Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Librarians are less and less satisfied with the big deal

Karla Hahn, The State of the Large Publisher Bundle: Findings from an ARL Member Survey, ARL Bimonthly Reports, April 2006. Excerpt:
There is no doubt that large commercial publishers’ bundles are a substantial part of research library collections. It is also clear that significant changes in library collections are underway. Cancellation projects are common. Shifts to e-only collecting for journal bundles are proceeding rapidly....Nondisclosure agreements are common, although more so with some publishers than others. Long-term contracts are similarly common. Cancellation of bundled titles has been effectively limited in recent years. Publisher’s archiving arrangements are unsatisfactory to at least a substantial minority of the community. Satisfaction with bundle pricing is decreasing through successive negotiations....With the majority of respondents reporting recent cancellation projects, the inescapable conclusion is that other segments of research library collections have been reduced to a greater extent in compensation for the protection afforded to bundles. This should be of concern to the library community and to publishers without the market power to gain similar protection for their titles. A few libraries believe they have [gained ground in renogotiating contracts], but a nearly similar number believe they are losing ground....

This survey focused on research libraries’ perspectives on journal bundles. It in no way measures publishers’ experiences with these business models. Presumably commercial publishers reporting excellent profitability are not pursing a pricing model that is unsuccessful. Rather, it seems safe to conclude, journal bundling has been working quite well from the perspective of the bundling publishers. With libraries reporting relatively little progress in successive contract negotiations, it seems likely that there is room for concessions from publishers that increase library satisfaction without risk of substantial damage to “the bottom line.”


SPARC has created an FAQ on FRPAA for university administrators and faculty. Excerpt:

What does the legislation mean for investigators?

If Congress passes the bill into law, the most significant day-to-day effect on investigators will be improved access to research and increased impact for their own work. A growing number of studies demonstrate that research is cited more often when it is openly accessible on the Web....

What does it mean for higher education institutions?

This legislation will mean enhanced access to federally-funded research articles for researchers and students at your institution. Availability of federally funded research in open archives also will expands the worldwide visibility of the research conducted at your institution, increases the impact of your investment in this research, and aids you in examining related work at other institutions that compete for Government grants and contracts.

Because it will improve access to science, the legislation is supported by various national organizations of academic libraries - including the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, Association of College and Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)....

Is the legislation a threat to journals and the peer review they perform?

No. The Federal Research Public Access Act contains two key provisions that protect journals and the peer review process:

  • A delay of up to six months in providing access to articles via the public archive (versus immediate access for journal readers).
  • Inclusion in the public archive of the author’s final manuscript rather than the publisher’s formatted, paginated version preferred for citation purposes.

In some disciplines, freely accessible online archives have proven to be a supplement to journal readership, not a replacement for it. In physics, for example, where nearly 100% of new articles are freely available from birth in the open-access archive created more than a decade ago with US Department of Energy funding, subscription-based journals have continued to thrive. The American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics Publishing are unable to identify any subscriptions lost as a result of arXiv in the 14 years of its existence.  Likewise, in a report to Congress on the results of its Public Access Policy, NIH reported that it “has no evidence to indicate that the Policy has had any impact on peer review.”...

Will this legislation take funding away from research?

Not to any material extent. The National Institutes of Health, for example, estimates that the cost of its public access program would be $3.5 million if 100% of the 65,000 eligible manuscripts were deposited annually. That is a tiny fraction (about 0.01%) of the agency’s $28 billion budget. It is also a small fraction of the $30 million per year the agency spends on page charges and other subsidies to subscription-based journals. The reality is that sharing of research results is part of the research process. Faster and wider sharing of research fuels further advances.

Another answer to Pat Schroeder on FRPAA

Andre Brown, Open Access Update, BioCurious, May 5, 2006. Excerpt:

The Washington Post article on the bill [FRPAA] quotes Patricia S. Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers:

It is frustrating that we can’t seem to get across to people how expensive it is to do the peer review, edit these articles and put them into a form everyone can understand

Schroeder is overstating her case. Publishing has costs, but she should not be so misleading. Finding peer reviewers might cost publishers money, but the process itself is provided free of charge by members of the scientific community. Also, what does she mean by putting articles “into a form that everyone can understand”? Do physicists not understand papers on the arXiv because they are missing the publisher’s input? Do non-experts understand papers published in Physical Review Letters because of the great formatting?

FELICS will offer OA to major biological databases

Lautaro Vargas, EBI gives database boost to biotechs, Business Weekly, May 6, 2006. Excerpt:
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Cambridge is heading a £11.4 million infrastructure project to provide the scientific community with free and unrestricted access to some of the world’s most important biological databases.

Titled FELICS – Free European Life-science Information and Computational Services – this unique electronic infrastructure project is designed to develop, enhance and interlink many of the most important data resources in Europe and widen their accessibility to the international research community. It will be funded under the Research Infrastructures action of the sixth Framework Programme (FP6) with the largest ever European award for computational infrastructures needed to support biological research....FELICS’ technical coordinator at the EBI, Phil Gardner, said: “Our databases are accessed by many tens or even hundreds of thousands of scientists and are recognised as crucial resources by researchers worldwide....FELICS encompasses many of the EBI’s familiar databases, but will also feature some crucial new activities and the group has been set several tasks and “deliverables” within three main areas: Networking activities; joint research activities; and transnational access activities....Graham Cameron, associate director of the EBI and coordinator of FELICS, said: “Bioinformatics now pervades biology. “Bioinformatics experts no longer sit between biologist and database. Researchers expect to directly access the databases and do real work. “FELICS gives scientists the electronic right to roam the biological knowledge space.”

For more details, see the EBI press release (5/3/06).

PS: Apparently FELICS has no web site yet, but I'll blog the URL as soon as I discover it.

Report on the Third Nordic Conference

Tom Wilson and E. Maceviciute, Conference Report: Third Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication, Lund 24-25 April, 2006, Information Research, April 2006. Excerpt:

Rather than simply go through the list of contributions and report briefly what was said, we have chosen to pull together some of the overall ideas that were presented and debated....Unfortunately, the research councils and higher education bodies, especially in the UK, appear to be ready to accept the 'author pays' model as the only model worth supporting. Astrid Wissenburg of the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK, was unable to say at the conference what the new research councils' policy on open access is going to be, but rumour has it that 'author payments' built into research grants will be the main instrument. She expressed worries that this might affect those who will be working on a basis other than research grants, and one can predict that those worries will come to fruition. On the international level, the inequalities among countries will be even more striking than at present. Mark McCabe of the Georgia Institute of Technology addressed this issue from an economic modelling standpoint....In response to a question, he also noted that the 'subsidised journal' model, operated, among others, by Information Research, maximises social value and is the model that ought to be supported by the research councils. Research funding agencies, please note!...

Making maximum use of the information available in open access sources was the subject of John Wilbanks's paper on the NeuroCommons. The idea behind the NeuroCommons is that facts in what are, to all intents and purposes, large databases of textual data, can be harvested and compared with one another, using natural language processing software (commercial publishers often ban the use of such software on their sites, hence the need for open access) to create a Semantic Web of neurological research. Thus, rather than needing to dig into the research literature, the neurological scientist would be able to discover from the NeuroCommons, what facts have been shown to be associated in which studies and with what degree of validity and reliability. This 're-use' of data, it would seem, would also maximise social value. This was very enthusiastic and competent presentation that also inspired many members of the audience....

One of the alternatives to open access publishing is open archiving and two speakers addressed this issue: Jean-Claude Guedon proposed that repositories could develop into primary publication sources as authors found that their work was accessible and cited by doing so. He noted that in some fields, with well established repositories (fundamental physics for example), citations to journal articles were now being cited well before the journal actually published the item, because of their appearance in the repository. He suggested that rather than pre-publication peer review operating, process of open post-publication review could emerge in these repositories.

How one persuades people initially to contribute to repositories is a prevailing problem and Alma Swan partly addressed this issue in her presentation. She believed that the mandating of deposition by universities is key to the success of repositories: however, even where mandates exist, those managing the repository (often librarians) are having difficulty in getting acceptance. Swan presented her ideas within an evolutionary science analogy and suggested that the open access model, in its various forms, was likely to emerge successful from the evolutionary battle.

OA and the meta-university

Charles M. Vest, Open Content and the Emerging Glogal Meta-University, Educause Quarterly, May/June 2006. Vest is the President Emeritus of MIT. Excerpt:
Our goal [at MIT] is to provide free access --in a well-organized, searchable manner-- to materials for the almost 2,000 subjects we teach....OCW [Open Courseware] exists through the generosity of the MIT faculty who choose to share their approach to pedagogy, organization of knowledge, and educational materials in this way. It is a voluntary activity for faculty, and their response has been so positive that we have had no doubt about accomplishing the OCW mission....We know a lot about its use because it is highly instrumented, especially by user surveys that receive remarkably high response rates. Students at peer universities are augmenting their learning by using OCW. A group of unemployed Silicon Valley programmers used OCW to master advanced languages while they were between jobs. A university in Ghana has used OCW to benchmark its computer science curriculum and revise its courses. An underground university uses OCW as a primary resource to educate its 1,000 or so students, who are members of a repressed minority in their country and are not permitted to attend college or university. A professor in Baghdad has based his research on data available in an OCW subject....

In addition, as we had hoped, MIT OCW is contributing to an emerging global open courseware movement. We know of fifty OCW initiatives in the United States, China, Japan, France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. Thirty more initiatives are being planned in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Russia, and elsewhere. Consistent with our open philosophy, MIT OCW has actively worked to encourage and assist this movement....[Skipping a short discussion of DSpace and PLoS.]

My view is that in the open-access movement, we are seeing the early emergence of a meta-university --a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced. The Internet and the Web will provide the communication infrastructure, and the open-access movement and its derivatives will provide much of the knowledge and information infrastructure. If this view is correct, the meta-university will enable, not replace, residential campuses, especially in wealthier regions. It will bring cost-efficiencies to institutions through the shared development of educational materials. It will be adaptive, not prescriptive. It will serve teachers and learners in both structured and informal contexts. It will speed the propagation of high-quality education and scholarship. It will build bridges across cultures and political boundaries. It will be particularly important to the developing world. The emerging meta-university, built on the power and ubiquity of the Web and launched by the open courseware movement, will give teachers and learners everywhere the ability to access and share teaching materials, scholarly publications, scientific works in progress, teleoperation of experiments, and worldwide collaborations, thereby achieving economic efficiencies and raising the quality of education through a noble and global endeavor.

Interview with Clifford Lynch

Brian L. Hawkins, Advancing Scholarship and Intellectual Productivity: An Interview with Clifford A. Lynch, Educause Quarterly, May/June 2005. This is Part 2 of Hawkins' interview with Lynch. Part 1 was published in the March/April issues. Excerpt:

Hawkins: In 2005, CNI spent a lot of time exploring institutional repositories. How are institutional repositories currently being deployed in academia? What are the key national policies and strategies that are shaping this deployment?

Lynch: This is an interesting and rapidly changing area. Institutional repositories, at least in the way that I think of them, are services deployed and supported at an institutional level to offer dissemination management, stewardship, and where appropriate, long-term preservation of both the intellectual work created by an institutional community and the records of the intellectual and cultural life of the institutional community. Now, other people hold narrower views of institutional repositories, which they see primarily as places to store and from which to disseminate the traditional published output of institutions: copies or preprints or postprints of material such as journal articles or books or other manuscripts produced by the faculty of an institution. Again, my personal view of institutional repositories is much broader and is driven in part by the implications of e-science and e-scholarship and by our growing ability to capture in digital form various aspects of campus life, ranging from performances and symposia to activities that have historically gone on in the classroom and are now at least partially represented and recorded in learning management systems....

[T]he Netherlands and Germany have very high levels of deployment [of IRs]. The French seem to be pursuing a centralized national repository strategy, which is extremely interesting but quite different from the institutional efforts. In the United Kingdom, JISC and other higher education leaders clearly have an objective to set up a ubiquitous institutional infrastructure, but it still has a considerable way to go in deployment. Of course, in the United States, infrastructure in higher education typically emerges bottom-up, through the sum of many local choices and investments by colleges and universities....

When we talk about national policy with respect to institutional repositories, it’s important to recognize the depth and extent of the national policy debates that are taking place about open access to the scholarly literature and, closely related but really distinct, about whether public research funding should come with an obligation to make reports of the results and underlying data freely available to the public. These debates are happening throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, and many other nations. In the United States, there is a fairly soft mandate that “requests” publications resulting from research funded by the National Institutes of Health be deposited into the PubMed database at the National Library of Medicine within a year of publication. There is also discussion of stronger mandates. In the United Kingdom, there is serious discussion of very strong deposit mandates, and some major private foundations (the Wellcome Trust, for example) are establishing open-access requirements as part of their grants. Things are still fluid in this area, and I don’t want to get into the subject in depth here, since it’s likely the specifics will change by the time this interview is published. I mention it simply because institutional repositories are a natural infrastructure (but not the only one— national-level disciplinary repositories, like PubMed, are clearly another alternative) into which such deposits of publications might be mandated, so they can be viewed as enablers for much broader initiatives.

PS: I had to cut some very good comments on copyright and DRM. Read the whole interview.

More on the FRPAA

Aliya Sternstein, Bill to expand online access to research, Federal Computer Week, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Senators have introduced the first bill mandating that taxpayers receive free online access to journal articles containing federally funded research within six months of the articles’ publication. Co-sponsors Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) announced yesterday that the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 would require agencies with annual research budgets of more than $100 million to implement a public access policy granting faster access to research supported by those agencies.

That agency policy would ensure that each researcher, whether partially or completely funded by the agency, submits an electronic copy of the final manuscript accepted for publication. The legislation also details the types of technologies agencies must use to make the information available....Eleven agencies fall under the legislation: the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and National Science Foundation.

"Making this information available to the public will lead to faster discoveries, innovations and cures," Cornyn said. "This bill will give the American taxpayer a greater return on its research investment."

"Taxpayer-funded research should be accessible to taxpayers,” Lieberman said. “Our bill will give researchers, medical professionals and patients in Connecticut and throughout the nation access to scientific discoveries and advancements that can help bring new treatments and cures to the public."

PS: Just one correction: The FRPAA is not the first U.S. bill to mandate OA to publicly-funded research. Sen. Lieberman introduced the CURES Act in December 2005 and it's still very much alive.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Economics of OA publishing

Magaly Báscones Dominguez, Economics of open access publishing, Serials, March 2006. (Thanks to Phil Davis.) Only this abstract is free online, at least so far. Excerpt:
This article is based on a study undertaken at CERN Library. After a short introduction to the open access movement, an analysis of some CERN Library open access journals from a number of publishers is presented. Open access publishing models are then applied to some of the most important journal titles in particle physics. The results give a picture of the possible implications and the cost of open access in the current environment. Publishers' open access offerings, CERN authors' reactions to open access and the probable impact for CERN as a research institution are then examined.

OA for machine-readable scholarship

Clifford Lynch, Open Computation: Beyond Human-Reader-Centric Views of Scholarly Literatures, in Neil Jacobs (ed.), Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, Chandos Publishing, forthcoming 2006. Excerpt:
Traditional open access is, in my view, a probable (but not certain) prerequisite for the emergence of fully developed large-scale computational approaches to the scholarly literature. It may not be a sufficient prerequisite, particularly if the legal and systems architecture frameworks currently being developed and deployed to support traditional open access are not quickly adjusted to accommodate the needs of open computational access....

The case for the benefits of open computational access to the scholarly literature is also much more complex than the arguments usually marshaled for traditional open access — in part because these benefits are indirect, and in part because they are still considered largely speculative and unproven. They are indirect in that they merely open the way for various players with good ideas to advance the progress of research and scholarship in perhaps new and perhaps more accelerated ways....(Note that, paradoxically, computational access to a scholarly literature for the purposes of indexing may also make that literature more economically valuable in the non-open access case, in that it may increase demand: witness the interest of commercial journal publishers in having their material indexed in search engines.)...

As the scholarly literature moves to digital form, what is actually needed to move beyond a system that just replicates all of our assumptions that the this literature is only read, and read only by human beings, one article at a time?...What is needed to allow the application of computational technologies to extract new knowledge, correlations and hypotheses from collections of scholarly literature? Part of the answer is legal. Clearly we need freedom to copy, rehost, repurpose and compute upon the components of this literature....The other part of the requirement is technical. We need to see provisions in hosting systems for large-scale replication as well as item-by-item downloads of occasional copies of parts of the scholarly literature....

The opportunities are truly stunning. They point towards entirely new ways to think about the scholarly literature (and the underlying evidence that supports scholarship) as an active, computationally enabled representation of knowledge that lives, grows and interacts with its contributors rather than as a passive archive or record. They suggest ways in which information technology can accelerate the rate of scientific discovery and the growth of scholarship. It would be a disgrace if we allowed the inertia of historic scholarly publishing practices and the intellectual property arrangements that underlie these patterns to foreclose such opportunities. Open access offers an important simplification and reduction of the barriers if its development is shaped in a way that is responsive to these opportunities, although it is certainly not a panacea in its current form....The implications of resolving this incompatibility [between scholarship and the traditional intellectual property framework] will ultimately have far more extensive ramifications than what we might today characterize as the "traditional" open access movement; but they will be crucial to the future of science and scholarship.

Improving the solution for orphan works

William Jackson, Homes for copyright orphans, GCN, May 1, 2006. (Thanks to Chuck Hamaker.) Excerpt:
The Copyright Office is proposing legislation that would make it easier for libraries, universities and archives, including the Library of Congress, to digitize collections that contain “orphan works.” These orphans are the millions of unidentified but copyright works that are in danger of slipping into obscurity because their owners cannot be found....Although the law would apply to any users, universities, libraries and archives have a large stake in the issue because of programs making materials available online. The Library of Congress, for instance, has made millions of maps, photos, recordings and other materials available on its Web site at But digitizing and posting copyright material requires the copyright holder’s permission, which is not always easy to obtain. “The collections contain a massive amount of orphan works,” Prue Adler, associate executive director for the Association of Research Libraries, said at a recent seminar hosted by the Progress and Freedom Foundation. “This would be an enormous benefit to making these works publicly available.”

Updating Thomas Jefferson

Alan R. Peslak, A review of national information and communication technologies (ICT) and a proposed National Electronic Initiative Framework (NEIF), First Monday, May 2006. Excerpt:

Thomas Jefferson decreed that the reason for government is to protect individual rights of its citizens. These rights were identified as equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....We would propose that all electronic initiatives should follow the principles of the two learned political philosophers and should incorporate:

  • Equality — with a goal of equal access to ICT;
  • Protection of property — including cyber security and protection of intellectual property;
  • Protection of life — including privacy and protection from cyber crime;
  • Liberty — including open access to information content; and,
  • Pursuit of happiness — including specific economic, social, and welfare goals to allow the achievement of a healthy, happy, and prosperous life for all.

OA neuroscience resource from Nature and Allen Institute

The Nature Publishing Group and the Allen Institute for Brain Science are partners in the OA Neuroscience Gateway. From yesterday's announcement:
Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and the Allen Institute for Brain Science are delighted to announce the launch of the Neuroscience Gateway, a free online resource for cutting-edge neuroscience and genomics research. The first update of the Neuroscience Gateway, which has been developed as a close collaboration between NPG and the Allen Institute, will be available on May 4th 2006 at, and twice a month thereafter. The Neuroscience Gateway will provide a library of the latest papers, up-to-the-minute neuroscience news, and free access to highlights of key articles.

Specially written reviews will feature current research papers important to the neuroscience and genomics communities. Each update will also include a neurotechnique review, highlighting a recent technical advance. Building on the successes of the other NPG collaborations such as the AFCS-Nature Signaling Gateway, and the Cell Migration Gateway, the Neuroscience Gateway will provide free access to highlighted primary research papers from journals in the Nature family. The Neuroscience Gateway will also present direct access to the Allen Brain Atlas, a freely available scientific resource developed by the Allen Institute. The Allen Brain Atlas provides maps of the expression of approximately 20,000 genes in the mouse brain with detailed gene expression data available at the cellular level.

PS: The Allen Brain Atlas was funded with a whopping $100 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It has been OA since its launch in September 2003.

Open education initiatives in South Africa

South Africa to make education more productive, India eNews, May 5, 2006. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
South Africa is exploring ways of using computing to make education more productive. ‘We intend to contribute to the digital commons,’ said Kim Tucker, a soft-spoken South African....Tucker, 45, is from the Meraka Institute (African Advanced Institute for Information and Communications Technology). The South African Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research manages the institute....South Africans are looking at other global tools [than Wikipedia] for education, including the Moodle, a free, open source learning management system and the Future Learning Environment (FLE3) from Finland. KEWL (Knowledge Environment for Web Learning), also a knowledge management system, is another useful option. ‘It’s much like the Moodle but with a lot of nice features,’ as Tucker puts it. There are some digital library systems, like Koha, and Greenstone, sharable and coming in from diverse parts of the globe. South Africa is also looking at the EXE (the E-learning XML Editor), a tool that makes it easy for educators to create educational content and store it in standards-compliant formats....

As Tucker puts it, the whole stringent copyrights, patents approach is a ‘threatening progress’ in Africa. ‘We’ve got people talking about the African Renaissance, and a New Partnership for African Development (a vision and strategic framework for Africa’s renewal). Some of us feel that we’d make much more progress if we have ‘free knowledge’ policies.’ Tucker considers it important for African communities to be able to create their own knowledge resources, where they can take other free knowledge resources from anywhere in the world...localise them, and share them freely....These initiatives have got some official support in South Africa. Now, they’re looking for ‘partners across the world’ who would ‘buy into the mission and vision’. India and its achievements are high on their radar.

The SSHRC restates its OA policy

In the April 24 report on its March Council meeting, Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) restates its position on OA. (Thanks to the U of Toronto's OS/OA project.) Here's the report note in full:
Following on Council’s October 2004 approval in principle of open access --permanent, free, online access to the results of federally-funded research-- staff consulted with the social sciences and humanities community and reported on the options available to make open access a reality. The idea of open access to all research is widely accepted, but presents a number of implementation obstacles, and the community is by and large cautious. Rather than imposing mandatory requirements on researchers to publish via open access, Council chose to increase awareness of open access, pursue discussions with major stakeholders, and gradually incorporate open access provisions in research support programs.

For comparison, here's its position from October 2004:

At the October 2004 meeting, Council endorsed the principles of the Open Access movement-promoting and sharing the results of the SSHRC-funded research with the public.  Council welcomed the news that the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS) has agreed to work with SSHRC to consult with the research community on the best way to implement Open Access and incorporate its principles into the Council's research support programs. The Council also welcomed the involvement of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, which represents a major stakeholder community, in the consultations.

The Open University's Open Content Initiative

The Open University UK has released a podcast interview with Simon Buckingham Shum on the university's Open Content Initiative. (The interview was released in March but I overlooked it until now.) From the description:
In this episode, we interview Simon Buckingham Shum --who leads the Knowledge Media Institute component of this newly announced “Open Content Initiative” (OCI) at Open University UK. In the interview, Simon discusses how OCI will be offering a new brand of university course materials freely over the internet (a la OpenCourseWare), and will also engage in several software/research initiatives to bring things like knowledge mapping, peer-to-peer collaboration, and Web 2.0 elements into the Open Educational Resources movement.

Richard Poynder interviews Subbiah Arunachalam

Richard Poynder, Why India Needs Open Access, Open and Shut, May 5, 2006. Part I of an interview with Subbiah Arunachalam. Part II will be published later. Excerpt:

RP: In an article you published on Open Access last September in the Asian information newspaper Access you said "papers written by Indian scientists, often with support from Indian taxpayers’ money, are not seen, read or cited by other Indian researchers." What is the problem here?

SA: The issue is quite simple: research performed in India, and funded by Indian taxpayers, is reported in a few thousand journals, both Indian and foreign. Since some of these journals are very expensive, many Indian libraries - including sometimes the author's own institutional library - are not able to subscribe to them. As consequence, other Indian scientists working in the same, or related, areas are unable to read these papers. This is a problem common to all developing countries.

RP: How can Open Access resolve these problems for Indian researchers?

SA: If all these papers were published in OA journals, or if the authors made them freely available on the Web by self-archiving them - either in institutional OA archives or in central archives like arXiv and CiteSeer - then the problem would vanish.

RP: As your answer implies, there are currently two main ways to provide OA to research literature: the Gold Route (in which OA publishers charge researchers, or more usually their funders, to publish papers, and then make those papers freely available on the Web), and the Green Route (where authors continue to publish in traditional subscription-based journals and then self-archive their papers themselves on the Web). In a paper you published with US-based OA advocate Peter Suber in World-Information City last October, you argued that self-archiving is the best route for Indian researchers. Why?

SA: I would point out that not all gold route OA journals charge authors (or indeed their funders) a publication fee. Currently, for instance, not a single Indian OA journal charges author-side fees. But to answer your question: I believe that OA archiving is a better option because it would allow us to achieve 100% OA more quickly. Today there are not many Gold OA journals, so compelling authors to publish their work only in the few OA journals that currently exist would not achieve the same effect, in the short-term at least....[But the choice between green and gold] is not an either or question. Both publishing in OA journals and setting up institutional archives, or repositories, are important for Indian scientists. Moreover, the cost of setting up and maintaining an institutional archive is actually quite low, and certainly affordable for most Indian research institutes and universities....

RP: You say that no Indian OA journal charges author-side fees?...How then do these journals make ends meet?

SA: Almost all of them charge a subscription for the print version of the journal - which, by the way, is always much lower than the subscription prices of journals produced in the West. Some of them also carry advertisements; and some get grants from the government....It is worth pointing out that publishers can also benefit from embracing OA, as my friend Dr D K Sahu [CEO of the Bombay-based private company Medknow Publications] has convincingly shown with the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine (JPGM).

Connotea API now open

Nature has released the API for Connotea. More detail from Ben Lund:

Connotea is our web-based social bookmarking and reference management service. The release of the Web API now allows any developer to create an application or web site that interacts with Connotea's database of references and links.

For those of you who are programmers, we've also released some Perl and Ruby libraries to allow you to get started quickly.

If you want explore what's possible with the Web API in more depth, have a look at the documentation on the Connotea Community Pages, or get in touch with us on or via the connotea-code-devel mailing list.

FRPAA is S.2695

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPPA) now has a bill number (S.2695) and an entry in THOMAS.

Waiting for the AAP to say more about the FRPAA

Barbara Fister, Public Funding = Public Access, ACRLog, May 4, 2006. Excerpt:
Another bill has been introduced in Congress to make publicly-funded research publicly available. The Washington post coverage portrays this as a rebuke to the lame response thus far to the NIH’s voluntary depository program. It also expands the domain of funded research beyond the biomedical sciences....Peter Suber mentions in his blog the bill’s three chief strengths: it makes open access a requirement, it has a six-month deadline, and does not rely on publisher consent. Needless to say the Association of American Publishers is not happy, but they’re not as quick to update their website as Peter Suber is so, as of this writing, you’ll have to take the Post’s word for it.

PS: Pat Schroeder, President and CEO of the AAP, has weighed in on the bill (the FRPAA) and was quoted in the Washington Post story. But she focused on the cost of conducting peer review and didn't draw the connection to the merits of the FRPAA. If she did, she'd have to argue that the FRPAA would undermine subscriptions at peer-reviewed journals, for which there is fear and speculation but no evidence. So far, the AAP strategy seems to be to make solid but irrelevant claims rather than relevant but unsubstantiated claims.

Report on the Yale A2K conference

William New, Yale Conference Invigorates Access To Knowledge Movement, IP-Watch, May 5, 2006. Excerpt:

A late April conference at prestigious Yale University Law School gave new focus and momentum to a growing movement aimed at protecting the public’s right to access knowledge. The effort seeks to slow years of momentum in the direction of ever-stronger and wider-reaching intellectual property rights seen as moving ever-greater amounts of information and knowledge into private hands [PS:  It includes OA but is much wider than OA.]  The 21-23 April Access to Knowledge (A2K) Conference organised by the Yale Information Society Project brought together many of the most-recognised thinkers and practitioners across a variety of fields dependent upon access to information and know-how.

The packed panels - there were more than 100 panelists over three days - worked through every imaginable aspect of how having access can improve or save lives and societies. The range showed how the issue has become infused into local indigenous communities, education, science, food and agriculture, health, media, personal privacy, technology and creativity. It tackled legal issues, morals and ethics, economics, the need for better measurement, and numerous development concerns....A Wiki about access to knowledge was created at the event, which includes blogging from the sessions.

OA in Jewish studies

Heidi Lerner, Sharing Knowledge: Recent Trends in Search and Delivery Tools for Scholarly Content, AJS Perspectives, Spring 2006, pp. 32-34. (Thanks to Alexei Koudinov.) Excerpt:
The current buzzwords in electronic information delivery begin with the word “open”: open source, open content, open standards, open access, open archives. The trend towards making content and resources available on the Internet is spreading quickly throughout the academic world....Although the impact of these developments on the Jewish studies community may be minimal, it is growing every day....Jewish studies scholars internationally would benefit from the creation of an electronic repository into which authors can self-archive and make available their output. Israel Scholar Works is a new initiative that seeks to serve as a “digital archive for creative work by the faculty and staff of Israel Academic Institutions and Jewish scholars all around the world.”...As members of the Jewish studies scholarly community, we are in the best position to determine the value and usefulness of these tools [OA repositories, search engines, book digitization, blogs and RSS feeds]. We must take the initiative and familiarize ourselves with new Web-based technologies and services. This will enable us, individually and collaboratively, to expand the presence of easily accessible primary and secondary scholarly and research materials in the digital world.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The rise of OA in legal scholarship

Pamela Bluh, 'Open Access', Legal Publishing, and Online Repositories, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Spring 2006.
Abstract: This paper discusses the efforts of the Open Access movement to provide scientific and scholarly information over the Internet. The origin of the movement is described as are the benefits of free access to researchers in the scientific, technical and medical fields.

From the body of the paper:

Despite different philosophies, different management styles, and a different array of products and services, both SSRN and bepress are dedicated to providing scholars with the widest possible audience for their work and with giving their audiences access to that scholarship. They are enterprising, visionary organizations, skillfully harnessing the power of the Internet and successfully persuading scholars that long-standing, entrenched practices, procedures and points of view must be transformed. They are solidly committed to the principles of the Open Access Movement and are actively engaged in promoting the concept of open access within the legal community. These repositories are an underutilized tool for legal research policy. Policymakers and researchers should mine these resources for the gems they offer, free of charge.

More on the emergence of ElectraPress

Kathleen Fitzpatrick (via Bob Stein), Next Steps Following the April 24th Meeting, Toward the Creation of a New Scholarly Press, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
On April 24, 2006, a group of academics, administrators, and researchers, all interested in figuring out how to rescue the scholarly book from what has begun to seem its imminent demise, met to spend a day discussing the future of that book in a networked environment. Our particular interest in hosting this meeting was to propose the formation of an all-electronic scholarly press. This document hopes to summarize both the substance of the discussion and the conclusions that we've drawn from it....

Much of this discussion circled around a crucial question, finally articulated by Morris Eaves: are we attempting to develop a peer-review process that will be accepted by existing academic culture, or are we attempting to change that culture? Many of the folks at the meeting came down firmly on the side of acceptance, but many others felt just as strongly about transformation....

Another important aspect of this openness, however, is in the texts' accessibility; most of the meeting's attendees expressed strong interest in and support for the values of open access. Moving the peer-review process into public view and making the texts submitted for, undergoing, and resulting from that process publicly available will, we feel strongly, have important effects on community outreach -- both in terms of helping scholars connect with one another, creating discourse networks that facilitate collaboration and the development of new ideas, and in opening such scholarly discourse to a wider community of intellectuals outside the academy. Moreover, we want to make the systems that we build -- both the software systems and the human networks that support them -- freely available to any groups that would benefit from them....

OA to public sector information

Graham Vickery and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, Digital Broadband Content: Public Sector Information and Content, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, March 30, 2006. A report from the OECD on access to public sector information (PSI). (Thanks to Charles Arthur.) Excerpt:
Public bodies hold a range of information and content ranging from demographic, economic and meteorological data to art works, historical documents and books. Given the availability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) public sector information can play an important role in producing innovative value-added services and goods. Furthermore, these technologies also provide a wider population better access to educational and cultural knowledge. Both commercial opportunities and the wider spread of information have positive economic and social benefits....In some OECD countries access regimes allow commercial re-users have cheap and readily available access to PSI. They then add value to the public data and re-sell it to firms and consumers. Some studies argue that such open access regimes improve competitive market conditions for PSI re-use, stimulate economic growth and create jobs. However there are also arguments that commercial re-users may have low-cost access to data which was costly to create for the government, and that taxpayers may pay twice for the PSI content (once for creation of government content, and the second time when purchasing the content from a commercial re-user, although provided re-use is non-exclusive, users can also go to the original source for the original information, presumably at lower cost, but without value-added services). On the other hand, in other OECD countries, there are access regimes where the public sector holds public sector information for its own use or employs cost-recovery strategies that allow only limited and potentially expensive access. In this scenario there are arguments that potential consumers of this data may have only restricted access to it, and that this approach is more costly to the consumer and for the taxpayer. Moreover, the potential economic gains from development of new commercial activities based on PSI reuse may be foregone. The economic and equity arguments surrounding commercial re-use of public sector information and content are complex and deserve considerably more analysis and policy attention....Scientific information and research data is not included in this analysis as it has been a separate digital broadband content study [PS: September 2005]....

In the United States, public information policy allows open and unrestricted access to public information. A circular by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB, 1996) states: "...government information is a valuable national resource, and...the economic benefits to society are maximized when government information is available in a timely and equitable manner to all." The OMB establishes as guiding principle for federal agencies that i) all public information be actively disseminated without imposing restrictions or conditions, ii) access should involve costs only to the extent that those cover expenses of dissemination and iii) it establishes that advantage should be taken of the various dissemination channels (e.g. private and academic) as well as of available technologies (including Internet, satellite downcast, etc.; Weiss, 2002). In the US the commercial re-use of the data is left primarily to the private sector. In Europe PSI is often seen as an asset to be exploited by the public sector. Access conditions diverge but many European public bodies and governments see the commercial exploitation of PSI as a welcome revenue stream.

More on OA to publicly-funded data in the UK

Charles Arthur, Should government charge ... and how much? The Guardian, May 4, 2006. Excerpt:
A week is a long time in politics. But six years, it seems, is not quite enough time in the civil service to carry out a study into the economic benefits of free data. In the Treasury's Spending Review in 2000, an interesting part discussed the knowledge economy - in particular whether public organisations should charge for their data, and if so, how much. [The report concludes that] some of the data generated is surplus to the running of government; it's simply there to generate profits, to offset the running costs of various departments. "As a result," the authors add, "the government is able, without abusing the dominant position it has in particular markets, to use pricing strategies which enable it to recoup at least some of the fixed costs of production." But that begs an important question that the Free Our Data campaign - which argues that government agencies should provide their data to the public for free - would like to see resolved....

But the authors then admit it's unclear how government-generated data should be priced. After discussing pricing models, they note the suggestion "that demand would grow rapidly in response to lower prices ... and as basic information is repackaged in innovative ways. The issue needs further empirical work." That is, an economist should see whether cheaper data boosts the economy. So, six years on, has the Treasury followed up its own recommendation and done a study on the effect of data pricing? No, the Treasury told us....Perhaps they'll be interested by a new paper produced by the OECD this week examining public sector content, which notes huge disparities in market size and access between the UK, Europe and other countries.

More on ISO adoption of ODF and software

The OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) has been approved as ISO/IEC 26300. ODF is an XML-based, Open Source file specification for the storage of files produced by office productivity applications (word processor documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, etc.). ODF is already fully supported by the productivity suite, an Open Source software bundle issued under the GNU Lesser General Public License (GNU LGPL). editions are available in 65 languages and may be run on Windows (98/ME/NT/2000/XP), Mac OS, Linux, and Solaris, among other operating systems, even Windows 95. software can read and write to the proprietary document storage formats employed in the Microsoft Office suite.

OpenDocument Format is now an ISO standard

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For more details, see yesterday's press release from the ODF Alliance.

A measured endorsement of OA

Nick Anthis, Open Access and the Democratization of Science, The Scientific Activist, May 4, 2006. Excerpt (after summarizing the FRPAA):
Philosophically, it’s hard to hard to argue with open access. Considering the sizeable investment the public annually makes through its tax dollars, access to the dividends in the form of peer-reviewed scientific literature only makes sense. Currently, as is often pointed out, someone has to pay twice to access the scientific literature....However, it’s just as apparent that open access undermines the prevalent business model of scientific publishers....As the largest purchasers of scientific journals, university libraries stand to gain immensely from open access measures. Due to current budget restraints, many libraries have to pick and choose what journals to carry, limiting the access to the literature of the students and researchers who depend on those libraries. Not being able to access a research article slows down the research process....Paying for open access would require a significant investment of taxpayer money, but only a very small percentage of the population is likely to take advantage of free access to journals....

Understandably, many in the publishing industry are vehemently against such a strong-handed open access measure....Although peer-reviewed journals are arguably much different from popular magazines and newspapers, it would be misleading to say that the models do not exist. Journals can also adapt and save money (and trees) by going to online-only publication, giving them more leeway for a shift into open access models.

A more obscure example of the advantages of open access came in a May 2nd New York Times story on problems with the peer review system in general:

Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry, say Dr. Richard Smith, the former editor of BMJ, the British medical journal, and Dr. Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, also based in Britain. The journals rely on revenues from industry advertisements. But because journals also profit handsomely by selling drug companies reprints of articles reporting findings from large clinical trials involving their products, editors may "face a frighteningly stark conflict of interest" in deciding whether to publish such a study, Dr. Smith said.

Currently, pharmaceutical companies can, according to this story at least, exert influence on journals through their buying power. In an open access system with flat fees for article publication, though, this advantage is erased, removing one more obstacle to good objective science. This alone is enough of a reason to consider open access, particularly in clinical journals....

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 is clearly a step in the right direction, but it does not address some of these fundamental issues. A more comprehensive approach would rely also on temporary incentives for publishers to move toward an open access model and would idealistically give the publishing industry plenty of time to adapt. If the act is passed, it is imperative that Congress follow up with these other complementary measures. A multifaceted approach by the government, coupled with an innovative and open-minded approach from the publishing industry, could make true open access a reality, an important precursor to making public participation in science more feasible and desirable.

Comment. I just want to respond to one point: "Paying for open access would require a significant investment of taxpayer money, but only a very small percentage of the population is likely to take advantage of free access...." The justification for OA is to benefit reseachers first and lay readers second, or to benefit researchers directly and others indirectly. There's no assumption that every citizen or internet user wants to read peer-reviewed science. Researchers need access to this literature and all too often lack it because journal prices have been rising much faster than inflation and library budgets for more than three decades. Just as patients benefit when their doctors have access to research literature, citizens benefit when researchers have access to new work on trade deficits, computer security, earthquake prediction, avian flu, and global warming. Finally, of course, most citizens never drive on a given mile of publicly-funded highway, but that's not a reason to withhold public funding from the highway.

German coverage of the FRPAA

Richard Seitmann, Open Access: US-Gesetzesinitiative für freien Zugang zu Forschungsergebnissen, Heise Online, May 4, 2006. Read the original German or Google's English.

OA to mapping data without waiting

Glyn Moody, OpenStreetMap - Finding Our Way, Open..., May 4, 2006. Excerpt:
I wrote a little about the Guardian's campaign to obtain open access to [UK] Government-generated data (which we pay for), but here's an interesting alternative: generate it yourself.  This weekend, a bunch of intrepid GPS users aims to map the whole of the Isle of Wight, and then to use this information to generate their own detailed maps, which will be in released under a Creative Commons licence.  The overarching project is called OpenStreetMap, and it seems the perfect way to get public mapping data. Rather waiting for the Government graciously to give us our data back, let's take to the streets and do it ourselves: of the people, by the people, for the people.  Now, if only I had a GPS device....

Comment. It's admirable that citizens are doing this, but it's a disgrace that it should be necessary. Taxpayers have already paid for higher-quality versions of the same data and (in the UK) must pay again for access to it. I hope the project achieves two goals: providing the useful data without charge, and shaming the government into changing its access policies. On what other fronts will citizens have to duplicate publicly-funded government labor in order to deliver the service that the government will only deliver for an extra fee? Road building? Vote counting? Public defense?

Cambridge University Press to offer more OA

Bobby Pickering, CUP to modernise journal publishing, Information World Review, May 4, 2006. Excerpt:
Cambridge University Press (CUP) is planning to make big advances in the journal publishing market, following a £1m investment in a new back-end journal subscription system. The charity, which is technically the publishing division of the University of Cambridge, also expects to be back in the black in the current financial year, following four years of overall loss-making....

[Most of the changes affect subscription journals, but not all.] Collier [CUP's Business Development Manager for Journals] said CUP was not going to be left behind on the open access front, and would follow in the steps of Springer, OUP and Blackwell. “We’ll be launching 10 journals on the hybrid publishing model in the next year,” he said. “We are also looking at finding more backing for open access along the lines of our free Breast Cancer online journal, which is funded by AstraZeneca.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

OA as an alternative to digital dystopia

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia? Forthcoming from Information Technology and Libraries, 25, no. 3 (2006). Excerpt (after summarizing a series of lock-down trends and the open access movement):
Given the uphill battle in the courts and legislatures, Creative Commons licenses (or similar licenses) and open access are particularly promising strategies to deal with copyright and DRM issues. Copyright laws do not need to change for these strategies to be effective....

It is not just a question of libraries helping to support open access by paying for institutional memberships to open access journals, building and maintaining institutional repositories, supporting open access mandates, encouraging faculty to edit and publish open access journals, educating faculty about copyright and open access issues, and encouraging them to utilize Creative Commons (or similar) licenses. To truly create change, libraries need to "walk the talk" and either let the public domain materials they digitize remain in the public domain or put them under Creative Commons (or similar licenses), and, when they create original digital content, put it under Creative Commons (or similar) licenses.

As the open access movement has shown, using Creative Commons licenses doesn't rule out revenue generation (if that is an appropriate goal), but it does require facilitating strategies, such as advertising and offering fee-based add-on products and services.

Update (October 4, 2006). The published edition is now online, though only accessible to subscribers.

BioMed Central Research Awards

BioMed Central has established a series of annual awards for the best research made OA in a BMC journal. From the site:

The BioMed Central Research Awards recognize excellence in research that has been made universally accessible by open access publication in one of BioMed Central's journals.  Any physician or scientist who publishes original research of major significance in 2006 in one of BioMed Central's 150+ journals will be eligible to be considered for the award.  Two awards of US $5000 will be made - one for biological research, and one for medical research....The winners will be announced, and the awards made, in early 2007....Send details of the article you wish to nominate, including a short justification of why you believe it deserves to be considered, to:

Preprints, postprints, and copyright

Michael Carroll, Copyright in "Pre-Prints" and "Post-Prints", Carrollogos, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
In some quarters of the Open Access movement, some confusion has arisen with respect to copyright law and the many iterations through which an article goes. The comments that follow describe how U.S. law looks at "pre-prints" - the version of an article first submitted to a publisher, and "post-prints" - the author's final manuscript incorporating changes made after peer review. I wrote these comments in response to the question whether an author could grant a Creative Commons license to use a pre-print after having signed away all rights under copyright to a publisher. These comments are for your information and are not legal advice.

The short answer is no, an author cannot grant a Creative Commons license in a pre-print after having signed away all rights in the article in a publication agreement. Although technically distinct, the copyrights in the pre-print and the post-print overlap. The important point to understand is that copyright grants the owner the right to control exact duplicates and versions that are "substantially similar" to the copyrighted work. (This is under U.S. law, but most other jurisdictions similarly define the scope of copyright). A pre-print will normally be substantially similar to the post-print. Therefore, when an author transfers the exclusive rights in the work to a publisher, the author precludes herself from making copies or distributing copies of any substantially similar versions of the work as well....

Carroll is a law professor at Villanova University and a member of the Board of Directors at Creative Commons. Carrollogos is his new blog, which will often cover copyright and OA issues. Check it out.

The OA question for an age of reason

Michel Vajou, L'Open Access : une problématique à l'âge de raison?, written for the upcoming iExpo conference (Paris, May 31 - June 1, 2006), March 20, 2006. (Thanks to Marlène Delhaye.)

First Maori eprints repository

The University of Otago Te Tumu School of Maori Pacific and Indigenous Studies has launched the Te Tumu Eprints Repository. (Thanks to Graham McGregor.)

OA to law worldwide

Graham Greenleaf, Philip Chung, and Andrew Mowbray, Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: WorldLII's Strategies, Journal of Electronic Resources in Law Libraries, 1, 1 (2006).
Abstract: Those who value free access to law need to respond to the increasingly global nature of legal research, and the fact that most countries still do not have effective facilities for free access to law. The free access to law movement, centred around University-based Legal Information Institutes (LIIs), is assisting and encouraging the development of free access law facilities in many countries in the developing world. While doing so, it is also creating a global network of interconnected free-access legal research facilities on the Internet. This network is becoming comparable to the global legal research facilities provided by the multinational legal publishers. The free access to law movement is explained: its history, methods of cooperation, and Declaration on Free Access to Law. Public policies to maximise free access to law are advanced to explain why it is not good enough for governments to provide access to law through their own websites. Instead, a 'competitive model' is advanced, stressing the right of others to republish legal information. The task of developing global legal research is explained through categorisation of the elements of the visible and 'hidden' webs of legal information, and the implications this has for tools that LIIs must develop. This helps explain the modestly decentralised global free access to law network which is emerging, based on independent national and regional LIIs, with a smaller number of 'hubs'. The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII), one of the hubs of this network, is explained in detail, particularly as a locus of five strategies to advance global free access to law. It is a Legal Information Institute in its own right with a focus on international content such as the decisions of International Courts and Tribunals. It is an 'incubator' of LIIs, hosting collections of national databases which may and have matured into separate LIIs. Third, WorldLII is an integrator of LIIs, providing not only a combined search of 439 legal databases from 55 countries (and growing by 25% per year), but also far more targeted searches such as those limited to one type of document (eg legislation) drawn from all its collaborating LIIs. More sophisticated forms of integrations are becoming possible as LIIs cooperate more closely, such as cross-LII hyperlinks, and global 'Noteups' of legislation and cases. WorldLII is primarily an English language interface to all LII content, but aims to go beyond that in a number of ways. Interfaces in other languages to the shared data set will better emerge elsewhere, but WorldLII may have an interim role. Finally, WorldLII is a platform for more systematic global legal research beyond the content held by its collaborating LIIs. Its tools are the WorldLII Catalog and WorldLII Websearch providing access to over 17,000 law websites worldwide, and 'Law on Google' (translating WordLII's searches into Google's search language and limiting their scope to law).

More on the FRPAA

Senate Bill Would Require Online Posting of Federal Research, News blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Two U.S. senators, eager for access to the results of taxpayer-financed research, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require that the results of such research be posted free on the Internet. If the bill is enacted, each federal agency that spends more than $100-million yearly on research, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and eight others, would have to create an online repository and require its grantees to place their research papers in it within six months of publication. The bill goes further than a policy in place at the NIH for the past year that merely requests posting in its repository, and suggests doing it within 12 months of publishing (The Chronicle, February 4, 2005).

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, has delighted open-access advocates like Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group, who called it “superb” in his blog and wrote, “It will make a very large and useful body of research even more useful than it already is by sharing it with all who can apply or build upon it.” Some publishers, concerned that free access will make readers drop subscriptions, are unhappy, according to an article in today’s Washington Post.

JISC vision for OA in 2010

Rachel Heery and Andy Powell, Digital Repositories Roadmap: looking forward, JISC, April 7, 2006. Excerpt:

This roadmap presents a vision for 2010 in which a high percentage of newly published scholarly output is made available on an open access basis and in which there is a growing recognition of the benefits of making research data, learning resources and other academic content freely available for sharing and re-use. Furthermore, geospatial information will be better integrated with other data through improved licensing agreements. Achieving this vision over a four-year period will not be easy, but it is intentionally set as a challenging aim in order to help focus discussion on what needs to happen to make it a reality.

The authors suggest that while the current technical infrastructure in the UK is in need of some development, it is primarily in the areas of policy (both national and institutional), culture and working practices that changes need to be made. We suggest that the JISC and the wider community need to focus their activities in the following areas:

  • Policy - Research councils and other funding bodies need to mandate that all scholarly publications generated by publicly-funded research are made available on an open access basis. The RAE needs to move significantly towards using open access copies of scholarly publications as a primary mechanism to support the assessment exercise. Motivated both by the open access agenda, and by the requirement to manage their digital assets effectively, institutions should build curation of scholarly publications, research data and learning objects into their information strategies.Although the long term preservation of all academic output is an important consideration, the aims and issues in this area need to be clearly articulated separately from (but in relation to) the aims of open access and asset management.
  • Cultural - The ‘reward structures’ and ‘professional development’ infrastructure within the academic community need to recognise open access as a valuable and important part of the profession. The community needs to find ways to encourage academics to share and re-use publications, research data and learning resources as openly as possible.
  • Technical - The technical infrastructure supporting open access needs to be based on a more thorough modelling of the materials being made available, the way such materials are described and identified and the mechanisms for automatically interlinking and manually citing scholarly output, research data and learning objects.There needs to be widespread agreement about the machine to machine interfaces (the services) that open access repositories should support in order to ingest and make available content and metadata.Finally, repositories should be well integrated into institutional and national access management approaches (such as Shibboleth). These activities will provide a solid environment within which a wide variety of software tools (open source and commercial) and added value services can be developed by both the public and private sectors.
  • Legal - The licensing of community-developed content needs to protect the intellectual property of institutions, individual academics and third-parties as necessary yet still be supportive of the open access approach.The community needs to find ways to avoid a situation where concerns about IPR are allowed to stifle the creative sharing and re-use of academic content.

Microsoft's research arm shares info with universities

Tom Sanders, Microsoft touts open research, IT Week, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Microsoft Research has talked up the way that its research arm is sharing information with the educational community at a company event at its Silicon Valley campus. Working with universities is vital, argued Roy Levin, director of Microsoft Research in Silicon Valley, because academia is driving innovation....George Johnson, associate dean in charge of special programmes at the engineering department for the University of California Berkeley, said that Microsoft Research is typifying the approach of "first the science, then the company".

Commercial research organisations are increasingly pulling their research in house to prevent having to share the results with competitors, or to focus more on product research. Microsoft Research was founded in 1991 and focuses on long-term research, looking 10 to 15 years into the future. The group employs 700 people in its labs in Seattle and has satellite locations in Beijing, Bangalore, Cambridge and Silicon Valley.

More on the FRPAA

Bill would open scientific research access, United Press International, May 2, 2006. A short, unsigned article apparently based on the ATA press release. Excerpt:
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access announced its support Tuesday for a Senate bill that broadens access to federal scientific research. The bill, called the "Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006," was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. The proposal would require federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in annual external research to make electronic manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from their research publicly available via the Internet.

"The expanded access to research called for by this bill will help accelerate true innovation in science and medicine," said Heather Joseph of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition [SPARC], an ATA organization. "The public's interest is clear; whether it is speeding a response to a potential flu pandemic, developing energy alternatives or putting the brakes on global warming, access to publicly funded science is more critical than ever." Joseph added.

ATA members include the Genetic Alliance, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the Christopher Reeve Foundation, and 67 other patient, academic, research, and publishing entities that support expanded public access to the results of federally funded research.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More on the FRPAA

Rick Weiss, Bill Seeks Access to Tax-Funded Research, Washington Post, May 3, 2006. Excerpt:
A smoldering debate over whether taxpayers should have free access to the results of federally financed research intensified yesterday with the introduction of Senate legislation that would mandate that the information be posted on the Internet. The legislation, which would demand that most recipients of federal grants make their findings available free on the Web within six months after they are published in a peer-reviewed journal, represents a rebuke to scientific publishers, who have asserted that free access to their contents would undercut their paid subscription base. It also signifies that some members of Congress have lost patience with a voluntary plan initiated a year ago by the National Institutes of Health. That plan encouraged but did not require recipients of NIH grants to make their findings public within a year after publication. In the first six months of that program, only about 4 percent of eligible researchers bothered to do so....

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), goes considerably further than the NIH program. In addition to requiring public access within six months, not 12, it would apply to research funded by all 11 federal agencies that provide at least $100 million in outside funding per year -- a category that includes the departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Homeland Security as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Heather Joseph, executive director at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a D.C.-based organization of research and academic libraries, lauded the legislation. "It's good to see an expanded interest by Congress in securing taxpayer access to federally funded research," she said, predicting that scientists, too, would benefit. "Expanded access to research really will help accelerate innovation and discovery." Peter Suber, director of the open access project at Public Knowledge, an information policy advocacy group in the District, echoed that view: "It's a very, very good bill," he said. "I think it's wonderful news." But Patricia S. Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, promised a fight. "It is frustrating that we can't seem to get across to people how expensive it is to do the peer review, edit these articles and put them into a form everyone can understand," Schroeder said. In the age of the Internet, everyone wants everything free, Schroeder said. "But we can't figure out what exactly the business model would be. And if you just got the raw research, you wouldn't have a clue" how to use it, she said. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society in Bethesda, which like other small scientific organizations counts on journal profits to support its educational programs, also complained about the bill. "It's unnecessary legislation," Frank said, adding that many publishers are gradually moving on their own to make at least some of their contents freely available.

PS: I actually had more to say about the bill. I mentioned its three chief strengths: requiring OA, imposing a firm six-month deadline, and resting on a government license rather than publisher consent. But that said, it's still a very, very good bill.

EURASIP President on OA

Sergios Theodoridis, President’s Message, EURASIP, March 2006. Theodoridis is the President of European Association for Signal, Speech, and Image Processing (EURASIP), which publishes four OA journals through Hindawi Publishing. Excerpt:
Since EURASIP’s major decision to adopt the Open Access (OA) model for all its new journals, I have developed an interest in trying to keep up with related publications and adopted policies and actions by various scientific organizations and bodies concerning the OA philosophy....In a world of an unprecedented complexity, information and knowledge access models that transcend professional classifications, national boundaries, and social barriers are timely and necessary. The OA philosophy affects not only the publication of scientific research, but also the way large databases, such as the genomes of animals and plants, can be accessed.

Recently, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) released version 5.0 of the NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Vision for the 21st century. The report states that 30 nations, including the United States, declared their commitment to work together towards the establishment of common access regimes for research data generated through public funding. Currently Germany’s Max-Planck Society, the UK Wellcome Trust, the French CNRS, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute all encourage their funded researchers to make their peer-reviewed articles publicly available. It is worth pointing out that the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee considered the OA issue and the report was in favor of open access....

Concerning publications, there are two major motivations in favor of open access. The first refers to ethics. Research funded by the public should be available to the public. The second motivation refers to the research impact. Internet technology and powerful search engines make it possible to mine any publications of interest that reside in an open access repository. This will no doubt increase the impact and the citation of published articles. Furthermore, the OA model complies with the above-mentioned synergy and cooperation rationale, since it is a way of minimizing the gap between scientists living and working in the developed countries and those who are working in less developed countries and have very limited accessibility to published results....

More on the FRPAA

Here are some helpful official links on the FRPAA:

And here are a couple of unofficial ones:

When I have time, I hope to go back and blog excerpts from some of these docs.

May issue of SOAN

I just mailed the May issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. This issue takes a close look at Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) just introduced in the US Senate by Senators John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman. The FRPAA mandates OA for federally funded research and imposes a firm six month deadline. The Top Stories section takes a brief look at the EC report calling for an OA mandate to publicly-funded research, the developing OA policy at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, NIH-Director Elias Zerhouni's public admission that the NIH policy might need a mandate, two recent clues to the RCUK thinking about OA, a new call for OA to biodiversity data, an "email-eprints" button for Eprints and DSpace archiving software, and the beta of Microsoft Live Academic Search.

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006

Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA) in the US Senate today. This is giant step forward for OA, even bigger than the CURES Act that Senator Lieberman introduced in December 2005.

Like CURES, FRPAA will mandate OA and limit embargoes to six months. Unlike CURES, it will not be limited to medical research and will not mandate deposit in a central repository. It will apply to all federal funding agencies above a certain size --including the NIH, NSF, NASA, EPA, and eight Cabinet-level Departments. It instructs each agency to develop its own policy, under certain guidelines laid down in the bill. Some of those agencies might choose to launch central repositories but others might choose to mandate deposit (for example) in the author's institutional repository. But all must insure OA "as soon as practicable, but not later than 6 months after publication in peer-reviewed journals".

BTW, Cornyn and Lieberman introduced the bill today because the NIH public access policy took effect one year ago today.

For more deails, see Sen. Cornyn's press release:

In an effort to increase taxpayers' access to federally funded research, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday introduced the bipartisan Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006. The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). The bill requires every federal agency with an annual research budget of more than $100 million to implement a public access policy. The policy must ensure that articles generated through research funded by that agency are made available online within six months of publication. Cornyn said: "This legislation is a common-sense approach to expand the public's access to research it funds. And it will help accelerate scientific innovation and discovery." Lieberman said: "Tax payer-funded research should be accessible to tax payers. Our bill will give researchers, medical professionals and patients in Connecticut and throughout the nation access to scientific discoveries and advancements that can help bring new treatments and cures to the public."

I'll also have an article about the bill later today in the May issue of SOAN.

Comment. This is a superb bill: informed by the arguments for OA and the shortcomings of the NIH policy. It's one more sign that legislators are not treating the NIH policy as a precedent but taking every opportunity to improve upon it: going beyond a request to a requirement, beyond long or indefinite embargoes to firm deadlines, beyond biomedicine to all disciplines, beyond publisher consent to a federal purpose license that does not accommodate publisher resistance, and at least possibly, beyond central to distributed archiving. The FRPAA adds momentum to the CURES Act and the lesser but potent pressures on the NIH to convert its request to a requirement. It will give taxpayers access to the non-classified research they fund with their taxes. It will make a very large and useful body of research even more useful than it already is by sharing it with all who can apply or build upon it. In both respects it will increase the return on the taxpayers' enormous investment in this research.

New OA journal on international business management

Contemporary Management Research is a new peer-reviewed, OA journal hosted by Scholarly Exchange. From today's announcement:
CMR covers business management research from a global perspective, with interests ranging from traditional management topics to e-commerce and Internet marketing. The Academy of Taiwan Information Systems Research sponsors the journal, with an international editorial board.

"Before adopting Open Journal Systems hosted by Scholarly Exchange," said Dr. Chih-Chien Wang, one of CMR's editors, "the journal used e-mail for article submission and peer review. Manuscripts were lost or delayed in the review process. Authors were dissatisfied. Editorial staff spent too much time tracking manuscripts. Since OJS was running, and ready to use on the Scholarly Exchange server from the very beginning, we were able to start the journal in a matter of days. The amazing thing is that OJS is so easy to use, especially in this ready-to-run installation."

The PC critique of OA

Jaan Valsiner, "Open Access" and its Social Context: New Colonialism in the Making? Forum: Qualitative Social Research, March 2006.
Abstract: I claim that what is called "open access" is actually a transformed form of traditional ("closed") access, and is "open" only by its obviously appealing label. As a re-organizational move of institutionalized kind, it benefits the economically powerful --usually "first world" based-- research groups and corporations, and leads to new economic limits for the publication of innovative research emanating from less affluent researchers and laboratories. By shifting the costs of scientific publication from the recipients (journal subscribers) to the authors of published articles, "open access" creates a social scenario of one-sided information flow rather than a new form of "openness" in scholarly communication. By monopolizing the sources of scientific communication the "open access" initiative defeats its stated purpose. The articles [on OA] in the reviewed Special Issue of Historische Sozialforschung have productively outlined a whole range of specific issues related to this rapidly developing social movement in scientific communication, but have failed to analyze the wider sociological nature of the ongoing negotiations of the control over scientific communication channels of which the "open access" movement is a part.

Comment. (1) One of Valsiner's complaints is OA journals charge author-side fees, creating a barrier for indigent authors. But he's unaware that the majority of OA journals charge no author-side fees and many of the rest waive fees in case of economic hardship. (2) He's unaware that OA archiving raises no such barriers at all. When he discusses OA archiving, he changes the subject to its dependence on peer review, a supposed colonizing force. (3) He's unaware of the extensive support for OA in developing countries. But I suppose that if he were aware of it, he would dismiss it as ideologically deluded. (4) He claims that OA simply replaces the old publisher monopoly with a new "collective monopoly" of ISPs, who control online access. This would be a slightly interesting point if the access barriers imposed by ISPs were slightly comparable to those imposed by expensive journals. (5) He asserts: "It is thus a convenient illusion for scientists that by eliminating publishers' 'access boundaries' access to scientific information becomes 'open.' Rather, access becomes 'closed' in ways that are socially controlled by new players in the commercialization of the newly created Internet world. It is, in a sense, a process of 'closing down openings' in unison with 'opening up closures.'" This puts word-play ahead of serious analysis.

Comparing Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search

Elsa Wenzel, Google Scholar beta, ZDNet, May 2, 2006. A comparison of Google Scholar and Microsoft Live Academic Search. Excerpt:
Overall, we found Google Scholar beta to be a more rigorous and customisable research tool than its rival, although Windows Live Academic Search better integrates its finds with the brand's other services.

Answering the free-rider objection

Jan Velterop, Of free riders and bad pennies, The Parachute, May 2, 2006. Excerpt:
In the open access debate, 'free riders' keep popping up like the proverbial bad pennies. Free riders are those who profit from open access to research articles, where in the subscription model they had to pay for access. Even UK parliamentarian Ian Gibson, in the last paragraph of his recent foreword to Neil Jacobs' book, sees free riders as problematic. But are they? Once research results are published (i.e. made public), in any model, whoever sees a possibility to benefit (or profit) from applying the knowledge found in these research results, is free to do so. In fact, a strong commitment to and concomitant spending on research in a country is usually seen as closely associated with a strong economic performance and development of the economy. So why is it that free use of the results themselves, representing 99% of the cost of research, is not problematic but, instead, is rightly seen to stimulate the economy, yet free access to the published results, representing a mere 1% of the cost of research, is regarded as a problem?

Comment. Jan is right, but my answer to the free-rider objejction is slightly different. A free rider in the relevant, pejorative sense is not just someone who uses a resource without paying, but someone who ought to pay instead. In this sense, there are no free riders on OA literature, any more than there are free riders on broadcast television and radio. When content is distributed free of charge, then everyone is invited to use it without paying, and nobody who does so can be criticized as a free rider.

Access Fair presentations

Abstracts and webcasts of the presentations at the University of Utah's Access Fair 2006: The Access Horizon (Salt Lake City, April 25, 2006), are now online. (Thanks to Heather Morrison.)

Blogs and OA scholarship

The papers from the Harvard Berkman Center conference, Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship (Cambridge, April 28, 2006) are now online.

Here's an excerpt from one of them, Lawrence Solum's Blogging and the Transformation of Legal Scholarship (thanks to William Walsh):

Does blogging have anything to do with legal scholarship? Could blogging transform the legal academy? This paper suggests that these are the wrong questions. Blogs have plenty to do with legal scholarship - that’s obvious. But what blogs have to do with legal scholarship isn’t driven by anything special about blogs qua weblogs....The relationship between blogging and the future of legal scholarship is a product of other forces - the emergence of the short form, the obsolesce of exclusive rights, and the trend towards the disintermediation of legal scholarship. Those forces and their relationship to blogging will be the primary focus of this paper....The transition from exclusive rights to open source requires publication in formats that provide full text searchability and the use of copyright to insure that scholarship can be freely downloaded and duplicated. The trend toward disintermediation reflects the diminished role of traditional intermediaries such as student and peer editorial boards and the growing role of search engines such as Google. These trends are the result of technology change and the fundamental forces that drive legal scholarship. Each of the three trends, the short form, open access, and disintermediation reduces search costs and access costs to legal scholarship. Reducing costs has other important implications, including the facilitation of the globalization of legal scholarship and the reduction of lag times between the production and full-scale dissemination of new scholarship. Each of these important trends is facilitated by blogs and blogging, but the blog or weblog is only one form that these trends can take. Blogs express and facilitate the fundamental forces that are already transforming legal scholarship in fundamental ways.

Defining "free content"

Erik Mõller and Benjamin Mako Hill have launched a wiki to coordinate efforts to define the term "free content". (Thanks to the CC blog.) For them, free content includes the "freedom to make improvements or other changes, and to release modified copies", a freedom not included in some of the major definitions of OA and not in high demand for the major focus of the OA movement (peer-reviewed research articles). If you're comfortable with the rough and ready distinction between "open access" and "open content" that has grown up in the past couple of years, then this effort is on the open content side. But if you think the OA/OC distinction is permeable or even misleading, then the new definition project may overlap significantly with OA. For more details, see the announcement of the definition initiative.

PubChem keeps growing

May issue of Searcher

The May issue of Searcher is now online. Three of its articles are OA-related (but only one is OA itself).
  • Miriam Drake, and CENDI: Interview with Bonnie Carroll. Not OA. Blurb: "Miriam Drake interviews Bonnie Carroll, executive director of CENDI, a consortium of federal agencies whose mission is to improve the productivity of federal science- and technology-based programs through effective scientific and technical information-support systems."
  • David Mattison, The Digital Humanities Revolution. Not OA. Blurb: "David Mattison highlights freely available digital resources, coming from new and existing alliances between computational specialists, scholars, and librarians, that are helping to revolutionize the field and study of humanities."
  • Barbie Kaiser, Beyond ERIC: The Early Years. Blurb: "Part Three: Resources for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning. In this installment, Barbie Kaiser focuses on components of adult learning: higher education, institutions and financial aid, distance learning, continuing education, fields of study, and professional training. The six accompanying tables provide multiple online sites related to each of these categories."

Tips for filling an OA repository

Arthur Sale has distilled his experience as a researcher, founder/manager of an OA repository, and student of repository policies, into an excellent list of suggestions for getting authors to deposit their work. Excerpt:
Effective author support policies involve a plethora of activities, and are well exemplified by the activities undertaken at QUT, Queensland University and here [University of Tasmania]. No doubt in many other places. They include (but no university does all):
  • Assistance with uploading the first document (hand-holding). Maybe devolve this out to departments/faculties/workshops.
  • Fall-back positions which allow a subject-librarian, or a department/faculty office professional, to upload on behalf of an author who is not computer literate.
  • Provision for turning final manuscripts into pdf format (info about free OSS options and/or a library service).
  • Provision of as much (automated) statistical use information as authors find useful. See [this] for example.
  • League tables of document downloads (Do NOT publish or put on the Web league tables of academics by totals of downloads. This is counter-productive as the same few people are always at the top {sometimes because of extraneous discipline or popularity reasons}, and everyone else feels aggrieved). Document download info seems ok as it is anonymized and variable. See [this] for example.
  • Encouragement (or stronger) from a head of school or research coordinator - they need to be converted and they are intra-university competitive as well as being discipline-competitive.
  • Integration of the repository into school and university websites (eg instead of a list of publications on a web-page (always out of date) put a php/perl query on the repository for the particular author or authors (always up to date). Possibility needs promotion and education to web-page designers (may be academics).
  • Professional development workshops for PhD candidates to put their publications up (Important: these are Trojan horses. Maybe you can get a mandate for them ahead of academics/faculty)
  • Development of repository software to provide extra information to authors and possibly readers, such as citation counts.
  • Briefing meetings with heads of departments, deans and research directors. Keep it as routinized as possible: we are not trying to do something radical but to smooth something that should be a routine part of research activity.
  • When you have a mandated policy, act on selected departments/faculties in a sequential strategy. Do not attempt a scattergun approach. Again, it is routinization that you are after.
  • Some universities have introduced financial benefits for depositing.
  • Do not worry about metadata quality, nor bother authors about it. Authors are often as good as librarians, if not better. In any case the most popular discovery techniques are not dependent on metadata.
  • Provide a service for authors who are worried about copyright. It generally isn't important nor is the service onerous....

Getting back to the requirement (mandatory) policy. I well understand that most universities do not yet have such a policy. I think I know exactly how many do. However, unless it is in your kitbag (like a field-marshal's baton) the university is wasting its money even having a 5-15% full repository. Striving to achieve such a policy is understandable and laudable, but it must be a continuous and strong push.

However, expending money on author support policies without a mandate is like pushing a large rock up a hill. It does not work and is demonstrated not to work. Precisely because of what I wrote earlier: the vast majority of academics (85%+) are non-participants and will seize any excuse however spurious to avoid doing any extra work. They are incapable of being persuaded in the mass. Remember that I am a researcher, not a librarian. I know the mindset of researchers. So to summarize:

  • Try to get the mandate before the repository.
  • If you've got the repository before the mandate, make it crystal-clear to everyone (especially in higher management) that a mandate is in your sights and you are not going to let go of it until you get what you want and the forces of reaction are defeated. Use the word "luddite" if you have to.
  • Don't expend significant amounts of time and money on author-support until you've got the mandate. It is pretty much wasted anyway, like flushing dollar notes down the toilet.
  • After you've got the mandate, go for full-on author-support. It will speed up the transition which will take 1-3 years.

Print editions of Libertas Academica OA journals

Libertas Academica, which publishes four OA journals and has two more on the drawing boards, is running a survey to measure the demand for print editions.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Growing pains at BMC

Stuart Blackman, BioMedCentral faces angry editors, TheScientist, May 1, 2006. Excerpt:
Open access publisher BioMedCentral (BMC) is facing a potential revolt from a number of the editors at its independent journals, who are upset with how the journals are being managed. Several editors of the 93 independent journals published by BMC have told The Scientist that they are considering taking their journals to other publishers.

"BMC have done a good job at promulgating the open access -- probably more than any other publisher, said Kuan-Teh Jeang, editor-in-chief of Retrovirology, a BMC journal. "The model is right, the principle is outstanding, but the execution is somewhat questionable."...Although editors at independent BMC journals say they still support open access, they...are voicing a range of complaints. For instance, editors are protesting recent increases in the APC [article processing charage], and reductions in the number of waivers that editors are permitted to offer to contributors who cannot afford those costs, among other issues....BMC's publisher, Matthew Cockerill, said the company is working with editors to resolve the problems, and insisted that the complaints are normal for any new company. "Yes there are growing pains, but we are making huge efforts to address those," he told The Scientist....Cockerill also argued that there is no evidence that increases in APC have affected submissions. For instance, previous increases in APC have not, he said, been associated with drops in submissions. Instead, some journals may struggle for submissions because some fields are less open to open access. "Young fields like bioinformatics have a high uptake of open access," he told The Scientist. "In other, more traditional, fields such as surgery, it has been a slower process."...Even editors who are voicing complaints about BMC are hopeful about its future. [Philippe] Grandjean [co-editor-in-chief of Environmental Health] said..."But I'm confident that we can work it out," he said. "It is important for all of us that [BMC] succeeds."

Richard Gallagher, publisher of TheScientist, has A word about BioMedCentral in the same issue. Excerpt:

Some of you may be wondering why The Scientist is today publishing a news story that on the face of it seems quite critical of BioMedCentral, our sister company.  It's a fair question, and one with a simple answer: We are commited to covering significant developments, in science publishing and elsewhere, that are likely to be of interest to our readers, irrespective of the source of the story. This particular article is a test of the editorial independence of The Scientist, and it is a test that has been passed. The co-owner of The Scientist, who also owns BioMedCentral, has not tried to influence the story in any way. I believe in open access, and the editorial position of The Scientist is to support its development. BioMedCentral and the editors of the independent journals that they publish are passionate about open access. Together they are blazing a new trail in publishing, and inevitably this will result in some conflict. Transparency is needed in working out these growing pains. Sweeping issues like the ones raised in the story under the rug would be far more damaging in the long run.

Opening eyes to OA

Colin Steele, Open all hours? Institutional models for open access, in Neil Jacobs (ed.), Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, Chandos Publishing, forthcoming 2006. Self-archived April 26, 2006.
Abstract: Conclusion: In H G Wells’s ‘Country of the Blind’ the “one-eyed man is king’, while Canadian author Margaret Atwood has said, “an eye for an eye only leads to more blindness”! Many in the academic community remain “blind” to OA issues and are often constrained in taking action by historical practices, and more importantly by reward systems, both perceived and real. They thus occupy the academic institutional “country of the blind”. Informed institutional leadership, combined with vibrant advocacy programmes and enhanced reward systems, is required for relevant eyes to be opened to the nature and benefits of OA. Institutions now have the chance to accelerate the OA scholarly communication process. Such “action does not require total agreement with the OA movement's beliefs and proposals, but it requires an active engagement with them.”(Bailey, 2005) This “engagement” with individual researchers in institutions will be the key to scholarly communication change.

More on Stargate

R. John Robertson, Stargate: Exploring Static Repositories for Small Publishers, Ariadne, April 2006. Excerpt:

With the wider deployment of repositories, the Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is becoming a common method of supporting interoperability between repositories and services. It provides 'an application-independent interoperability framework based on metadata harvesting'. Nodes in a network using this protocol are 'data providers' or 'service providers'.  Although repository software supporting OAI-PMH is not overly complex, without programming skills or access to technical support, implementing and supporting a repository is not an entirely straightforward task. Static repositories and static repository gateways are a development of the OAI-PMH specification that makes participation in networks of data and service providers even simpler. In essence a static repository is an XML file publicly available online at a persistent address. This file is registered in a static repository gateway which then presents it as a (slightly limited) OAI-PMH data provider.  One community that the static repository approach might benefit is the community of small publishers, particularly those publishers who only produce one or two journals. Such publishers, who may not have dedicated technical support, are less likely to be able to implement and maintain a repository supporting the full OAI-PMH. They might however be able to maintain a static repository, and participate in these wider networks in this way.  This article introduces STARGATE (Static Repository Gateway and Toolkit: Enabling small publishers to participate in OAI-PMH-based services), a project funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and based in the Centre for Digital Library Research at the University of Strathclyde, which is undertaking an investigation of the applicability of this technology to small publishers.

More on how OA accelerates research

Heather Morrison, Open Access: to Leverage the Research Dollar, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, April 30, 2006. Excerpt:
For the research funder, here is yet another reason why the results of research should be openly accessible, as soon as possible: immediately on publication - or before: to leverage the research dollar.  Why? The way science works is in a series of steps, or like a puzzle. The goals of research are broad: finding cures for cancer, learning how to prevent or treat heart disease. These kinds of goals are rarely reached through a single study. Rather, each piece of research brings us just one step closer to the goal....When we fund one step in this research, we achieve more when more researchers are able to get on with the next steps, and we achieve the most when the results are shared as openly and quickly as possible, so that as many researchers as possible can get on to the next steps as quickly as possible.

How this relates to research dollars: because research occurs worldwide, the research dollars of one funder can be leveraged through the efforts of others, including researchers receiving funds from other agencies, and often researchers working without specific funding. Open, immediate sharing is like multiplying your research lab, your research team - with no extra dollars involved....

Another comment on Steven Breckler's critique

Mark Leggott, The Psychology of Open Access, Loomware, April 30, 2006. This is a comment on Stevan Breckler's criticism of the NIH policy published last week. Breckler is the Executive Director of the American Psychological Association. Excerpt:

After reading this editorial by the Executive Director of the APA I am tempted to feel like an intellectual dolt, but only because he says I should. In arguing against open access and the NIH policy in particular, Steven Breckler shows the ignorance that comes from wanting to maintain a stranglehold on academic research and thereby the APA bottom-line. He suggests that: 1) most of us would not be able to understand the complex scientific articles that are typically published in such journals; 2) those of us with intellectual capacity approaching his could get access via "a reprint request to the author, electronic access through a library, or purchase (for a nominal fee) directly from the APA website". Now, I’ve never thought of combining "nominal fee" and APA in the same sentence, but I’m sure Mr. Breckler must be right, since I suspect he can understand the journal article he cites. Mr. Breckler and the APA forget that open access is about a lot more than personal access to a complicated article, it is about: access to science for all peoples and countries; access whether you can understand it (now) or not; better access to improve the lives of all people, not just those from rich countries and institutions; reconstituting the scholarly debate in the public arena, where it belongs. There is more, but I feel my intellectual capacity waning just with those few thoughts. I guess I’ll go read the funnies...

Post-script: Yes, I did read the article mentioned in the editorial and although it was a typical wordy and dry academic article, it was readable and understandable. In other words, an excellent example of why open access is so important. In fact, this is an excellent example of the kind of academic article that HIV workers the world over might find quite useful. In speaking to one of the research outcomes, the authors state "adequate comparisons are not presently available for countries outside the United States" - specifically Africa. I'm sure that if the research was available to people in Africa, we would see some good new work to enhance this project. It is also a fine example of an article that could easily be made more accessible to a wider audience without compromising its academic integrity. My formula for success for publicly funded research: get the authors to attach a "for the masses" summary (all scientists should be able to write for the masses, despite Mr. Breckler's suggestion that it is a job for journalists); attach the raw data to the article so others can analyze it; add a wiki or blog-style discussion tool to the article so that anyone could enhance/comment on what was written. Not only would the science improve, but so would society. Mr. Breckler's final remark is "Productive solutions exist for making the results of science better understood and appreciated. The NIH public access policy, however, is not among them." NIH's policy is an incredibly positive good step in the right direction, while the APA policy of hiding research behind a fee wall is a giant leap in the direction of the Cambrian. And I don't need a scientific article to tell me that.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

New OA journal by and for LIS students

Library Student Journal is a new peer-reviewed, OA journal published by LIS students at the University of Buffalo. It expects to start accepting submissions in May --which starts tomorrow. (Thanks to Sabina Jane Iseli-Otto.)

Update. I just learned that Buffalo LIS students have also created The Firebrary, an OA digital library of the Buffalo Fire Historical Society. (Thanks to Jessica L. Fadel's announcement on Diglib.) Is it something in the water?