experiments.

(PS: Good plan. But note to the developers: you can submit promising results to OA journals, as planned, OR deposit them in OA repositories. One benefit of the latter option is that you can then publish them in nearly any journal, OA or not.)

Science policy journal converts to OA

The Journal of Science and Health Policy has converted to OA. From today's press release:
SciPolicy -- The Journal of Science and Health Policy -- announced today that, as a public service, all of its articles are now free and open access on-line. The move is prompted by a recent ten-fold increase in demands on its already busy website for articles related to its Amicus Curiae filing in Federal Court (Kitzmiller, et al v Dover Area School District and school Board) opposing government mandates to teach of intelligent design in public schools and the Science Wars controversies.

(PS: All science journals attack ignorance. Kudos to SciPolicy for turning the attack into traffic and turning the traffic into OA. If any science journals are holding their fire on ID, for fear of giving offense and reducing their downloads, please think again.)

The Tunis Commitment

Phase 2 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in Tunis, November 16-18, 2005, and has now released its final documents. The bad news is that the documents don't even mention open access. The good news is that they explicitly reaffirm the documents from Phase 1.

Phase 1 was held in Geneva in December of 2003 and resulted in two documents that explicitly endorsed open access: the Declaration of Principles (see Paragraph 28) and the Plan of Action (see Paragraphs C3.i and C7.b).

The primary document from WSIS 2 is the Tunis Commitment (November 18, 2005). Here are its OA-related passages:

1. We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, have gathered in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005 for this second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to reiterate our unequivocal support for the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action adopted at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December 2003.

2. We reaffirm our desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and multilateralism, and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so that people everywhere can create, access, utilise and share information and knowledge....

9. We reaffirm our resolution in the quest to ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities that ICTs can offer, by recalling that governments, as well as private sector, civil society and the United Nations and other international organisations, should work together to: improve access to information and communication infrastructure and technologies as well as to information and knowledge....We confirm that these are the key principles for building an inclusive Information Society, the elaboration of which is found in the Geneva Declaration of Principles.

10. We recognise that access to information and sharing and creation of knowledge contributes significantly to strengthening economic, social and cultural development....

27. We recognise that equitable and sustainable access to information requires the implementation of strategies for the long-term preservation of the digital information that is being created.

28. We reaffirm our desire to build ICT networks and develop applications, in partnership with the private sector, based on open or interoperable standards that are affordable and accessible to all, available anywhere and anytime, to anyone and on any device, leading to a ubiquitous network.

(PS: I'll keep looking for other OA-related developments from WSIS 2 and would like to hear from anyone who can point out any that I've missed.)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

French blog covering OA developments

Urfist is a network of French library schools dealing specifically with scientific and technical information. They host a good blog, Urfist Info, that frequently covers OA developments. Among the recent guest bloggers are Hélène Bosc (current), Olivier Ertzscheid, Hervé Le Crosnier, and Jean-Michel Salaün. (Thanks to Jean-Claude Guédon.)

Usage data from OA repositories

Les Carr is leading a team of researchers in a JISC-funded project "to collect, analyse and feed back usage statistics for interoperable repositories worldwide." Excerpt from today's announcement by Alma Swan:
The project outline is as follows: download data are being logged by every repository as a by-product of the Web requests they receive. These raw data are being turned into useful download statistics for individual papers and users by a few institutional repositories (e.g. University of Tasmania, Southampton University), thematic repositories (e.g. RePEc) and OAI services (e.g. Citebase). However, there is no consensus over what data need to be collected, what filtering mechanisms are appropriate, and what analyses are useful for academics in various disciplines. To create effective research statistics services, an interoperable usage statistics service will be created for all OAI-PMH-compliant repositories. This project will investigate the requirements for UK and international stakeholders and build generic collection and distribution software for all IRs. The approach will be demonstrated by a pilot statistics analysis service modelled as an OAI service provider. Working with partners experienced in analysis of usage statistics for electronic documents, and an international consultative committee of key OAI archive and service managers, the principal deliverables will be: [1] An API for gathering download data implemented for common IR platforms, and [2] A set of agreed standards defining the basis for measuring and reporting usage of materials deposited in IRs and aggregated with data from other sources where such materials can be found.

The research to establish user requirements for the new service is just approaching completion. It has consisted of a series of focus groups and individual interviews with researchers and repository managers around the world and will provide the basic spec upon which the software is developed. Before this phase is finally wound up, I would be interested in hearing from any researchers, repository managers, gateway managers or service providers who have views on what kind of usage statistics would be useful to them or their constituency. Replies on or off list would be very welcome.

The research team has members from Southampton University, the University of Tasmania, Long Island University and Key Perspectives Ltd.

Profile of Antonella de Robbio

OA Librarian has launched a series on librarian "heroes and leaders of the open access movement" and kicked it off with a Heather Morrison profile of Antonella de Robbio. Excerpt:
Antonella is the originator and current site manager of E-LIS, an open access archive for documents in Librarianship, Information Science and Technology, and related areas, based on GNU e-prints technology, and hosted by the AEPIC team on computers belonging to the CILEA group. Formed in 2003, E-LIS is the first international e-print server in this subject area. In two short years, E-LIS has grown to include a completely volunteer editorial team from 41 countries (so far), with at least one editor in each country. E-LIS now includes close to 3,000 documents, and usage is beginning to rise substantially....As the Co-ordinating Manager at the Library System of the University of Padova, one of Antonella's roles is as a member of the Italian Open Access Group (remember the Messina Declaration?...) Antonella also coordinates the Working Group for the Implementation of E-prints archives at the University of Padua, and recently brought forward an Open Access resolution to UNESCO. Naturally, Antonella's writings can be found through an E-LIS search (81 documents as of today, in Italian and English - not bad at all for a '98 grad of the Master in Library Management program at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan). Keep up the good work, Antonella! - and, may the rest of us have a fraction of your energy.

OA increases impact for undergrads too

Kerry Cupit, an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University, wrote an article about the Valles Marineris canyon on Mars, posted it to his web site, and soon discovered that its download count jumped by 3,000% in one day (20 hits to 600). The change came when NASA linked to his page from its page on the Melas Chasma. For details, see the Simon Fraser press release (November 17). (Thanks to Heather Morrison.)

OA in the midst of scientific politics

According to Helen Branswell's story in yesterday's Canadian Press, China is sharing avian flu virus data but not specimens. Excerpt:
China has posted the genetic sequences of a large number of H5N1 flu viruses isolated from birds in open-access databases - a step for which the agencies and outside researchers are grateful. But only so much can be learned from analyzing the genetic sequences of viruses. In order to determine whether the lethality of the virus is changing and whether the current prototype H5N1 vaccine would still be a good match, scientists have to be able to study live viruses, experts say....[Juan Lubroth, head of the emergency prevention system at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization] says China's slowness to share viruses reflects a concern there that the country's researchers do not receive adequate credit for their scientific contribution. [Earl Brown at the U of Ottawa] can understand that point of view, saying scientists the world over hoard their data in order to ensure they get credit for their findings, which is key to ensuring ongoing research funding. "You don't give away your data because the big labs will take it, they'll take the credit and you're sitting there writing a grant application without having the work published by yourself," he says. Another concern has been voiced by several countries affected by H5N1 outbreaks. They know part of the reason the developed countries want access to virus samples is to ensure that the seed strain for H5N1 vaccine is up-to-date enough that the vaccine would be protective. That rankles because these countries further understand that should H5N1 spark a human pandemic, their people stand little chance of getting access to limited global supplies of vaccine. "Some of the developing countries anticipate that they're going to be short-changed with that step," Lubroth admits.

Journal licenses protect journals, not libraries

B. M. Meera, K.T. Anuradha, Contractual Solutions in Electronic Publishing Industry: A Comparative study of License Agreements, Webology, October 2005.
Abstract: Information Technology (IT) revolution has brought global change and has impact on electronic publishing industry also. In the digital and networked environment, publishers are concerned about protecting their products from illegal use. Copyright has been proclaimed as an important weapon by the publishers to safeguard their products. In view of the increasing importance that is gained by contract law in electronic publishing, more and more libraries are engaged in signing License Agreements for getting access to all types of electronic information products. It has become imperative on the part of librarians to have knowledge of License agreements and their clauses. The body of the license agreements differs from publisher to publisher and is product dependent too. Since there is a difference between the license agreements of societal publishers and commercial publishers, an attempt is made here to carry out a comparative study of the clauses of the license agreements among commercial publishers at the first level and societal publishers at the second level. It is observed that the licensors' rights are well protected compared to that of licensees' rights.

Perception of ACS on OA

Dennis Chamot, Of the members, by the members, for the members, Chemical & Engineering News, November 7, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
But as I implied at the outset, perceptions matter. The very success of CAS [Chemical Abstracts Service] and Pubs [Publications Division] has made ACS [American Chemical Society] by far one of the largest scientific organizations in terms of revenues (as well as costs, which is often overlooked --this is, after all, a nonprofit organization). There is a tendency in America to root for the underdog. How we are perceived is very important. Here is where the focus on membership remains significant. Let me give two recent examples. Much of the early press coverage of the disagreement between ACS and the National Institutes of Health over the development of an NIH database that could directly compete with the CAS Registry did not enhance the image of ACS. I would argue that, while there were legitimate reasons for concern on the part of CAS, the perception in some people's minds was that this was not an effort to protect a very useful base of a service to all of science, created and owned by a volunteer membership organization, but rather it was seen as protecting a business against development of a free public service that would be a direct competitor in the marketplace. As of this writing, it looks like an amicable settlement to the disagreements will be arrived at eventually, one that should satisfy everyone's needs. But the lack of support in the media for the ACS position should give us pause. The other example I would like to present is the open-access movement and Pubs. There are some in the science community who feel strongly that all scientific publications should be available to everyone for free, with the costs borne primarily by the producers of the papers. The Pubs position has been that it is better to have free access to the producers of the papers and cover the costs of production necessary to maintain high quality (including editing and review) through subscription fees paid by the users. In this case, there is wide recognition that ACS journals are produced with major input by society members, and that Pubs policies are influenced by member concerns. (For example, consider recent policy changes in handling archives for electronic journals.) I would argue that, because Pubs is seen as an active part of a membership organization, there was more of a willingness to engage in a debate among friends. The perception that Pubs's positions were merely corporate was less widespread....Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of board.

A2K writing competition

The Yale Information Society Project is sponsoring a writing competition in connection with its Conference on Access to Knowledge (New Haven, April 21-23, 2006). Authors of the top three submissions will be invited to present their papers at the conference and to publish them in a special issue of the International Journal of Communications Law & Policy devoted to Access to Knowledge. The submission deadline is February 15, 2006.

How learned societies can adapt to OA

On October 5, 2005, the British Computer Society (BCS) released a report, Open Access and the Learned Society: the future role of the Learned Society in academic publishing. (Thanks to Informaticopia.) Excerpt:
This report summarises the views expressed at a BCS Thought Leadership on the future role of Learned Societies in academic publishing. Two speakers introduced opposing views on the theme after which 30 participants discussed the matter in three groups. Participants were from Learned Societies, publishers, universities, and research councils. At the end of the evening, held at the Royal Society in London, each table reported back to the gathering. Although debate was fierce no definitive view was reached as the topic is evolving rapidly.

The traditional model of publishing the findings of academic research in a printed journal is disintegrating. It is becoming increasingly impossible to charge high fees for journals because technology has made it possible for researchers to offer online their own findings to scholars free of charge....Demise of subscription journals has begun As technology has developed, pressures on the subscription journal model have mounted. The internet has made self-archiving possible for researchers and Google Scholar and similar search engines have recently made it even easier to retrieve information. If scholars can find ‘good enough’ versions of reports online, they are unwilling to pay for the published version. Academics are then likely to stop subscriptions to journals where ‘good enough’ versions are available online as their budgets increasingly come under pressure. Libraries’ budgets have been growing at a slower rate than academic reports and they have not been able to afford everything that they would like. Open access goes some way to solving that problem by making reports available to more people....There was general agreement during the evening that if Learned Societies cannot rely on the revenue from journals in the future, they need to rethink their business models and their approach to journals publishing. None of the players in the journals arena (Learned Societies included) are sacrosanct and need to acknowledge change and adapt to it....In terms of funding there are several alternatives for open access. For author-pay journals, the payment usually comes out of the research grant, although in some cases authors pay themselves. It was pointed out that this may work for subject areas with large research grants but is a stumbling block for less ‘wealthy’ research areas. In some cases, journals are subsidised by grants or take advertising. It was reported that one problem with author-pay journals is that most are not breaking even. Even by gaining in reputation and increasing their number of papers, journals will not raise profitability as their costs will rise in proportion to revenue increasing....It was suggested that Learned Societies could take on the role of offering version control and peer review....One way of funding quality checks would be to make a charge for open access. Participants thought that paying for open access could be acceptable if the price is right. But an acceptable price was suspected to be insufficient to cover publishing costs. The right price for students is likely to be lower than for other potential readers....

Various potential problems [with self-archiving] were raised during the evening. Firstly, self-archiving is a threat to the viability of publishers and learned societies as it moves papers away from their own websites. They are therefore not able to monitor how many people are looking at their research and cannot therefore prove the interest in their journal. A lot of society publishers have reportedly already imposed an embargo on internet archiving of papers or are planning to do so. Another problem with self-archiving is the risk that the self-archived paper will not necessarily be the refereed version....Most participants agreed that there should only be one definitive copy of archived material and everyone should be able to link to it. One solution would be to archive the report on the society’s or publisher’s website and offer authors free links to it. The British Library was suggested as one place to archive papers online, or it could be the role of Learned Societies, alongside higher education institutes. On the other hand, the universities argue that they need their own system of archiving their research. They use institutional repositories to showcase their work for prospective partners and funders and to assemble material for their own purposes....

Learned Societies, including the BCS, need to publish findings of research as dissemination of information is part of their remit. At the same time, the journal is generally accepted not to be the main reason people join Learned Societies. They join for reasons such as networking opportunities and advancing their career. It was suggested that Learned Societies and publishers should take a step further back and decide whether there is any value in journal publishing at all. Is there another way of determining the value of academics, rather than publish or perish? If research communities already communicate within themselves, should publishers be asking how to help them, rather than assuming journals is what they need?...Learned societies such as the BCS, which have wider roles than journal publishing, and are therefore not at such risk from loss of such revenue streams, are better able to experiment with new open access models than those dependent on income from journals.

(PS: It looks like a serious and constructive dialogue. But in the discussion of a "charge for open access", didn't anybody point out OA is free of charge by definition? OA journals can charge authors or their sponsors a fee to cover the costs of editing and publication. But they're not providing OA if they charge readers a fee for access.)

CARL brief to the SSHRC consultation on OA

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) has publicly released its November 2005 Brief for the SSHRC consultation on OA. Excerpt:
CARL congratulates SSHRC on having formally adopted the principle of open access at the October 2004 meeting of its governing council....Open access is an important development in scholarly communication: CARL believes that the issues which it raises are essential for SSHRC to address if it is to transform itself ‘from Granting Council to Knowledge Council.’ CARL notes that SSHRC already mandates the research data from its grants are made publicly available. SSHRC was a partner in the recent National Consultation on Access to Scientific Research Data (final report January 2005); and SSHRC is actively pursuing different business models for the support of the journals which it funds....“Building an effective global information system consists both of this infrastructure and perhaps more importantly a culture of open access and sharing.” (Dr. Arthur Carty, National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.)...Since research culture thrives on the free exchange of ideas, CARL believes that full and timely access to the results of research (‘open access’) will lead to greater research impact. This premise aligns directly with SSHRC’s transformation goals....The rationale for open access is compelling. open access ensures the widest possible dissemination of research. Recent studies have found that journals without subscription barriers are read more often than those with subscriptions and have higher impact rates. Even the slightest access barriers to academic literature have a negative impact on their usage [Oldyzko, 2002]. The removal of price barriers from the research literature will “accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge” [BOAI]....Open access promotes the full and rapid sharing of resources from different countries and disciplines. It provides an environment where information may flow not only within the academy but outside it, to policy makers and the general public. Such knowledge mobilization is one of SSHRC’s stated priorities. The argument that publicly funded research should be freely available to taxpayers is compelling. The underlying principle is: “public funding, public knowledge, public access” [Sir Gareth Roberts]....Research funders such as SSHRC have the power to play a pivotal role in advancing the cause of open access. Despite the many mechanisms available for authors to make their publications openly available, it has become increasingly apparent that they need incentives to do so. A recent survey in the UK found that most researchers “report they will not self-archive if it is not mandated, but they will self-archive - and self-archive willingly -- if ever it is mandated by their institutions or funders” [Stevan Harnad summarizing Swan and Brown]....In Canada a substantial portion of research is publicly supported, either directly through federally funded research agencies, such as SSHRC, or indirectly through the support of researchers at higher-education institutions. The implementation of open access by the three federal Granting Councils would have an important impact on how research is conducted and disseminated in Canada....It may be predicted with confidence that Canadian journals adopting open access models for publishing will increase their readership significantly. Therefore, SSHRC should consider assisting SSH journals in transitioning to open access models. SSHRC will need to change the criteria for SSHRC funding of journals. The current practice of funding based on the number of “paid” subscriptions deters Canadian journals from implementing new models to increase their readership and impact: new business models — including open access are needed to maximize dissemination and impact whilst safeguarding a healthy revenue stream. Canadian journals are the voice of the Canadian research community: all necessary steps must be taken so that the quality and impact of these journals is enhanced.

Also see CARL's first brief to the SSHRC on OA from June 2004.

OA in the humanities and social sciences

Chris Armbruster, Open Access in Social and Cultural Science: Innovative Moves to Enhance Access, Inclusion and Impact in Scholarly Communication, a preprint archived to SSRN, November 18, 2005.
Abstract: In the WWW Galaxy Open Access publishing is the superior model. The physical and life sciences have moved first to innovate their scholarly communication and publishing through Open Access, enhancing accessibility for scientists, students and the interested public. Among the social and cultural sciences, only economists have matched these efforts. Open Access e-publishing is technologically feasible and economically efficient. Despite resistance from corporate publishers who seek to maximise their rents, OA publishing is unstoppable unless the OA coalition commits major strategic blunders. Open Access has become vital to secure the continued advancement of knowledge claims. Historians, legal scholars, political scientists, cultural scholars and sociologists would do well to understand OA publishing and participate in it. The rise of comparative and trans-national research requires OA. Moreover, public and philanthropic funding will flow in the future only if public visibility and academic impact of the research results can be demonstrated. This article systematically compares innovative moves in Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) and Social and Cultrual Science (SCS) to show that the innovative logic of the situation is the same while the publishing solutions vary.

More on how patents impede research

Andrew Brown, Owning ideas, The Guardian, November 19, 2005. Excerpt:
The difference between ideas and things is obvious as soon as someone hits you over the head with an idea - so obvious that until recently it was entirely clear to the law. Things could have owners and ideas could not. Yet this simple distinction is being changed all around us. Ideas are increasingly treated as property - as things that have owners who may decide who gets to use them and on what terms....The fight over the human genome and its patenting - and over the patenting of drugs - is another, and perhaps more familiar front in the war....Science was one of the first fields in which the confusion of ideas with things became apparent and damaging. It has always been one in which ideas and techniques were freely shared. You might say that any scientific experiment is worthless until it has been copied - if it can't be repeated, it isn't scientific. Scientific papers, too, measure their influence by how often they are copied or quoted in others. But as the practice of science has grown more expensive, and more commercial, so has the pressure to patent everything. The public project that sequenced the human genome, led by Sir John Sulston and Bob Waterston, defined itself as in opposition to patenting data. This wasn't just an idealistic stance. They were convinced that without freely available data the work would flow less swiftly, if at all, and that the results would be very much less useful. In fact, the so-called private project run by Craig Ventner used a method that relied on the availability of publicly sequenced data as a springboard for the short cuts it took. Sulston now, after his Nobel prize, spends much of his time campaigning for public access to scientific knowledge and its fruits. In a world where material goods are so unevenly distributed, the effort to lock up ideas and intellectual riches as well seems to him quite monstrous....It is not just the results of scientific inquiry, like drugs, that are controlled as intellectual property. It is, increasingly, the knowledge needed to make them or to understand how they are made. Where scientists once worked over a safety net composed of other scientists' experiments, they can now have the impression that they are working over a minefield composed of other companies' patents....This is madness. Ideas aren't things. They're much more valuable than that. Intellectual property - treating some ideas as if they were in some circumstances things that can be owned and traded - is itself no more than an idea that can be copied, modified and improved. It is this process of freely copying them and changing them that has given us the world of material abundance in which we live. If our ideas of intellectual property are wrong, we must change them, improve them and return them to their original purpose. When intellectual property rules diminish the supply of new ideas, they steal from all of us.