Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New URL for 2005 draft RCUK policy

When the RCUK posted its new OA policy, it changed the URL on its 2005 draft. Please update your bookmarks:

New book on OA

An announcement from Neil Jacobs:
A new book, documenting the major strands and issues of open access, will be published 17th July.

Jacobs, N., Eds. (2006) Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Chandos

It covers the rationale, history, economics, technology and culture of open access, views from major stakeholders, updates from around the world, and visions of the future. The following authors have contributed:

Alma Swan, Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Jean-Claude Guédon, Andrew Odlyzko, Michael Kurtz, Tim Brody, Chris Awre, Stevan Harnad, Arthur Sale, Robert Terry, Robert Kiley, Matthew Cockerill, Mary Waltham, Colin Steele, Leo Waaijers, Peter Suber, Frederick J. Friend, John Shipp, D. K. Sahu, Ramesh C. Parmar, Clifford Lynch, Nigel Shadbolt and Les Carr.

Many of the chapters are, of course, available open access on the web.

OA for librarians in developing countries

Heather Morrison, Open Access for Librarians in Developing Countries, a background paper for the COADY online seminar on The Open Access Movement and Information for Development, May 29 - June 9, 2006. Self-archived July 1, 2006.
Abstract: The basics of open access are presented, as a starting point for discussion by librarians in developing countries. Open access is defined; resources for searching are presented, and resources for creating open access archives and publications. Policy development needed for open access is explained, along with what librarians in developing countries can do to promote open access.

Update on the continuing, dramatic growth of OA

Heather Morrison, Dramatic Growth June 2006, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, June 30, 2006. There's a lot of good data of which I can only excerpt a small amount:
Growth [in the second quarter of 2006] continued very strong in both the gold and green roads. DOAJ, today at 2,292 journals, added 134 journal titles, an increase of about 1 and 1/2 titles per day (calendar days, not business days), about an equivalent of a 25% annual increase. More than half a million items were added to an OAIster search, for a total of more than 7.6 million items, or about the equivalent of a 24% annual increase. At the current rate of growth, an OAIster search can be anticipated to encompass more than a billion items before the end of 2007....

Directory of Open Access Journals:
June 30, 2006: 2,292 journals (38 titles added in the last 30 days)
March 31, 2006: 2,158 journals (78 titles added in the last 30 days)
Dec. 31, 2005: 1,988 titles
February 2005 - over 1,400 titles

June 30, 2006: 653 journals searchable at article level -- 101,434 articles in DOAJ total
March 31, 2006: 594 journals searchable at article level -- 92,751 articles in DOAJ total
Dec. 31, 2004: 492 journals searchable at article level - 83,235
This is an increase of 134 journal titles during April - June, 2006; a 6% growth rate, or equivalent of an annual 25% growth rate.

Note that the DOAJ list does not represent all open access journals, only the ones that have met DOAJ standards, and have gone through the DOAJ vetting process. Jan Szczepanski's list is much longer: over 4,705 titles total as of early December 2005.

June 30, 2006: 7,605,729 records from 647 institutions
March 22, 2006: 7,040,586 records from 610 institutions
Dec. 22, 2005: 6,255,599 records from 578 institutions
February 2005: over 5 million records, 405 institutions
This is an increase of 565,143 records in a quarter, or an equivalent of over 2 million records annually. By percentage, this is an 8% increase in this quarter, or an equivalent of about 32% annually. The number of institutions has increased by 37 6%, or the equivalent of 24% annually....

June 30, 2006: 374,166 e-prints
March 31, 2006: 362,334 e-prints
Dec. 31, 2005: Open access to 350,745 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Quantitative Biology.
This is an increase of 11,832 e-prints in this quarter, a 3% increase in this quarter, or the equivalent of 12% annually....

OA textbooks on a CD

LibertyTextbooks is taking what it considers to be the best of the open-access textbooks, putting them on a CD, and giving the CD to university professors who might not have considered using OA textbooks. It's coordinating the project with the affordable textbook campaign.

PS: Good idea. This would be especially useful in developing countries where bandwidth is low and CD copies of OA content often work better than online copies.

Report on the Third Nordic Conference

T.D. Wilson and E. Maceviciute, Conference Report: Third Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication, Lund 24-25 April, 2006,, July 3, 2006. A version of this report also appeared in Information Research for April 2006.

Improving the RCUK mandates

Stevan Harnad, Fixing the few flaws in the RCUK self-archiving mandates by pinning down WHEN and WHERE to deposit, Open Access Archivangelism, June 30, 2006.
Summary: The three recent RCUK self-archiving mandates (ESRC, BBSRC, MRC) are extremely timely and welcome, but they still have two serious -- though easily remedied -- flaws. They are vague about both (1) WHEN and (2) WHERE research should be self-archived:
     (1) WHEN: It should be specified that the author's final, peer-reviewed, accepted draft should be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication. Any allowable delay should pertain only to the date at which access to the deposited text is set as Open Access, not to the date at which the text is deposited. It should be strongly recommended to set access as Open Access immediately, but for articles from the 6% of journals that do not yet endorse immediate Open Access self-archiving, access can be set as Closed Access (for a maximum of 6 months). The semi-automatic EMAIL-EPRINT-REQUEST feature of the Institutional Repository software will allow the author to fulfill individual eprint requests from fellow-researchers during a Closed Access embargo interval.
     (2) WHERE: It should be specified that the deposit should be preferentially in the author's own institutional repository. Central repositories may harvest from the institutional repository if they wish, but the optimal practice, and the one that will scale to cover all researchers at all institutions, is to deposit locally; only if the institution does not yet have a repository should the author deposit directly in a central repository.

More support for the RCUK policy

Leader, In praise of ... open access, The Guardian, July 1, 2006.
"Information wants to be free" has been a rallying cry of the digital age. This week three of Britain's public funding bodies, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, added their voices, announcing they would require studies they had funded to be placed in open online archives. Although some details remain to be worked out - notably the time lag between journal publication and online archiving - this marks a leap towards allowing free access to the fruits of Britain's scientific research. The three research councils are following in the wake of the Wellcome Trust's decision to require recipients of its medical research grants to make their results available online within six months of publication. This marks a serious challenge to the former middlemen of research, the journal publishers who have enjoyed a profitable business model of being able to charge substantial margins on free content and effectively compulsory purchase. That is a model that cannot not survive long into the digital era, when online publication and distribution see marginal costs disappear towards zero. This newspaper has campaigned for publicly funded data to be made available, and the case is even more compelling for publicly funded research. This maximises the benefits to society and the taxpayers' investment. Information ought to be free and should be helped to escape its chains.


JISC has issued a press release on JULIET (June 30):

Following the announcement by RCUK earlier this week on its position on access to research outputs, the SHERPA project has launched a new resource which gives information to authors and academics in receipt of grants from UK Research Councils. The resource outlines the respective positions of each of the Research Councils on requirements for the archiving of research outputs.

While the RCUK statement outlines overarching principles, responsibility for policies in this area has been devolved to individual Research Councils. SHERPA’s new resource - known as JULIET - breaks down the differing requirements and simplifies what the policies say has to be done, what authors should archive and where and when they should archive their outputs. The list then categorises the different sets of advice in comparison to an ideal Open Access mandate.

The JULIET list complements the well-known RoMEO list, which summarises publishers' permissions for archiving research articles.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Scirus indexes another OA repository

Scirus Indexes Saarland University’s PsyDok Repository, a press release from Elsevier, June 27, 2006. Excerpt:
Elsevier announced today that Scirus, its free science-specific search engine, has added the contents of PsyDok, the psychology-based repository, to its index through a partnership with Saarland University, Germany. As part of its Repository Search service, Scirus is also powering the discovery service on the PsyDok site. PsyDok, developed at Saarland University and State Library (SULB), collects and preserves psychology-related journal articles, post prints, prepublications, reports, and dissertations....

“Some of the features we value the most about Scirus are the combined metadata and full-text search capabilities which greatly enhances the discovery of the content available via the PsyDok site, and the possibility to search across other high quality repositories,” said Ulrich Herb, Electronic Publishing, Digital Repositories, SULB. “In addition, Scirus greatly enhances the visibility of the PsyDok content by making it available on, helping to disseminate German-language psychology-related information globally.”

The Scirus index already includes subject-based repositories such as CogPrints (cognitive sciences), RePEc (economics), Project Euclid (mathematics and statistics) and Organic Eprints (organic agriculture) and others, underlining its commitment to increasing the visibility of subject collections. Increasing its involvement with European partners, Scirus continues to be the premiere search engine specializing in indexing all scientifically-relevant information available on the Web.

Repository reminders

In response to the new RCUK OA policy, the July issue of Internet Resources Newsletter lists the major lists of OA repositories and the major subject-based repositories.

Economics of information control

Stephen J. Grabill, The Economics of Information Control, Journal of Markets and Morality, Spring 2006. (Thanks to Jonathan Spalink.) Excerpt:

Open Access proponents praise the untold possibilities the new digital age affords for scholarship but, like Cohen and Rosenzweig, are highly critical of its commerical side. Many of them believe the serials crisis in journal publishing --which is tied to the thirty-year weakening of the scholarly book market with libraries as the chief purchasers of these books-- is due to the “commodification of information” by...powerful conglomerates....Open Access directly challenges the standard economic instrument --price-- used to control and distribute information by promoting free electronic dissemination of research findings....

A study [subscribers only] published in the most recent Journal of Scholarly Publishing (JSP), which analyses data from the Institute for Scientific Information regarding 1,317 scholarly journals in 25 marker fields during the years 1981-2000, found the vast majority of nonopen access journals were reasonably priced and fairly accessible --a conclusion that ought to temper the reformist zeal of the Open Access movement....

The economic reality is that revenue from journal publication is what often keeps a university press’s book divisions afloat. What will likely happen if these publishers lose subscription and advertising revenues, or their editors and authors? There is a symbiotic relationship between the price of a journal, the public estimation of its importance, and the probability that it will be sustainable for decades to come. Open Access journals that are completely free have no mechanism for determining just how much readers value the service it provides....


  1. Avoiding high price barriers is only one motivation of the OA movement. The primary motivation for researchers themselves is to enlarge their audience and increase their impact. Moreover, even low and moderate journal prices are access barriers to many readers and most of the software that mediates serious research. And individually affordable prices quickly add up to unaffordable totals, preventing libraries from subscribing to the full range of research. Subscriptions just do not scale (for readers, libraries, subscribers) in proportion to the explosive growth in published research.
  2. The OA movement focuses (to quote the BOAI) on "literature that...scholars give to the world without expectation of payment" --i.e. journal articles, not books. OA to books is possible and desirable, but secondary.
  3. What will happen to journal publishers that now charge subscriptions? They will continue to charge subscriptions and coexist with OA; or they will offer a mix of OA and non-OA articles and journals; or they will permit author-initiated OA (called self-archiving) without providing any themselves; or they will convert to OA; or they will fail. We presently see examples of each possibility except the last.
  4. Journal prices are either unrelated to quality or inversely related to quality. As Theodore and Carl Bergstrom concluded from their analysis of journal prices and citation impact (Nature, May 20, 2004), "libraries typically must pay 4 to 6 times as much per page for journals owned by commercial publishers as for journals owned by non-profit societies. These differences in price do not reflect differences in the quality of the journals. In fact the commercial journals are on average less cited than the non-profits and the average cost per citation of commercial journals ranges from 5 to 15 times as high as that of their non-profit counterparts."
  5. It's not true that OA journals and repositories "have no mechanism for determining just how much readers value the service [they] provide." They have download numbers and citation counts, both of which demonstrably increase when content moves from toll access to open access. Moreover, in a journal market so distorted by anti-competitive practices and monopolistic concentration, downloads and citations are more accurate measures of what readers value than willingness to pay publisher prices.

Ask researchers and librarians, not publishers, whether access is adequate

It takes a lot to make me mad..., CharteringLibrarian, June 29, 2006. Excerpt:

It takes a log to make me mad, but a post to the American Scientist Open Access forum managed to do just that today.  The post (which hasn't yet been archived) was written by Lisa Dittrich, a managing editor of the publisher Academic Medicine. I...quote...just the one line that provoked me into blogging about it:

Most scientists, though, with the possible exception of physicists, have been quite content with the "open access" they already have--namely, the ability to easily get content through their libraries, paid for by their library's budget.

WHAT??!! This goes enormously against everything I’ve ever experienced. Before working on the setup of our Repository, I worked on a Library help desk. This Library help desk was located at a Science based university, which, as far as I’m aware, is in the top 3 (if not top 1) in terms of money spent on journal subscriptions in the UK. I’m therefore slightly confused as to why I used to spend by far and away the largest amount of my time, dealing with enquiries/complaints from academics who were not happy that we didn’t hold a subscription to the articles they wanted.... I just can’t believe that a publisher has managed to convince herself that everything is fine and dandy, everyone always accesses what they want, and there is no problem with access to research!

Fortunately there has been some good news on the OA front, with yesterday's announcements from the various research councils regarding OA deposit of funded research (albeit at varying levels of mandate/encouragement).  Perhaps the RCUK announcement will not only help to increase access, but perhaps even more importantly, will begin to increase knowledge and understanding of open access?

Update. Lisa Dittrich's full post is now available on the AmSci OA Forum archive.

More on PLoS' finances

Balaji Ravichandran, Head of Public Library of Science defends financial security of publishing group, BMJ, July 1, 2006. BMJ only provides OA to the first few paragraphs:
The head of a leading online publishing house, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), has defended the financial viability of the venture after an article in Nature last week (2006;441:914) suggested that the author-pays model of funding publications, which PLoS uses, may be in crisis.

“It will not be long before substantial evidence has accumulated to demonstrate the financial viability of the author-pays model,” said Mark Gritton, chief executive officer of the open access publishing group....

Richard Smith on OA and the new RCUK policy

Richard Smith, Give it to me straight, doc, The Guardian, June 30, 2006.

The Guardian reports on the long running, life and death struggle to provide free access to medical research on its business pages, which I think is sad. The reports are on the business pages because some very large publishers - like Reed Elsevier - are threatened. Business types need to know whether to buy or sell. But the reports ought to be on the news pages, because this is a story about trying to give the public free access to medical research, the engine that drives health care. Furthermore, the public funds most of the research. Why can't it have access? Why should the public have to pay twice - once to fund the research and once to access the results?

You might already have detected my zeal. I'm on the board of the Public Library of Science, an organisation that exists to make all research available for free to everybody everywhere. (It's an unpaid position.) Traditional publishers are nervous about open access because currently they make their money by restricting access - by charging for subscriptions. If access is open, nobody will pay.

The funders of research are key in this battle. If they require researchers to publish their studies in places where it can be accessed for free, then they will. The Wellcome Trust has led the way after its director, in an apocalyptic moment, was unable to access research that he had funded. Most research is, however, funded with public money, and we have been waiting for a long time for a ruling from Research Councils UK. Yesterday we got it. After a year of pondering Research Councils UK has decided that it supports open access but will leave it to the individual research councils to decide what they want to do.

The Medical Research Council has decided that it will require its researchers to make their research available for free after six months. This is good news for us zealots, but we would prefer that the requirement be for open access from day one. The research councils are, however, responding to pressure from traditional publishers, and they are particularly sensitive to the bleating of learned societies. Big companies can look after themselves, but the councils are made up of people who are members of learned societies. Many societies get a substantial income from publishing science: it's a highly profitable business. Without the profit from the journals their good works - and certainly their ceremonial dinners - would have to be cut back.

But if, for example, you are a learned society devoted to reducing heart disease isn’t there something odd, even unethical, about making money from restricting access to research on heart disease? It’s yet another example of organisations forgetting why they exist in a struggle to stay alive. And open access wouldn’t kill them anyway. If they do things that add value - as they do - then they will find other sources of income. They shouldn’t be making money by subtracting value as they do by restricting access to research.

Bernard Shaw expressed most succinctly the economic value of making research free: "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." Ideas are our most precious resource in a knowledge economy. Open access to research will come - I and many others believe - but getting there is a tortuous process.

OA database of works in the public domain

The Public Domain Works DB is a new, OA database of cultural works in the public domain. Still under construction, the present alpha version focuses on musical recordings. The database is a joint project of Free Culture UK and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Thanks to Rufus Pollock, who adds this comment on the OKF blog:

This is a great ‘open knowledge’ project in that it combines code and data and has a strong focus on information reuse. The project aims to provide much more than ‘yet another website’ by delivering a solid database of metadata in raw form that can be reused by different projects (for example those working on the public domain, those working on orphan works, those doing bibliography). To succeed in doing this one the most interesting questions is the development of an effective ‘knowledge API’ in the form of persistent identifiers for the underlying works and artists.

Comment. The perverse state of copyright law makes this project very welcome. But in a better world, we'd have a database of works under copyright (with contact info on the rights-holders) and a legal presumption that everything else was in the public domain.

More on the French critique of Google's Library project

Ben Vershbow has a preview and review of Jean-Noël Jeanneney's forthcoming book, Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: a View from Europe.

Moving beyond panic and protest

NBC Nightly News broadcast a story on Wednesday about how it came to embrace YouTube after initially protesting its unpermitted use of NBC content. This is not about scholarly communication, of course, and the story starts with a clear, if beneficial, infringement of NBC's copyright. But look past those differences to the fact that NBC changed its mind about YouTube when it realized that the new medium could greatly enhance its visibility and impact. (Thanks to Public Knowledge.)

Automating ETD archiving in Wales

First national e-theses system launched in Wales, a press release from JISC, June 29, 2006. Excerpt:
Electronic theses held at Welsh universities can now be automatically deposited at the National Library of Wales thanks to a JISC project – the Repository Bridge - which has successfully completed its work.

As one of the UK’s legal deposit libraries, the National Library of Wales receives copies of all doctoral and research masters level theses produced at Welsh universities. Providing a system which continued this but which exploited the potential for electronic deposit and access was central to the work of the project. Based at the University of Wales Aberystwyth and the University of Wales Swansea, the Repository Bridge is now able to add the theses of other higher education institutions in Wales to the digital repository at the National Library.

With the UK as a whole moving towards the electronic provision of theses, the new system will also provide a regional hub for the UK-wide EThOS project which is looking to create a federated structure for the electronic depositing of the more than 14,000 theses produced in the UK each year. Technical innovations devised by the project have been recommended in a recent national report for wider adoption.

Arwel Jones, head of digital developments at the National Library of Wales, said: ‘The National Library of Wales is very happy with the new system which builds on a 100 year agreement between the Library and Welsh universities. This project will move the national collection of theses into the digital world and will in the future allow researchers to access these theses electronically.’

BMC welcomes the new RCUK OA policy

BioMed Central welcomes UK research councils actions to promote open access, a press release, June 29, 2006. Excerpt:

BioMed Central today welcomed the latest moves by the UK research councils to enhance access to publicly funded research in the UK.

The new policy statements from Research Councils UK (RCUK), and from the individual research councils, contribute additional momentum to the movement towards making all publicly funded research freely accessible. In particular, three research councils (the MRC, BBSRC and ESRC) have announced that they will mandate open access archiving for all the research that they fund. The statement from the Medical Research Council (MRC) is especially important for biomedical researchers, as the MRC is largest public funder of biomedical research in the UK....

The MRC statement strongly encourages grantees "to publish in journals that allow them (or their institutions) to retain ownership of the copyright," and reconfirms the MRC’s policy that funding for open access journal article-processing charges may be included in grant requests....

An important aspect of the RCUK’s overall statement, is the recognition that: "[article processing charges for open access journals] could be part of an institution’s indirect costs under the full economic costing regime." This is highly significant, since it clarifies to institutions that the cost of article processing is seen as a research infrastructure cost, and can be funded as such. This should be of great help in smoothing the transition from the traditional model in which research publishing is paid for through library subscriptions, towards an open access model, under which the cost of publication is paid for as part of the cost of doing research.

For UK-based authors, the new policies from the MRC and BBSRC, in particular, provide additional reasons to publish in BioMed Central’s 160+ open access journals. Not only do authors publishing in BioMed Central’s journals retain the copyright, but the articles are automatically deposited with PubMed Central and made openly accessible immediately on publication, satisfying the research council requirements and reducing effort on the part of the author....

New OA journal on ethnic relations

On July 3, the Aotearoa Ethnic Network will launch the AEN Journal, a peer-reviewed, OA journal on ethnic relations. For more details see today's article in Scoop.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on OA to avian flu data

The time for sitting on flu data is over, Nature, June 28, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). An unsigned editorial. Unfortunately, I don't have access, but here's an excerpt from Declan Butler's blog posting on it:
Indonesia has become the hot spot of avian flu, with the virus spreading quickly in animal populations, and human cases occurring more often there than elsewhere. Yet from 51 reported human cases so far — 39 of them fatal — the genetic sequence of only one flu virus strain has been deposited in GenBank, the publicly accessible database for such information.

Yet scientists outside the WHO networks have no access to these data. The problem last year spurred the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a consortium to sequence and make public thousands of flu strains from humans and birds. Very quickly, this more open approach led to the useful discovery that viruses swap genes with each other more frequently than had been previously thought.

Some political leaders are drawing the appropriate conclusions. Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) and Wayne Gilchrest (Republican, Maryland) are circulating a letter in the House of Representatives that calls on Michael Levitt, the US health secretary, to require H5N1 sequences and other publicly funded research data “to be promptly deposited in a publicly accessible database, such as GenBank”.

From the Kucinich letter:

Pandemic preparedness planning demands all the scientific resources we can muster. Yet, access to some critical data on avian influenza is being restricted by countries and a few scientists for various reasons including intellectual property rights. As explained in the attached letter to Secretary Leavitt [Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services or HHS], there are already models of public databases that provide protection for such concerns. Please join me in asking Secretary Leavitt to advocate that data from HHS funded research on avian influenza, and in particular, genetic sequences, be promptly placed in a publicly accessible database....

From Declan Butler's blog posting:

[The belief that prestigious journals will not publish articles whose underlying data are already public is] ill-researched;...[anyone who read] the Dreams of Flu Data editorial [Nature, March 16, 2006]...could rest assured that: “Nature and its associated journals are not alone in supporting the rapid prior exposure of data when there are acute public-health necessities.”...

With respect to animal sequences, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) this month conceded to pressure and said that they would work with the NIH to sequence H5N1 samples from birds and deposit them in GenBank.

The World Health Organization (WHO), and its member states, are likewise acutely aware that the political pressure is now on for immediate access to human sequence and clinical data on H5N1 cases. There are legitimate issues to be worked out, such as ensuring that the researchers who do the sequencing, and the countries from which the samples are derived, get credit. But these are soluble, through various permutations, for example, of the Creative Commons licences, and other legal safeguards, that allow immediate sharing, while protecting the interests of the producer of the data. But the WHO knows very well that that the diplomatic imperatives that maintained the pre-SARs lack of transparency are no longer an option, and I think we will see leadership from it in the near future, perhaps before the end of summer.

Comment. For background, see my April article on OA to avian flu data.

Note to Nature: Given the topic and urgency, wouldn't it make more sense to provide OA to this editorial than to charge $30 for pay-per-view?

Update (July 6, 2006). Declan Butler reports that 16 members of Congress have signed on to the Kucinich letter.

Recent OA developments

Creative destruction in the library, The Economist, June 29, 2006. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
The normal mechanism [of academic journal publication] is that scientists offer the fruits of their research-- often bankrolled by the taxpayer-- for nothing to publishers. Those publishers then charge money to people who wish to read their journals. Publishers have been making handsome profits from this arrangement. But change is afoot. Open-access publishing, in which papers are freely available immediately upon publication, is sweeping the dusty corridors. The catch is that the sponsors of research will have to fork out more money to pay for it.

The new fashion is to be found on both sides of the Atlantic. In America John Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas, and Joe Lieberman, a Democrat senator from Connecticut, recently introduced a bill that seeks to compel all federal government agencies “to develop public-access policies relating to research conducted by employees of that agency or from funds administered by that agency”. If it is passed, every American government outfit that commissions more than $100m-worth of research a year will have to make the results free to all-comers as soon as they are accepted for publication.

America's biggest sponsor of medical research, the National Institutes of Health, has already thrown its weight behind such a move. For the past year it has strongly encouraged the recipients of its grants to make their results available on a free archive, called PubMed Central, as soon as they are published elsewhere.

In Britain, meanwhile, the Wellcome Trust (the world’s second-biggest medical-research charity), has gone a step further. Rather than encouraging its researchers to deposit electronic copies of their findings with PubMed Central, it compels them to do so --although they have six months after publication in which to comply....

Other arms of the British scientific establishment are involved, too. On June 28th three of the eight research councils that distribute government money to British scientists announced that, in future, any work they pay for will have to be published freely soon after being accepted for publication by a journal; the other five support the principle but are not in a position to enforce it.

Britain’s Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific organisation, has also got in on the act. Like several other institutions that make at least some of their money from scientific publishing, the Royal Society had opposed open access on the grounds that standards might slip. If each article published brought additional revenue, an organisation might be tempted to run the unworthy as well as the worthy. But now the society has changed its mind, at least in part. On June 21st it launched a service that charges the authors of scientific papers a fee to post their work online as soon as it is accepted for publication by any of the society’s journals. Until now, authors have had to wait for a year before their work became freely available.

The Royal Society's American counterpart, the National Academy of Sciences, is a convert, too. In 2005 its house journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published 565 open-access papers, reflecting the fact that almost one in five authors asked (and paid) for their work to be made immediately and freely available....

There are, however, a few thorns among the roses. Traditional publishers are often sceptical about the business models of their open-access rivals, and they sometimes have cause to be. The Public Library of Science (PLoS), an American organisation regarded by many as the flagship of the open-access movement, lost almost $1m last year. As a result, it is about to increase its charge from $1,500 per article to as much as $2,500, depending on which of its journals an author publishes in. Undeterred, PLoS will, in August, launch an open-access online database called PLoS One....

BioMed Central, a British open-access publisher, has also increased its charges --from $500 to as much as $1,700 per article. It, too, has still to break even. Yet it received some good news this month. Thomson Scientific, a firm that evaluates the impact of journals, looked at citations made in 2005 of articles published between 2003 and 2004. Eleven journals published by BioMed Central received their first such assessment, and nine of them appeared in the top ten highest-impact journals in their fields. Whatever the traditional publishers might hope, open-access does not look in imminent danger of perishing.

Comment. This is a good survey of recent developments. I have just two corrections.

  1. "The catch is that the sponsors of research will have to fork out more money to pay for it." This is misleading. When researchers publish in OA journals and sponsors agree to cover the costs, then it's true the sponsors pay more ($500 - $3,000 more per article) than they would if they didn't agree to cover the costs. But when funding agencies encourage or require OA archiving, they pay nothing at all when grantees deposit their work in their own institutional repositories and only a small amount when grantees deposit in the agency's repository. For example, the NIH asks its grantees to deposit in its repository, PubMed Central, and the processing and hosting costs only come to about 0.01% of the agency's budget. Moreover, in all these cases, the cost (small or large) must be set against the agency's increased return on investment by making its research easier to discover, retrieve, and use. Finally, the cost (small or large) is only an increase over a policy not to support OA. Readers should not get the impression that it's greater than the cost of the non-OA alternative, subscription journals, whose prices have skyrocketed almost four times faster than inflation in the past two decades. As subscription journals convert to OA, there will be huge savings for all the stakeholders.
  2. The Cornyn-Lieberman bill (FRPAA) does not require immediate OA but permits a six month delay.

More on India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

Mindy Fetterman has a long story in today's USA Today on Bikram's notorious copyright on yoga moves and the Indian government's attempt, through the huge OA Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, to remove copyright and patent barriers from traditional Indian knowledge.

More on the RCUK policy

Richard Wray, Boost for free internet access to public funded research, The Guardian, June 29, 2006. Excerpt:
The push for open access to publicly funded academic research was boosted yesterday as an umbrella body supported placing subscription journals' articles on the internet for free.  But the body, Research Councils UK, whose eight members grant to academics an annual £2.5bn of public money, appears to have watered down its initial support for open access.

The body’s preliminary proposal, outlined a year ago, suggested making it a condition of the grants that researchers put work into freely available online archives as soon as possible. Yesterday the body backtracked, saying it was up to the eight councils themselves to decide whether or not to demand researchers got involved in open access....

The Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, have all opted to make online archiving a requirement of grants from this October. The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils said merely that researchers "should" archive. The remaining four councils have yet to rule on the issue.

While the position of the umbrella body was applauded by the Wellcome Trust and by JISC, the body responsible for coordinating IT in higher education, others involved in open access initiatives were less impressed.

Stevan Harnad, from the University of Southampton, in Hampshire, which backs open access, said "The green light to allow individual funding councils to decide for themselves whether or not to mandate open access self-archiving is good and bad". He said: "It is good that individual councils will be able to mandate it if they wish, bad that consensus by all the councils could not be reached."

Update. Wray now has a revised and longer version of this article, same title, same date, same paper, different URL.

More on the new RCUK policy

British Group Retreats From Requiring Open Access to Research, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, June 28, 2006.

A year after releasing a draft policy on open access, the umbrella organization of Britain’s publicly financed research councils has softened its stance. The group, Research Councils UK, originally called for free access to papers resulting from research it financed “at the earliest opportunity” (The Chronicle, June 29, 2005). But now, in a new policy statement released today, the group will allow each of the eight member councils to formulate its own policy.

Thus far, only one research council --the Medical Research Council-- requires free access, according to the blog of a leading open-access advocate, Peter Suber, who is director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group in Washington.

Nonetheless, the updated policy statement continues to support open access and asserts that “ideas and knowledge derived from publicly funded research must be made available and accessible for public use, interrogation, and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly, and effectively as possible.”

The open-access movement in the United States also seems to be evolving in fits and starts (The Chronicle, May 11).

Correction. In my blog posting yesterday, my quick skim of the eight Research Council web sites led me to overlook the fact that the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has adopted an OA mandate as strong as that of the Medical Research Council (MRC). Both will mandate OA to the research they fund, effective October 1, 2006. Both will require deposit "at the earliest opportunity", though the MRC adds "and certainly within six months". The MRC requires deposit in PubMed Central while the BBSRC requires deposit "in an appropriate e-print repository". Both apply their policies to agency employees as well as grantees. My apologies for the omission.

Spreading MIT's Open Courseware in Africa

MIT looking for African open courseware partners, Tectonic, June 27, 2006. (Thanks to Open Up.) Excerpt:
MIT OpenCourseWare is looking for African educational institutions to offer mirror sites for its free, Web-based teaching materials....Unfortunately, says MIT OpenCourseWare's Farnaz Haghseta, the OCW materials are largely underutilised in many African regions where Internet connectivity is limited. To overcome this limitation, MIT OCW is looking to collaborate with educational institutions that are interested in hosting a mirror site, or a local copy of the MIT OCW materials.

Through the MIT OCW in a Box programme, MIT OCW has received support to distribute MIT OCW in a Box packages for free to African institutions. Each package includes an external hard drive that contains an copy of the entire MIT OCW Web site (including videos), software tools, user documentation, and marketing material.

Haghseta says the goal of the programme is to have 100 mirror sites installed at African educational institutions by the end of 2006.   Interested institutions should contact Haghseta at

More on the RCUK's new OA policy

Stevan Harnad, World OA Policy Sweepstakes: UK Retakes Commanding Lead, Open Access Archivangelism, June 28, 2006.
(1) The RCUK’s decision today to let individual funding councils decide for themselves whether or not to mandate OA self-archiving is both good and bad.  It is good that the individual councils will be able to mandate it if they wish (and bravo to MRC, BBSRC & ESRC for already doing so: CCLRC is close, and I am sure other councils will be mandating too!), but too bad that consensus by all the councils could not be reached.

(2) The "plans to assess the impact of author-pays publishing and self-archiving on research publishing" are empty nonsense.

First, the most important impact of OA is on research, researchers, and the public that funds them, and that impact has already been tested and repeatedly demonstrated to be highly positive, with OA dramatically enhancing research usage and impact.

Second, the only objective way to assess the impact of mandated self-archiving on publishing is to mandate it and monitor the outcome yearly. So far, spontaneous, unmandated self-archiving remains at about 15% overall, and that's why OA needs to be mandated. So far spontaneous self-archiving has had zero impact on publishing (i.e., subscription revenues), even in the few fields (of physics) where it has been close to 100% for years....

In other words, this call for further studies to "assess impact" before mandating OA self-archiving is merely a cop-out in response to publishing community lobbying, which has already successfully filibustered self-archiving mandates for several years now: In reality, the self-archiving mandates themselves are the only objective test of their own impact.

Let us hope the other individual Research Councils will, like MRC, BBSRC and ESRC (CCLRC is already close) have the good sense to go ahead and conduct the tests, by adopting the mandates.

Notes on the Rio iCommons

David Bollier has blogged some notes on the iCommons iSummit (Rio de Janeiro, June 23-25, 2006). Excerpt:
iCommons is the next stage in the evolution of the movement unleashed by the Creative Commons, whose licenses are now used on more than 145 million creative works. In the course of adapting its licenses to the legal systems of several dozen nations, the Creative Commons has over the past few years attracted some formidable talent -- hundreds of free and open source software programmers, copyright and patent reform activists, bloggers, citizen journalists, indie musicians, Wikipedians, free culture champions, advocates of open access scholarly publishing, scientists seeking to build new knowledge commons, among many others. The CC realized that these folks needed to learn from each other, and collaborate with each other....

Macmillan CEO on PLoS' finances

Richard Charkin is the CEO of Macmillan, the owner of Nature. Yesterday he posted a note on his blog about the recent Nature article on PLoS' finances (thanks to William Walsh):
...And finally an excellent article in Nature which analyses the financial standing of the most important open access organisation The Public Library of Science. What the article shows is that the 'author pays' model for scientific publishing is likely to be unsustainable without charitable support. I don't think that scientific publishing should be a charitable enterprise. Its innovation and growth has been driven by commercial market pressures to improve which have always been the best guarantee of high-quality service. The alternatives nearly always end in bureaucracy and protection of the status quo.


  1. The Nature article shows nothing of the kind. PLoS only talked about charitable support for two of its seven journals, and the article didn't even pretend to examine any other OA journals from any other publishers. For example, the Hindawi OA journals are already profitable. --And of course Charkin doesn't compare OA business models to the present subscription model, which the University of California (among others) has called "incontrovertibly unsustainable".
  2. Charkin slides from business models to quality without any evidence or argument. He seems unaware that PLoS Biology has the highest impact factor of any journal in ISI's category of general biology.
  3. Honestly, who has a stronger interest in protecting the status quo, open access journals or their critics? Who's trying to preserve the status quo right here, right now?

More on OA to data

Alf Eaton has blogged some notes on the RIN conference, Data webs: new visions for research data on the Web (London, June 28, 2006).

More on the problem and the solution

Martin Weller, Academic publishing - a rant, The Ed Techie, June 28, 2006. (Thanks to Ray Corrigan.) Excerpt:

For those who don’t engage in [academic publishing], the deal goes something like this:

  • Academics provide the content
  • Academics do the reviewing
  • Academics often do the editing
  • Publishers print it and sell it back to academics
  • Authors are often restricted from making their own work publicly available
  • Authors receive no payment for the published work

Not an entirely fair system one would have thought, but because journal publication is tied up with academic esteem, promotion and the rather pernicious RAE, it is a process many of us feel compelled to go along with.

Thankfully the tide is turning and there are a number of different models for publishing now, including online journals, open content and err, blogs I guess.

PS: Right. I'd just add that the remedy, or the superior alternative, does not lie in "online" journals as such, which may be guilty of the same practices. It lies in open-access journals, which are online but also free of charge and free of the restrictions that prevent authors from sharing their work as widely as possible. Open-access archives are another part of the solution, giving authors the same benefits even if they publish in conventional, non-OA journals.

Ray English, ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year

Steven Bell, Honoring Ray English - ACRL Academic/Research Librarian Of The Year, ACRLog, June 28, 2006. Excerpt:
One of the best ACRL traditions that occurs at ALA conferences is the reception that follows the ACRL President’s Program. The focus of the reception, other than general schmoozing, is to celebrate the winner of the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The winner of the 2006 award, Ray English, Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries at Oberlin College, was honored at the reception. The award, sponsored by YBP Library Services, recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant national or international contribution to academic/research librarianship and library development....Congratulations to Ray English on receiving the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year award.

PS: I whole-heartedly add (or repeat) my congratulations. Ray is not only a librarian's librarian, but a champion of OA. He's the chair of the SPARC Steering Committee, an active member of the Open Access Working Group --and by chance, co-author (with me) of an article published earlier this month on the FRPAA and CURES bills now before the US Senate.

German court supports Google's book-scanning

David Drummond, Germany and the Google Books Library Project, Google Blog, June 28, 2006. Excerpt:
We're delighted that WBG, a German publisher, today decided to drop its petition for a preliminary injunction against the Google Books Library Project. WBG (whose legal action was supported by the German Publishers Association as an industry model) made the decision after being told by the Copyright Chamber of the Regional Court of Hamburg that its petition was unlikely to succeed.

It's our belief that the display of short snippets from in-copyright books does not infringe German copyright law. Today the Court indicated that it agreed, drawing a comparison with the snippets used in Google web search. And the Court also rejected the WBG's argument that the scanning of its books in the U.S. infringed German copyright law.

We've always recognized the importance of copyright, because we believe that authors and publishers deserve to be rewarded for their creative endeavors. And we specifically designed Google Book Search to respect copyright law - never showing more than two or three snippets around a search term without the publisher's prior permission, which they can give through our Partner Program. This is separate from the Library Project, the subject of this petition. By helping people to find and buy books, Book Search enables publishers to reach a much larger, and more global, audience....

Comment. This is an important decision, though it only applies to German law and isn't apparently final even for German law. It gives long-awaited legal support to Google's key contention: that although it makes full-text copies for indexing, without seeking permission, it only displays short, fair-use snippets to users, and that the length of the displayed snippets is more relevant than the length of the undisplayed copies. Many US lawyers and law professors specializing in copyright law believe that the same argument will prevail in US courts.

Update. Also see the growing news coverage of this story.

Database of funding agency OA policies

SHERPA has launched JULIET, a database of the OA policies adopted by various funding agencies. As of today, it covers the eight Research Councils of the UK, the Wellcome Trust, and the NIH. JULIET is the natural complement to SHERPA's RoMEO list on the OA policies of publishers and journals. From today's announcement:
SHERPA's new JULIET service breaks down the differing requirements from each of the Research Councils (and others) to try and simplify [1] what the policy says has to be done, [2] what authors should archive, [3] when they should archive, [4] where they should archive their outputs....

It is intended to add other policies from other funding bodies to JULIET as these become available.

Comment. This is an excellent idea announced with perfect timing. It should be very useful for researchers who need to understand the terms of funding from different agencies and for advocates and analysts who need to track the progress of funder-stimulated OA.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

JISC endorses new RCUK OA policy

JISC has issued a press release in support of the new RCUK OA policy. Excerpt:
JISC today welcomed the RCUK’s position statement on access to research outputs, saying that the statement represents ‘an important step’ in helping to ensure that the fruits of UK research are made more widely available. With individual research councils beginning to set out their guidance for implementing the RCUK principles, the statement will have major repercussions for the future of UK research.

Published today, the statement reaffirms the RCUK’s belief in the value of repositories as a means of improving access to the results of publicly-funded research. It also restates its encouragement given last year to UK researchers to deposit their outputs in e-print repositories, suggesting that deposit should take place at the earliest opportunity.

JISC fully supports this principle and is investing significantly in the development of institutional repositories in the UK through its £3.5m digital repositories programme and the £13.8m repositories and preservation strand of its capital programme. JISC is also supporting the development of UK PubMed Central as a repository for research outputs in bio-medicine. JISC is therefore well placed to ensure that repositories are available for researchers who wish to deposit their outputs in them, and that the necessary national infrastructure is in place to support access and resource discovery across institutional and subject-based repositories....

More on the RCUK policy

Stephen Pincock, UK research to be open access, TheScientist, June 28, 2006. Excerpt:

Scientists funded by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will soon be obliged to deposit copies of their published articles in an online repository “at the earliest opportunity,” the council announced today (June 28).  The new archiving requirements will apply to papers arising from grant applications submitted on or after October 1st 2006, and for projects funded at BBSRC-sponsored institutes, the council said in a statement on its Web site.

The BBSRC decision came as part of a wider position statement published today by Research Councils UK, the umbrella body for all of the UK’s seven research councils, which distribute government funds.  That long-awaited policy says that researchers funded by any of the councils should deposit their research outputs in a repository. However, it leaves the decision on how and when to implement such a policy up to each of the individual research councils, each of which funds research in different disciplines.

Leaving the decision up to the individual councils was an important point when drafting the statement, said Adrian Pugh from RCUK. “We’ve been aware that there is a huge breadth of variation within the research community and it’s very difficult to capture all the nuances that go across that community,” he told The Scientist....

Today’s statement comes 12 months after RCUK published a draft position statement on this issue. That earlier statement had triggered a hostile reaction from some journal publishers, but Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, told The Scientist she was “much happier with what the RCUK has now done.”  For instance, Morris applauded the fact that RCUK had put an emphasis on working with publishers to make the arrangements, and that the policy recognized that different disciplines would respond in different ways....

Report on the Lund conference on biomedical publishing

Christian Gumpenberger wrote a report in German on the 1st European Conference on Scientific Publishing in Biomedicine and Medicine (Lund, April 21-22, 2006). Now his report is also available in English.

The RCUK updates its OA policy

The Research Councils UK have issued an updated position statement on access to research outputs (dated June 2006, released today). Excerpt:
[1] In June 2005, the Executive Group of Research Councils UK (RCUK) issued a draft position statement on access to research outputs. Following consultation and discussion, the research councils remain committed to the principles that underpinned that statement and agree on the further activities necessary to develop their position. These principles state that:...Ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research must be made available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as practicable....

[3] RCUK Executive Group reaffirms its long-standing position that authors choose where to place their research for publication. It is for authors’ institutions to decide whether they are prepared to use funds for any page charges or other publishing fees. Such funds could be part of an institution’s indirect costs under the full economic costing regime. RCUK Executive Group makes no judgement as to the most appropriate publishing model.

[4] Research councils agree that their funded researchers should, where required to do so, deposit the outputs from research councils funded research in an acceptable repository as designated by the individual research council. This requirement will be effective from the time indicated in the guidance from the individual research council, This guidance will be published on individual Research Council websites and will, where appropriate, require funded researchers to:

  • Personally deposit, or otherwise ensure the deposit of, a copy of any resultant articles published in journals or conference proceedings, in an appropriate repository, as designated by the individual research council.
  • Wherever possible, personally deposit, or otherwise ensure the deposit of, the bibliographical metadata relating to such articles, including a link to the publisher’s website, at or around the time of publication.

[5] Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that current copyright and licensing policies, for example embargo periods or provisions limiting the use of deposited content to non-commercial purposes, are respected by authors. The research councils' position is based on the assumption that publishers will maintain the spirit of their current policies.

[6] Where relevant, grant guidelines will be amended to provide guidance to grant holders on the requirement for ensuring the deposit of material, and will apply from the date indicated in individual research council’s guidance. These research councils will also encourage, but not formally oblige, award-holders to deposit articles arising from grants awarded as a result of applications before that date.

[7] RCUK Executive Group has consulted widely on its position statement and it is clear that there is a wide spectrum of views on the likely impact of self-archiving on subscription journals. Accordingly, RCUK Executive Group will:

  • Organise a workshop jointly with interested learned societies to discuss the implications for them of self-archiving.
  • Consult with the publishing community regarding copyright and licensing issues through existing forums. There is no intention that individual researchers will be expected to break publishers’ copyright or licensing agreements or to negotiate with publishers.
  • Initiate a project to investigate the impact of author-pays publication and self-archiving on research publishing. Three leading publishers (Macmillan, Blackwell and Elsevier) have indicated that they are prepared to be involved in the project. Discussions have also taken place with the Royal Society, which also believes that such research could be useful. It is intended that this project will start late in 2006 and report in late 2008. RCUK will review its position in mid to late 2008 in light of the findings from this research. A pre-study with the Research Information Network and the Department of Trade and Industry on the availability of data on scholarly publishing has already started.

Also see the RCUK press release.

In recognition of the diverse research communities served by each Research Council individual Councils will publish guidelines for their communities on access to research outputs in each field. This will ensure that each discipline is best able to respond in ways aligned to their needs. Initial guidance has been published today on Research Council websites.

Here are the eight Research Councils and the web sites where they will describe (or are already describing) their separate OA policies:

Comments. This news is big but mixed.

  1. See my summary of the draft RCUK policy (June 2005) superseded by today's policy.
  2. The 2005 draft policy was superb and had four chief strengths: First, it mandated OA and did not merely request it. Second, it applied to all publicly-funded research, not just biomedicine. Third, it gave authors some flexibility about the OA archive in which to deposit their work. Fourth, it offered to pay the fees at OA journals that charge fees. The new policy preserves the second two strengths but may or may not preserve the first two.
  3. The new policy seems to mandate OA and seems to cover all the disciplines. But all it really does is defer to the eight separate policies of the eight Research Councils, most of which are still under development. We already know that some will mandate OA and some won't (see next). Today's policy merely requires OA when it is required by one of the Research Councils, an unremarkable tautology.
  4. Some of the eight Research Councils say they are working on policies and will announce them before the end of 2006. The EPSCR may not announce its policy until 2008. But three have already taken positions. For example, the CCLRC has decided to "strongly encourage" rather than mandate OA, a major disappointment. It's following the path of the NIH, which has proved that strong encouragement does not work. The ESRC has decided that "its funded researchers should deposit the outputs from any research in the ESRC awards and outputs repository, where this is permitted by publishers' licensing or copyright arrangements," another major disappointment that gives publishers discretion to nullify the policy. The MRC has decided to mandate OA effective October 1, the only one of the eight so far to take this stand.
  5. Because some of the Research Councils will not mandate OA, and because they are not required to do so, the new policy is a retreat from the 2005 draft policy. If the RCUK is thinking that different agencies in different disciplines face different circumstances, and need flexibility to respond to those differences, then it's correct. But it could still mandate OA in each field, and if it still adheres to the principles of the 2005 draft (as it says it does), then it should do so. For one way to to this, see the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), introduced in Congress last month. FRPAA asks federal agencies to develop their own OA policies under certain guidelines laid down in the bill, and one of those guidelines is that they mandate OA to the research they fund.

More on OA to data

The new issue of Data Science Journal (Vol. 5, 2006) is now online. Two of its articles are on OA:
  1. Jitendra Gaikwad and Vishwas Chavan, Open access and biodiversity conservation: changes and potentials for the developing world. Abstract: Access to and sharing of data is essential for biodiversity conservation. However, workers from developing nations that harbor rich biodiversity often do not have access to biodiversity information and often are not keen on making what data they have accessible to others. Open access initiatives offer a great opportunity to make the world's biodiversity information accessible to anyone, at any time and in any place. This article reviews the state of open access in the developing world and argues for the increase of data on biodiversity in the public domain. It makes specific suggestions about how the developing world can reap the benefits of this global S&T movement to better conserve and sustain biotic resources through the creation of a "virtual biodiversity research space".
  2. Jens Klump and nine co-authors, Data publication in the open access initiative. Abstract: The 'Berlin Declaration' was published in 2003 as a guideline to policy makers to promote the Internet as a functional instrument for a global scientific knowledge base. Because knowledge is derived from data, the principles of the 'Berlin Declaration' should apply to data as well. Today, access to scientific data is hampered by structural deficits in the publication process. Data publication needs to offer authors an incentive to publish data through long-term repositories. Data publication also requires an adequate licence model that protects the intellectual property rights of the author while allowing further use of the data by the scientific community.

The PLoS view of OA

Virginia Barbour and Mark Patterson, Open access: the view of the Public Library of Science, Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 4 (2006) pp. 1450-1453. Excerpt:

In 2006, the publishing landscape contains an increasing number of fully open-access journals. There are also many journals that are experimenting with hybrid models, offering OA models to authors who have the funds to pay for this. In addition, many academic institutions are beginning to host their own electronic repositories of research output. These public repositories would ideally hold the final published versions of articles, but in the face of some opposition from publishers, researchers are often only able to deposit accepted but unedited versions of their articles...

It is almost inconceivable that in 10 years' time, OA to the primary research literature will not have become the favored model of publishing. The challenge for all with an interest in publishing is to work out the way to get there. Any solution must recognize the fears of current publishers and societies over possible loss of revenue, while at the same time not allow the profitability of the existing model to stifle innovation....[T]here can be little doubt that OA to this information will be to the long-term benefit of authors, readers, and ultimately society.

OA to Whois

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants open access to Whois in order to help fight spam, scams, and spyware.

Comment. We all hate spam, scams, and spyware, but we should understand what's in the other pan of the scale here. Whois isn't research data. It includes some private information on domain registrants, such as an email address, snail-mail address, and phone number. Apart from the privacy problem, disclosing this info could worsen spam (at least for domain registrants). Some of this info is already OA or easy to find, but the FTC wants OA to all of it. It's not clear whether the FTC wants easy access just for itself, or just for law enforcement, or whether it wants easy access for everyone. ICANN wants Whois info to be used only for technical purposes.

Making the valuable sustainable

Jan Velterop, An 'Alms' Race? The Parachute, June 27, 2006. Excerpt:

In a posting entitled Mandating OA via Paid Publisher-Archiving (PPA) versus Author Self-Archiving (ASA), Stevan Harnad states "If research institutions and funders have the spare cash to pay whatever publishers ask today for PPA without having to take it away from research allotments, then the outcome (100% OA) is welcome and optimal for all."

I'll comment on PPA in a moment, but let's first look at this extraordinary statement. It reduces science publishing entirely to an 'alms race'. Publishers stretching out their hands in the hope that some benevolent librarian or funder will throw in a few coins, thus enabling the publishers to go on publishing. It beggars belief, if this expression was ever appropriate to use. What a way to sustain the formal peer-reviewed journal literature! The formal peer-reviewed journal literature is clearly worth very little. In his view.

Those with a 'harnadian' inclination should really not bother publishers at all with their articles. They should just 'archive' (read 'publish') them in some repository and move on....

Subscriptions, on the whole, currently sustain the journal system. But they have a downside. They do not, by definition, provide open access. So that’s why new publishing models have emerged that do. Unfortunately, Stevan derisorily calls these new publishing models PPA, for ’Paid Publisher-Archiving’. As if ’archiving’ is what publishers do. Nobody pays a publisher for archiving and no publisher asks for payment for archiving. Publishers ask for payment for having an article peer-reviewed and formally published in a reputable journal. By having an article peer-reviewed and formally published in a reputable journal, it becomes worth a lot more than if it were just self-published. Worth a lot more to the author (or would some informally published article be seen in the same light by your tenure committee as one that’s published in a journal with an impact factor?), worth a lot more to the reader (or would a citation to some informally published article be taken as seriously as one that’s published in a journal with an impact factor?), worth a lot more to the funder, worth a lot more to science, and worth a lot more to society at large....

If there is value in the system, however, it needs to be properly sustained. Not with alms.

Also see Jan's follow-up post (responding to Bill Hooker's comment) in which he makes clear that he's talking about reliable ways to pay for peer review, not the value of peer review itself, which Harnad supports as much as he does. "...It is just possible that there may be reasons why researchers are researchers and publishers publishers. Everbody can sow the seed to grow the wheat to grind the flower to bake the bread. Who, after all, needs farmers, millers and bakers?"

What's delaying OA?

Stevan Harnad, On Delaying and Disrupting OA, Open Access Archivangelism, June 27, 2006.
Summary: There is some difference of opinion as to what is delaying and disrupting OA: whether it is (1) promoting immediate OA self-archiving mandates (such as the FRPAA's, RCUK's, or EC's), or (2) opposing them. The following are excerpts from a series of exchanges in the American Scientist Open Access Forum. It is left to the reader (and history) to decide what, exactly, constitutes the delaying and disrupting.

OA for development

The seven discussion papers structuring the the 12-day online forum, The Open Access Movement and Information for Development (sponsored by the Coady International Institute, May 29 - June 9, 2006) are now online. (Thanks to Heather Morrison.)

More on Elsevier's hybrid journals

Elsevier Cautiously Tries a Variation on Open Access, Library Journal, June 28, 2006. A short, unsigned note.
The world's leading STM publisher, Elsevier, announced this month that it will offer authors the chance to make their articles freely available for a fee. Six journals in physics will offer the option, including Nuclear Physics A, Nuclear Physics B, Nuclear Physics B, Proceedings Supplements, Nuclear Instruments and Methods A, Physics Letters B, and Astroparticle Physics. Elsevier officials say that 30 more journals across other fields also will offer this option in the coming months. The author charge for article sponsorship is $3000, excluding taxes and other potential author fees such as color charges. In addition, the articles must be accessed through Elsevier's ScienceDirect. With the move, Elsevier now joins its competitors, including Springer and Blackwell, in offering authors a variation on open access, if not open access, at a cost higher than that charged by subsidized OA providers like the Public Library of Science.

PS: Actually, Elsevier made the announcement on May 24.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Adding retroactive, open review to PubMed

Biowizard has launched PubMed Wizard. From today's announcement:
BioWizard....announces the launch of PubMed Wizard, an online resource enabling the universal open-access review of scientific and medical literature. For the first time, scientists have the ability to freely rank and discuss in real-time any of the more than 16 million published articles within the PubMed database.

BioWizard was designed to make scientific knowledge dynamic, enable post-publication review in an open-access forum, and resolve vital deficiencies in how scientific information is accessed, reviewed, shared, and archived. Now, BioWizard's PubMed Wizard transforms current static literature searches into an active and interconnected resource for scientists. Using PubMed Wizard, authors and researchers can now post comments, share ideas, and ask questions on a live archive of all published literature, giving everyone in the community a voice and allowing ground-breaking research to rise to the forefront of scientific debate....

Springer gives $1 million in free ebooks to New Orleans universities

Scott Carlson, Publisher Gives 10,000 E-Books to 7 New Orleans Colleges Hit by Katrina, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 27, 2006. Excerpt:
Perhaps people living in flood zones have a kinship that defies traditional rivalries and animus. At least that's the perspective of Robert E. Skinner, the university librarian at Xavier University of Louisiana, after his library and six others in the state were given more than $1-million in e-books by Springer, a publishing company founded in part in the flood-prone Netherlands.

Librarians and publishers are usually at opposite ends of negotiating tables and frequently squabble in public over the rising prices of online journal subscriptions. With the gift from Springer, the seven Louisiana libraries will get free, permanent access to more than 10,000 electronic books, mainly in the sciences, technology, and medicine.

The announcement of the gift was made at this year's American Library Association conference, held in New Orleans, still devastated in areas 10 months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. At the event, "one of their reps mentioned in the presentation that Holland is 50 percent below sea level," Mr. Skinner said. With this gift, "I think they are saying that there but by the grace of God and technology go us."...

More on FRPAA and the society publishers

Proposed Law Puts Scholarly Societies in Curious Spot, Greenhouse Associates, June 2006.
Many of the nation’s scholarly societies and associations are up in arms about a proposed law that would require research conducted with federal money to be made available to the public free of charge. The proposed Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) puts the scholarly society and associations in a contradictory spot. On one hand, they represent the interests of serious scholarship, which favors wide dissemination of research findings. But many of them also publish prestigious journals-and depend on the profits from journal subscriptions to underwrite their other activities-so a bill that might reduce journal revenues is anathema to them. In fields like medicine, most research depends on federal dollars and therefore would be subject to FRPAA’s open access rules.

There is some evidence that the public believes open access will have positive societal consequences. A solid majority of the public favors open access to publicly-funded research, according to a Harris poll released May 31, which said that that large majorities believe that open access would help advance medical care and scientific accomplishments in the civilian world. Whether open access is ultimately a salient enough issue like stem cell research for the public to weigh in, however, remains to be seen.

More on the PLoS fees and the costs of OA publishing

T. Scott Plutchak, Funding Open Access, T. Scott, June 27, 2006. Excerpt:

The recent announcement by PLoS that they're increasing some of their fees has provided plenty of fodder for those on all sides of the issue.  On liblicense-l, Peter Banks uses the occasion as proof that the PLoS business model is unsustainable.  Jan Velterop, commenting on the Nature article, comes to quite a different conclusion, pointing out that it typically takes seven years for a new journal to break even anyway, so that the adjustments at PLoS are just part of the normal evolution of things....

Many librarians seem happy to get on the OA bandwagon, as long as somebody else is going to pay.  Take it from funding agencies, or take it from the research budget, or take it from a society's membership fees -- just don't take it from my budget!  OA is a great and wonderful thing -- as long as somebody else is paying for it.  Frankly, I don't understand this.  It's not my money, it's not the library's money -- it's the institution's money.  My university gives me authority to spend a considerable amount of cash in order to advance its work.  My particular specialty is supposed to be in helping the institution manage scholarly information -- to get access to what they need, to use it as efficiently as possible, to provide support for collaboration and the advancement of knowledge....If I consider the work of PLoS to be important -- essential, even -- then why is it less reasonable for me to contribute $10,000 to its operations that it is for me to send $10,000 to one of the commercial publishers for access to a single title?...

The argument is made from time to time that if the funding for scholarly communication shifts from the readership side (subscriptions) to the production side (author's fees, or funder's fees, or however you want to characterize it), the larger research institutions are going to bear a greater burden than they do under the current system.    Peter Suber, whose work I quite admire, attempts to skewer this argument by pointing out that most of the OA journals in DOAJ don't charge any publication fees whatsoever.  The implication is that if authors published in those journals, we could have OA without any increase in overall costs.  I suppose this might be so, but those making the argument are using a narrower frame, and looking just at the question of what would happen if we replaced subscription revenue with publication side revenue.    The assumption here (contrary to the assumption underlying Peter's rebuttal) is that the overall cost of publishing doesn't change.  If that's the case, then obviously some institutions will pay less and some will pay more.  And those paying more will be those producing most of the articles.

But I don't see a problem here (theoretically -- the political problems are huge, of course).  Why shouldn't the big research institutions pay the additional costs involved in disseminating high-quality, peer-reviewed, copy-edited and value-added research literature?  We won't want to, of course.  (Nobody actuallys wants to pay for open access).   It doesn't seem like any great leap from the current situation in which research universities provide the bulk of the subscription revenue -- the purpose is still, ultimately, to fund quality publishing....

[The new PLoS] fees are much closer to the figures that the commercial publishers were suggesting were necessary back when BMC was charging $550 per article and the OA partisans were bashing the publishers for coming up with unnecessarily inflated numbers for what publication really costs....If that's the case, and it turns out that OA publishing (no matter how it is funded) is not really going to be significantly cheaper overall than the subscription-based system, librarians are going to have to fairly ask the question -- if you want Open Access, are you willing to pay?


  1. I agree with T. Scott that the new PLoS fees raise the question whether OA publishing costs less than conventional publishing. But the PLoS fees are not yet comparable to the costs cited by commercial publishers --who really did, BTW, cite "unnecessarily inflated numbers" for their publication costs. For example, Nature has claimed that publishing one article costs it £30,000. See Richard Charkin's oral testimony before the UK House of Commons (scroll to p. Ev 2, Q16). Charkin is the CEO of Macmillan, parent company of Nature.
  2. But even when we put those inflated numbers to one side, the PLoS fees haven't yet risen to the levels of commercial publishing fees. The two flagship PLoS journals not only provide quality at the highest end of the scale, but provide professionally written lay synopses of each article. Their expenses are higher than the average journal and yet their fees are still well below those charged by Springer or Elsevier for OA articles.
  3. Moreover, there are still good reasons to think that OA publishing does cost less than traditional publishing: it dispenses with print (or prices the optional print edition at cost), eliminates subscription management, eliminates DRM, eliminates lawyer fees for licenses and enforcement, reduces or eliminates marketing, and reduces or eliminates profit margins. In their place it adds back little more than the cost of collecting author-side fees or institutional subsidies.
  4. And just for clarification: In the article of mine that T. Scott cites, on university costs in a world in which all journals converted to OA, I wasn't denying that high-output research universities would pay more than low-output universities. I've always agreed that they would, just as they pay more now for subscriptions, and I don't see this as a reason to resist the rise of OA journals. (I'm glad that T. Scott agrees on this point.) I only argued that high-output institutions would pay less for author-side fees than they pay now for subscriptions.

More on trade embargoes applied to scholarship

Some US journal editors still interpret the US trade embargo against Iran as prohibiting the editing and publishing of articles by Iranian scholars. While this was once the correct interpretation of idiotic rules, recent amendments have made it doubtful.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the latest two articles to be snagged this way have been published in Britain instead. Excerpt:

This spring two petroleum-geology papers got stuck in a morass of government regulations. After having received acceptance notifications from AAPG Bulletin, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geology, the papers were rejected because the authors had indirect ties to the Iranian government (The Chronicle, April 20).  The association’s move was criticized by some as overly cautious, but the journal editors feared breaking a U.S. Treasury Department rule that allows American publishers to edit and publish papers by authors in certain countries under a trade embargo, including Iran, only if the authors are not part of that country’s government.

Now both papers, whose authors are in Norway and Iran, have been accepted and await publication this summer by Petroleum Geoscience. The difference? That journal is published by the Geological Society Publishing House, a British organization.

Comment. I am one who thinks the AAPG Bulletin was being overly cautious, but I also blame the US Treasury Department for vaguely relaxing the ban on scientific editing rather than clearly and utterly repealing it. Kudos to Petroleum Geoscience (although it is not OA) for refusing to let politics interfere with science.

More on the CNRS OA policy

Stevan Harnad, Joint Draft Agreement on Open Access in France, Open Access Archivangelism, June 27, 2006.
Summary: France has one of the most centralised research networks in the world. Hence it is in a better position to generate Open Access on a national scale overnight than most other countries. It is not happening overnight, but it may be happening. The French research and higher education institutions are to issue a Joint Draft Agreement on Open Access which will begin as a request but may become a requirement for all French researchers to deposit their articles in HAL, the French network of Open Access Archives. There is still some timidity about mandating, as well as about legalities, but the empirical evidence of the feasibility and the efficacy of self-archiving mandates, plus the strategy of requiring deposit but merely requesting that access be set as Open Access (while allowing the option of Closed Access) moots all practical and legal objections to an exception-free, immediate-deposit mandate -- and adding the semi-automatic EMAIL EPRINT feature to HAL will tide over research access needs during any Closed-Access embargo interval. Let us hope France will put its Joint Draft Agreement into practice soon.

The body of the posting is "a synoptic translation, followed by the original, of an important French press release about forthcoming OA developments in France." (See my blog posting on this from June 23.)

Upfront funding without OA

Rufus Pollock, The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, June 26, 2006. Excerpt:
It took 12 years to produce (1988-2000) and cost 4.5 million dollars (according to its editor Richard Talbert). It has a whole page dedicated to listing donors and supporters of the project. It recruited seventy-three compilers, with ten regional editors with ninety-five reviewers and twenty-two cartographers. It is 148 pp. long and with companion gazetteer comes in at $350.00 (if you take the gazetteer on paper — 1,383 pp. — it comes down to $150.00)....

Given the knowledge stored up in this work and that it seems to have been funded up-front to a large extent this seems a very inefficient way to disseminate it. I can’t help wondering what would happen if they made a digital version of this work open, free for anyone to use and reuse.

OA is one of the top tech trends

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Top Five Technology Trends, Digital Koans, June 26, 2006. Excerpt:

As usual, the LITA top 10 technology trends session at ALA produced some thought-provoking results. And, as usual, I have a somewhat different take on this question....I’ll whittle my list down to five.

[1] Digital Copyright Wars: Big media and publishers are far from finished changing copyright laws to broaden, strengthen, and lengthen the rights of copyright holders. And they are not yet done protecting their digital turf with punitive lawsuits either. One big copyright impact on libraries is digitization: you can only safely digitize what’s in the public domain or what you have permission for (and the permission process can be difficult or impossible). There’s always fair use of course, if you have the deep pockets and institutional backing needed to defend yourself (like Google does) or if your efforts are tolerated (like e-reserves has been so far, except for a few sub rosa publisher objections). In opposition to this trend is a movement by the Creative Commons and others to persuade authors, musicians, and other copyright holders to license their works in ways that permit liberal use and reuse of them....

[5] Open Access: If there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the scholarly communication crisis, it’s open access. Efforts to produce alternative low-cost journals are important and deserve full support, but the open access movement’s impact is far greater, and it offers global access to scholars whose institutions may not be able to pay even modest subscription fees and to unaffiliated individuals.

Digital scholarship and digital libraries

Liz Lyon, Digital libraries and digital scholarship: changing roles and responsibilities, a slide presentation at the SCONUL Conference and AGM (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, June 21-23, 2006).

Loughborough's IR

Loughborough University's institutional repository will officially launch tomorrow.


The ALPSP has released its June 26 letter to Sen. Susan Collins, chair of the Senate committee considering FRPAA. Excerpt:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding Senate bill S. 2695, the ‘Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006’...
  • We believe that publishers are already doing a great deal to make not just federally-funded but all research as widely available as possible.
  • However, any ‘one size fits all’ policies which aim to further extend such availability risk damaging the ability of learned society and other publishers to recoup their substantial investment.
  • Such Government intrusion into the market would, we believe, be totally inappropriate.
  • Rather, we believe that individual research funders should work closely with publishers in their own disciplines to develop policies and processes which maximise access to research without causing damage to publishers.

ALPSP supports any effort to increase access to research....

[W]here all or most of a journal’s content is freely available in a third-party repository, usage of the publisher’s own version drops markedly; at the same time, it is often difficult or impossible to obtain detailed usage statistics from the repository site....In some cases journals might even be put out of business; Open Access business models, which are not dependent on subscription or license income, are not viable for all journals. Where policies such as those advocated in S. 2695 have been introduced, it is also notable that authors have difficulty in complying...

We would therefore recommend:

  • That the need, if any, for repository policies is considered by individual funding agencies on a discipline-by-discipline basis
  • That learned society and other publishers are actively involved in the detailed development of any such policies, to ensure for example that embargo periods are flexible enough to allow for the requirements of different journals and different disciplines
  • That funders work with publishers to develop cooperative systems to ensure, when copies of articles are made publicly available, the public has access to the best version which the publisher allows (and that a link to the definitive version on the publisher’s site is included to avoid confusion13), that no material not covered by the policy is inadvertently deposited, and that deposit is made at the time permitted by the publisher.

Publishers have a more fundamental concern with S. 2695 and similar bills. Scholarly publishing, whether by not-for-profit or commercial publishers, is a robust, innovative private-sector enterprise. We consider it inappropriate, therefore, for the US government to insert itself into the business in a manner that will disrupt existing business practices, damaging the ability of scholarly publishers to contribute more broadly to the scientific infrastructure of the USA. Such intrusion goes against the principles on which the USA was founded.

Comments. Most of these arguments are old, tired, and familiar, and I've already responded to them in my 10 point rebuttal. But here are a few more responses to what's new here.

  1. The complaint about "government intrusion into the market" is disingenuous. Scientific research and publication are permeated by government spending and government policies, and do not represent a market in any ordinary sense. In the US, most scientific research is funded by taxpayers, most scientists work at public institutions and are paid by taxpayers, and most subscriptions to subscription-based journals are purchased by public institutions and paid for by taxpayers. If publishers really mean that government money and policymaking should keep out of this sector, then they should say so. But they know that they would go bankrupt under such a rule. What they really want is the present arrangement of government subsidies for the work they publish, government subsidies for their own subscription fees, and double-payments by taxpayers who want access. (That's a market?)
  2. But for the sake of argument, let's call this a market. Neutral observers believe it's dysfunctional and unsustainable. These include major research universities, like Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and Cornell, that can no longer afford to subscribe to the range of journals they need, financial analysts like PNB Paribas and Credit Suisse First Boston that have analyzed the industry for investors, and government panels like the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that have investigated the industry for universities and taxpayers. Insofar as it's a market, it has failed miserably and calls for a remedy like FRPAA.
  3. The letter as a whole makes very clear that the ALPSP is not speaking truthfully when it says "ALPSP supports any effort to increase access to research...." It only supports steps that preserve publisher revenues. The unmistakable implication is that public institutions ought to put publisher revenues ahead of the public interest in public access to publicly-funded research.
  4. I'm stunned to read (from a British organization) that the US was founded on principles that put private-sector business interests above legislation or that taxpayers should not get the full benefit of what they buy with their taxes. Is the ALPSP saying that "existing business practices" are sacrosanct and that competing values should always lose? There is a long history in the US of abolishing well-entrenched business practices that are found to cause harm or obstruct the public interest, from child labor and unlimited work weeks to undisclosed interest rates and racial discrimination. We don't have to compare these practices with one another in order to question the principle of untouchable business practices or this peculiar reading of US history.
  5. Apart from Sally Morris, CEO of ALPSP, the letter was only signed by seven member organizations, a small minority of the ALPSP membership.
  6. You see the kind of letter that Sen. Collins is getting from publishers. Please contact her yourself to show your support for FRPAA.

Publishers respond to the MIT copyright amendment form

The ALPSP and STM have issued a joint statement in response to the MIT copyright amendment form (June 27, 2006). Excerpt:
You are probably aware that the STM and ALPSP trade associations between them represent the publishers of more than half of the world’s scholarly peer-reviewed journals, and two-thirds of the annual global output of research articles. Many of our members have contacted us concerning communications they have received from you with respect to journal article author publishing agreements. We thought it might be appropriate to outline publisher concerns about the MIT proposals, and suggest a meeting to discuss these....

As it stands, the broad scope of the rights described in the amendment would be unacceptable to the majority of our members; however, widespread rejection of this document by publishers is presumably not in MIT's interests. At the proposed meeting we hope that we would be able to agree the specific rights needs of MIT and its authors, identify the extent to which these rights are already covered by existing practice, and discuss how best to bridge any remaining gaps.

Many of our members have already made changes to their journal author agreements to conform with the NIH ‘Public Access’ policy, and some have also been working with the Wellcome Trust in relation to its policy. Publishers’ general policies on author posting of papers are well-documented on the SHERPA web site; a recent ALPSP survey (Scholarly Publishing Practice, 2006) showed that over 50 percent of publishers permit some form of author self-archiving, although embargoes are beginning to be a feature of many such policies.... Author posting (of any version of an article) immediately upon publication risks competing with the journal itself; publishers are already seeing a decline in downloads from their site when articles are freely available elsewhere. Should a significant proportion of a journal’s content, through policies such as MIT’s, become readily available free of charge, librarians would have a strong incentive to cancel subscriptions and licenses. Some librarians may see this as a desirable outcome , but it could lead to the demise of journals upon which scholarship and tenure depend.

More on the OA news from Oxford and PLoS

John Timmer, The state of public access publishing, Ars Technica, June 26, 2006. Excerpt:

A few stories came out regarding public access scientific articles over the past week that provide a decent summary of where things stand. The first comes out of the Oxford Journals, a large collection that includes some scientific journals and is managed by the Oxford University Press....In keeping with the spirit of things, they've made the presentations and reports from the conference freely available. Various journals were subjected to analyses based on the access and citation rates before and after open access, and the results were generally mixed. One presentation, however, stood out from the rest for some interesting and definitive conclusions. As a result of opening up Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), search robots visits to the site rapidly peaked. By a year later, access to the site following a link from search engines had passed the PubMed database as the primary means of reaching an NAR article. In less than two years, journal access was up about 145 percent. In the words of the analysis, open access has, "opened the gates to the Google generation."

We've already mentioned how the sophisticated evaluations performed by commercial search engines can often provide better results than some dedicated academic search sites and how at least one commercial publisher is interested in making subscription based content accessible to search engines. Presumably, clear cut results such as these will hasten such efforts in the future. There were a few other interesting tidbits in the report. For example, it seems that most of the additional views appear to be of older articles, suggesting that search engines are more adept at pointing users to content they might otherwise overlook. A lot of the new readers appear to be from central Europe, where funding for paid access to journals can be expected to be limited.

Meanwhile, one of the commercial publishing houses (Nature) takes a look at one of their open access rivals, the Public Library of Science....The article notes that, based on impact factor, the top PLoS journals are doing very well for newcomers in the publishing field. But the financing hasn't followed; income is increasing, but it's still lagging far behind spending, resulting in a net deficit of US$1 million last year. So far, PLoS has made up the difference via grants from foundations, but the fees charged for publishing a paper there are set to rise to make up some of the difference. Currently at $1500, those fees could rise to nearly $2500. For context, many other publishers charge fees, some of which vary by the number of color images in an article. It’s entirely possible to rack up even higher charges for publishing in a commercial journal. Still, it’s a far cry from the hopes that accompanied the formation of PLoS. It seems like the open access movement is still experiencing some growing pains.

Monday, June 26, 2006

OA to promulgate or to intimidate?

There's a battle going on between House Science Committee, chaired by Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton is investigating --some say harassing-- three government-funded scientists who have concluded that human activity is largely responsible for global warming. Boehlert believes that Barton is not only interfering with the practice of science but interfering with business of the House Science Committee.

This is has been going on for nearly a year, but yesterday there was a weird escalation. An anonymous blogger claiming to write on behalf of Barton's committee is now using open-access arguments to justify the continuing investigation/harassment of the scientists. Excerpt:

Climate change is a fascinating science worthy of much study. Some recents [sic] studies have been used by overzealous regulators and politicians to push heavy-duty burdens and taxes on many industries. Before we tax potentially trillions of dollars out of the economy, we here at the House Energy and Commerce Committee thought we might have a look at it too. Turns out, that made us personna [sic] non grata.

Now, the National Research Council, in a report that upholds the science that hypothesizes on some some [sic] warming trends, also upholds our efforts to look at the data too.

As you can see on page 23 of the report's overview section, the NRC took note of the issue of access to scientific data, and emphasized the importance of sharing information.

"Our view is that research benefits from full and open access to published datasets and that a clear explanation of analytical methods is mandatory," the report said. "Paleoclimate research would benefit if individual researchers, professional societies, journal editors, and funding agencies continued to improve their efforts to ensure that these existing open access practices are followed. "

Obviously, our nation's most prestigious scientific [sic] sees the need to make data available. And so did The Hill newspaper....

Comment. Rep. Barton could show his good faith in using these OA arguments if he would endorse FRPAA (S.2695) and become one of its House sponsors. But he isn't seeking OA to government-funded research, or even to government-funded climate research. Here's how the Chronicle of Higher Education described his investigation:

In highly unusual letters sent to the scientists [in June 2005], Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, demanded detailed documentation of the hundreds of studies on which they have been authors or co-authors. Mr. Barton also sent a letter to the director of the National Science Foundation on the same day that requests information about the work of the three professors, as well as a list of all grants and awards the agency has made in the area of climate and paleoclimate science, which in the past 10 years number 2,700....Several independent studies have come to [similar] conclusions...But the work of [these three scientists] has served as a lightning rod for attacks by skeptics of greenhouse warming, in part because the researchers' early studies, in 1998 and 1999, figured prominently in a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change....[Letters from Barton and a subcommittee chair] gave the scientists 18 days to assemble and send in the copious data, some of which come from decades-old projects.

Update. See Duane Freese, Hockey Stick Shortened, TCS Daily, June 27, 2006. A balanced update to the story suggesting that there may be fault on both sides. Barton may have been on a fishing expedition that intimidated climatologists, but the three scientists who were targets of his probe were reluctant to share their data even with other scientists.

This confrontation is one more reason to adopt FRPAA and mandate OA to publicly-funded research. We'll have better science, by exposing results to wider scrutiny, and preempt Congressional committees that might want to issue selective calls for access.

OA archiving v. hybrid OA journals

Stevan Harnad, Testing the Royal Society's Assumptions about Open Access, Open Access Archivangelism, June 25, 2006. Excerpt:
Summary: The Royal Society -- a green publisher lobbying against funders mandating that authors should GO on GREEN (by self-archiving) to provide OA -- is instead offering to provide OA for a fee. The asking fee factors in all current publishing expenses and revenues per article, including the print run and other values added (all currently paid for by institutional subscription revenue, with no sign of any decline) on the assumption that subscription revenue will fall to zero. Is it reasonable to expect article author-institutions today to pay for everything that is already being paid for today by other subscriber-institutions, just in order to provide free online access to the author-institution's peer-reviewed final drafts? Is peer review not the only added value they should ever have to pay for? And should they have to pay for it even while it is all being paid for by institutional subscriptions? Should they not just self-archive -- as the UK, US and EC are proposing to mandate -- and then if the "assumption" (really a hypothesis) that subscription revenue will as a result fall to zero ever proves correct, will the institutional subscription revenue savings not be the natural source from which to pay for the peer review? A priori author fees are fine for those with cash to spare, but surely they are not the royal road to 100% OA today: Mandated self-archiving is.

Free self-archiving v. paid publisher-archiving

Stevan Harnad, Mandating OA via Paid Publisher-Archiving (PPA) versus Author Self-Archiving (ASA), Open Access Archivangelism, June 25, 2006. Excerpt:
Summary: Some publishers are offering a high-priced Paid-Publisher-Archiving (PPA) alternative to free Author-Self-Archiving (ASA), and trying to redirect the OA mandates that have been proposed by the US, UK and EC toward mandating OA through PPA instead of ASA. If research institutions and funders have the spare cash to pay whatever publishers ask today for PPA without having to take it away from research allotments, then the outcome (100% OA) is welcome and optimal for all. But if they do not have the spare cash (e.g., because it is already tied up in paying subscriptions today), then it makes more sense to mandate ASA, as proposed by the US, UK and EC, and let the market decide whether and when PPA ever becomes necessary, and if so, at what price. The cash may not be needed at all, if subscriptions hold; or the subscription cancellations themselves will release the cash needed for redirection to PPA. Right now, for example, the PPA asking price is bloated with the cost of the print edition. Surely today's author-institutions wishing to provide OA for their own publication output are not to be burdened with paying for their articles' print runs too, particularly when those are already being paid for by institutional subscriptions today, with no evidence of subscription decline as a result of self-archiving?

More on Oxford's OA experiments

Two weeks ago, Oxford University Press (OUP) shared some of the results of its OA experiments and promised a full report later. The full report is now out: Assessing the Impact of Open Access: Preliminary Findings from Oxford Journals, June 2006. It has three parts:
  1. Claire Saxby, NAR Author and Reader Survey April 2006
  2. Claire Creaser, Evaluation of Open Access Journal Experiment: Stage 2 Interim Data
  3. David Nicholas, Paul Huntington and Hamid R Jamali, The impact of open access publishing on use and users

Sunday, June 25, 2006

OA reference works

Sherman Dorn, Online encyclopedias, but not wikis, a blog posting, June 25, 2006. (Thanks to A.G. Rud.) Excerpt:

As the editor of an online journal, I am biased in favor of open access, and one of the frustrating aspects of the Historical Statistics of the United States-Millennial Edition (HSUS-ME) is their hard-copy business model, which relied on an old assumption: you get an agreement with a publisher for an expensive project, maybe enough of an advance to pay contributors a pittance, and then sell hard copies to libraries at exhorbitant rates to justify the project. Cambridge University Press added on a pay-per-view model. For example, if you head towards the historical statistics on education, you get asked for $6 for 48-hour access.

For many, that's not a bad deal. Pay, zip in, suck up the tables while you have access, and go. But think of who this leaves out: schoolkids whose parents don't have acces to $6. You want to give students the sense that history is beyond their reach? Put things behind a subscription wall. Fortunately, the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, along with dozens of other sites, show that there is a way to provide access to historical materials (and I consider statistics part of that-see the Integrated Public Use Microdata Sample website for an example-their business model is "get grants; do work; make it available to the world for free"). For goodness' sake: many of the source materials for HSUS-ME come from the Census Bureau and other agencies which throw terabytes of data online for public consumption. And HSUS-ME is behind a subscription wall? To quote from a Christine Lavin song, "What were they thinking?" ...

Fortunately, there are other options [than Wikipedia]. Online refereed encyclopedias for narrow topics, the reference equivalent to online journals, could allow anyone to submit an article that would be vetted by an editorial board. The versions would be (like Wikipedia) open to comment and discussion, but there would be editorial control....I have my hands full with current obligations, but I'd love for others to run with this one. Go collect enough of an editorial board to run the project, get someone to fund the copyediting if you can (such as scholarly societies), and then visit the Open Journal Systems website (free online-journal system) and see if that might work for you. (I can think of at least two ways to tweak that into an encyclopedia-friendly form.)

More on OA to avian flu data

The Flu Wiki has a good page on OA to flu data. Excerpt:
Access to databases that contain influenza sequences is vital for scientists doing research and developing vaccines. Open access means scientists can deposit and retrieve this information in a timely manner. GenBank, maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a part of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (U.S.), is one example of a publicly accessible database used by many scientists from around the world.

However, other organizations, agencies and labs in the U.S. and other countries hoard sequence data and either do not share it at all, share it by password-only to a select few, or do not release data in a timely manner. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) are some examples of groups who are withholding sequence data.

As we face a possible influenza pandemic, ethical scientists from around the world are calling for a new paradigm: open access to all influenza sequence data from organizations, agencies, and labs, regardless of the country of origin.

The page also includes a good collection of quotations from major flu scientists calling for OA to flu data.

PS: For background, see my April article on OA to avian flu data.

New OA journal on 9/11 studies

The Journal of 9/11 Studies is a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal. The inaugural issue (June 2006) is now online.

OA v. TA journalism

Open Business interviews Kenneth Neil Cukier on open-access v. toll-access journalism (June 24, 2006). Cukier is the technology correspondent for The Guardian.