Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 02, 2006

September SOAN

I just mailed the September issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. This issue takes a close look at the four hybrid OA journal programs launched in August (from BMJ, Wiley, Cambridge, and APS) and how the mid-term elections in the US could affect federal OA policies. The Top Stories section takes a brief look at three institutions that have adopted OA mandates, the growing provost support for FRPAA, the launch of Open Access Central and Chemistry Central, the CERN plan to convert particle physics journals to OA, progress in providing OA to avian flu data, and the Google Library project's new partnership with the University of California and new willingness to let users print and download public-domain books.

A new blog on open access and open data

Peter Murray-Rust, Is Openness “ethically flawed”?  PeterMR's blog, September 2, 2006.  Excerpt:

This is the first substantive post in this blog....

I have been interested in Openness for many years, and believe that knowledge and science can now only flourish in an Open environment. I believe that close commercial interests (publishers, aggegrators, software developers and industrial customers such as the pharmaceutical industry) stifle innovation in information-driven science. IMO that is why biosciences, with an Open ethic are about 10 years ahead of the chemical sciences in their use of information....

[M]y stance will sometimes be strong, as in the current post where I take issue with Peter Gregory’s comments on Open Access publishing in chemistry. There are very few Open Access journals in chemistry and PeterG was commenting on the launch of Chemistry Central from the BMC stable (reviewed in Peter Suber’s...OA blog...).

My campaign is for Openness in:

  • Access. I am least vocal on this, leaving it to established champions such as PeterS, SPARC, Stevan Harnad, Steve Heller and many others. However I support the formation of Open Access in chemistry and would endeavour to publish there is appropriate journals exist. (Before Chemistry Central there were no Open journals that supported chemoinformatics).
  • Source. Without openness of code it is difficult for academic groups to distribute and enhance. Some groups manage some innovation in some areas (e.g. quantum mechanics codes) but in informatics the lack of Openness is a serious problem.
  • Data. I believe that scientific data belongs to the commons, not to publishers or secondary aggregators which is why I supported the continuation of PubChem last year in its struggle against Chemical Abstracts.
  • Standards. Science is bedevilled by lack of interoperability, often promoted by software companies and instrument manufacturers to create lock-in and closed markets. That is why Henry Rzepa and I have developed Chemical Markup Language as a core technology for interoperability and why we are members of the Blue Obelisk movement....

I have issues with primary publishers (such as the ACS) and secondary aggregators (such as the CCDC) who add copyright statements to primary scientific data. I regard this as counter to copyright practice and law as I believe that author’s moral rights and the freedom of factual information cannot be overridden by publishers. This is not an oversight by the publisher - as far as we know Henry Rzepa and I are the only authors to have published supplemental (factual) data in an ACS journal without surrendering copyright - and we understand this was not a right, but a one-off privilege.

I have also been publicly criticised on two occasions as being immoral in publishing Open Source programs in chemistry. The argument of the critics is that Open-ness undercuts responsible developers and destroys their market leading to loss of support for science and poor quality code. This may or may not be true, but I do not see it as immoral....

We have much anecdotal evidence that most scientific data (80+%) supporting primary publications are lost for ever. Many publishers do not support supplemental (factual) data and those that do, do not support its capture in semantic form (PDFs destroy information very effectively). True, we are exploring with several publishers how to tackle this, but they can currently make no strong ethical claims for current practice....

There is nothing intrinsically laudable in publishing scientific material that looks visually the same as it did 120 years ago....

PS: Peter Murray-Rust is a leader in the open data movement and moderator of the SPARC Open Data discussion list.  I'm glad to welcome him to the blogosphere.

OA advocates worldwide

On Thursday I noted that the wiki of the Information Commons Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association had created a page on Open Access Advocates in Canada.  The focus on Canada made sense to me, but I suggested that if the wiki added pages on other countries, then the set would form of a very useful networking tool and OA speakers bureau.  I'm happy to report that my wish is coming true.

See the new page on Open Access Advocates Worldwide.

For now, it seems that all the pages except the one on Canada are stubs and only registered users can edit them.  But monitor the site and make sure that you're listed. 

When your conference or workshop needs a speaker, or when you're traveling to another country, browse the list.  When your country is considering a national OA policy, make sure the local activists know about it and coordinate to shore up support.

OA indexing and abstracting tools

Peter Jacsó, Open access to scholarly indexing/abstracting information, Online Information Review, 30, 4 (2006) pp. 461-468.  Only an abstract is free for non-subscribers, at least so far.  Excerpt:

The purpose of this article is to discuss open access to scholarly indexing/abstracting information....Open access versions of the traditional ready reference tools cannot always substitute for the commercial, subscription-based indexing/abstracting databases, but they can complement them....

New issue of JRSM

The September issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine is now online.  Here are the OA-related articles. For the first and third, not even abstracts are free online, at least so far.

More on Perelman and OA

Stevan Harnad, Perelman and Peerlessness, Open Access Archivangelism, September 1, 2006.  Excerpt:

The lion's share of science and scholarship is founded on peer review...But some scientists and scholars are peerless: Their work is at such a high level that only they, or a very few like them, are even equipped to test and attest to its soundness.

Such is the case with the work of Grigori Perelman.  It is a mistake to try to generalize this in any way: it doesn't scale. It does not follow from the fact that a rare genius like Perelman can transmit his huge and profound contribution by simply posting it publicly on the Web -- without refereeing or publication -- that anything at all has changed about the way the overwhelming majority of scientific and scholarly research continues to need to be quality-controlled: via classical peer review.

Nor has this anything at all to do with Open Access....OA continues to mean free online access to peer-reviewed research (after -- and sometimes before -- peer review), not to research free of peer review!

PS: See my comments on Perelman, arXiv, and OA here and here.

Library perspective on emerging OA policies

Heather Morrison, Andrew Waller, and Kumiko Vézina, Open Access: Policy, Academic, and University Perspectives, a presentation at the Canadian Library Association Conference (Ottawa, June 14-17, 2006).
Abstract:   The landscape of scholarly communications is transforming into an Open Access environment. Policies are being set by national funding agencies and universities, among others. This session will present an overview of major policy issues, the academic (teaching faculty) perspective on open access publishing and self-archiving and what it all means in the real-world university (library) environment.

More on the Rio Framework for Open Science

Rio Framework for Open Science, iCommons, September 1, 2006.  Excerpt:

In the weeks preceding the iCommons Summit, it was clear to Heather Ford and John Wilbanks that the event could play a role in connecting open science and free culture. The two respective Executive Directors of iCommons and Science Commons agreed that the meeting in Rio should serve as a means for initiating discussion, in the hopes of discovering a way to bridge the divide. The result - the Rio Framework for Open Science....

Serving as a link farm, Open Science is the first substantive outcome of the Summit, delivered less than two months after it was conceptualized. Developed and tailored by Ford and Wilbanks, the first draft of the Framework was released on August 19. It is maintained on the iCommons wiki.

Right now, Open Science is a skeleton - a home for a minimal set of tools for universities and institutions, with the potential and hope that it expands exponentially as more users utilize the resources. By having the infrastructure live on a wiki, community members are able to actively edit, comment, annotate and add to the existing base....

The potential for Open Science is only as limited as the imaginations of the open science community, especially the users. Ford hopes that through iCommons’ work with individual countries, users can see this link farm as a modal point, helping the public garner support and move forward with their own open access initiatives at a local level.

Wilbanks sees Open Science as a means for localizing arguments in the future. The wiki-based site could expand to provide users with PowerPoint presentations, evidentiary writings, and marketing documents targeted to specific regions and audiences. But it is only through the site’s use and community development that the Framework can move in such a direction.

Profile of the Global Text Project

Mike Shanahan, Free 'wiki' textbooks planned for developing nations, SciDev.Net, September 1, 2006. Excerpt:
A US-based initiative plans to make new textbooks available for free on the Internet for university students in developing nations.

If the Global Text Project's first book — due in January 2007 — is a success, the project aims to produce 999 more titles covering biology, physics, mathematics and chemistry.

Funding will be sought from the world's 1,000 largest and richest companies, each of which will be asked to sponsor an individual title....Leading professors worldwide will be invited to contribute chapters that will then be compiled into up-to-date texts using the software behind Wikipedia, the popular free-access online encyclopaedia.

An international advisory board drawn from universities in Colombia, Egypt, Malaysia, South Africa, Uganda and the United Kingdom has been set up to oversee the books' creation.

With Wikipedia, entries can be updated and modified by anyone who registers with the site. The Global Text Project will use a modified version of the software behind the website, so that only its editors will be able to accept any suggested changes to the texts.

The books will be written in English and then translated by volunteers into Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.

Students will be able to read the books online or print them as pdf files, and will be encouraged to contribute to future editions.

"These books should never be out of date because they will be subject to continuous improvement," says the project's website. "Each class using one of the books will be asked to add value to the book. They should leave a better book for the next class."...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Report on the Southern Africa OA workshop

Melissa Hagemann and Teresa Hackett have written a report on the OSISA/eIFL Open Access Workshop for Southern Africa (Pretoria, August 21-22, 2006). Excerpt:
Speakers from Botswana, Canada, Egypt, Scotland, South Africa and the US were joined by over forty participants from nine southern African countries to discuss practical ways in which open access projects and policies can be implemented in the region.

Co-sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and, the programme focused on open access journals, institutional repositories, advocacy and the role of funding agencies in open access publishing. Publishers hailed from diverse backgrounds. A fast growing commercial publisher, Hindawi Publishing, shared their experience in successfully converting twenty-five academic titles from a subscription-based to an open access model. Bioline International, a not-for-profit electronic publishing service, advised on improving visibility and impact of quality open access journals from developing countries.

Research funding agencies, which play a pivotal role in promoting open access policies around the world, were also represented. Dr. Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director, Knowledge Management and Strategy of the South Africa National Research Foundation, stated that recipients of NRF grants may use part of their funding to cover publishing costs in peer-reviewed open access journals. "An applicant can request for funds for conference attendance; funding for publication of research findings - the publication can be in an open access journal" confirmed Dr. Kaniki.

Professor Wieland Gevers discussed the new open access recommendations of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Participants benefited from a roundtable discussion which covered critical issues for the successful implementation of an institutional repository, a freely accessible archive for collecting and preserving the intellectual output of an institution. Professor Julien Hofman presented Lawspace, a digital repository of research at the University of Cape Town. Librarians play a key role in advising their institution on such issues as access and preservation of material in the repository and most importantly advocating for the deposit of material by academics in the repositories as outlined by Susan Ashworth of the University of Glasgow in her presentation. The universities of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Pretoria count amongst those with operational repositories while a number of others plan to launch repositories in the coming months....

Participants agreed to develop national lists documenting the copyright policies of publishers in each country similar to the SHERPA/Romeo list. "This is a great step forward to identify publishers' copyright conditions and will strengthen the hand of academics in southern Africa in providing access to their research. welcomes this", said Melissa Hagemann, who is advising the Open Access Program.

More on the CERN plan to convert physics journals to OA

Jocelyn Kaiser, Particle Physicists Want to Expand Open Access, Science Magazine, September 1, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:
Particle physicists have come up with a novel way to promote free, immediate access to journal articles. Led by CERN, the giant lab near Geneva, Switzerland, they want to raise at least $6 million a year to begin buying open access to all published papers in their field....

Some private biomedical funding groups, such as the U.K.'s Wellcome Trust, now pay the author fees required for their grantees to publish in open-access journals. CERN's announcement goes further, say observers. "Across a discipline is new," says Peter Suber, a philosophy professor at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, who closely follows open-access developments for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition....

To accomplish this goal, the [CERN] task force proposed that a consortium of labs and funding agencies pay publication costs for particle physics papers. It would cost $6 million or more a year to include all the journals willing to offer an open-access option, the group estimated. That would cover up to half of the 6000 or so original theory and experimental papers published each year.

The task force hopes to start with $3 million to implement the policy at a few major journals. The practice would begin with the first LHC [Large Hadron Collider] technical papers next year, says CERN's Rüdiger Voss.

Last week, the American Physical Society announced that a $975 to $1300 payment to its two main journals would make an article available to all readers (Science, 25 August, p. 1031). Elsevier, the other major particle physics publisher, recently announced an open-access option for $3000, an amount not included in the task force's cost estimate. CERN's plan to sponsor journals would not be permanent: "We see it primarily as a transition scenario," Voss says, after which funders would pay author fees for individual grantees.

Nearly all particle physicists already share preprints of their articles on free servers such as at Cornell University Library. Voss, however, argues that the final, vetted article is still what academia values most and that physicists are losing access as budget-strapped libraries cut back on journal subscriptions. Paul Ginsparg, who runs, adds that journals serve as stable, long-term archives and offer extras such as searching for related papers in other journals.

PS: See my blog comments on the CERN task force report.

Self-archiving without delay or negotiation

Stevan Harnad, Self-Archive Now: No Need to Negotiate Rights, Open Access Archivangelism, September 1, 2006. Excerpt:

OhioLINK has made a very welcome recommendation to self-archive.

What is missing from the otherwise useful information that OhioLINK lists, curiously, is a link to the BOAI Self-Archiving FAQ, which has been in place since 2002! And whereas it is always good to negotiate the retention of rights if an author can and wishes, it is erroneous to imply that that is a necessary precondition for self-archiving.

Ninety-four percent of journals already endorse immediate (non-embargoed) OA self-archiving; for articles published in the remaining 6% there is the readily available option of depositing their full-texts and metadata immediately upon acceptance for publication, but making only their metadata immediately accessible webwide, while provisionally setting access to their full-text as "Closed Access" during any publisher embargo period: Meanwhile almost-immediate, almost-OA for each individual would-be user can still be provided by the author on one-on-one basis, via the semi-automatic EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST button now being added to the principle Institutional Repository (IR) softwares.

Hence it is now possible to self-archive 100% of the final drafts of peer-reviewed journal articles whether or not the author can or wishes to successfully negotiate the retention of rights....

Supporting both FRPAA and the society publishers

T. Scott Plutchak, Debating FRPAA, T. Scott, August 31, 2006.  Excerpt:
There's been some chatter among my colleagues in the past week about a letter opposing FRPAA that is being circulated among the senior leadership of some of the research institutions in search of signatories.   This is clearly in response to the supporting letters signed by provosts from around the country urging passage of the act.   (The DC Principles coalition is behind the letter...).

The most recent draft that I've seen has seven signatures (including the dean of my own school of medicine), but I'm sure it will have more by the time it is sent to Senator Cornyn and made public.  Some of my colleagues have expressed surprise that senior academic officers would take the side of the publishers in this debate. 

I'm not the least bit surprised.   There's no neat divide between academia on one side and publishing on the other, particularly when you're dealing with the society publishers.  At my institution, for example, at least sixteen individuals in the medical school alone (including the dean and several department chairs) hold senior editorial positions for major scientific periodicals....

The terrain [of scholarly publishing] is being transformed and that's not going to stop.  Some journals are, indeed, going to fold, and it is disingenuous of open access partisans to argue that FRPAA and related efforts don't represent a serious threat.  The signatories of the DC Principles letter are right to be worried.  But they can't turn back the tide.  Whether FRPAA or something like it passes or not, traditional subscription-based publishing is on the wane, and societies whose economy is based on it are going to have to make radical changes in how they operate in order to survive....

I disagree with the signatories of the DC Principles letter in their opposition to FRPAA.  I have urged my Provost to sign the letter supporting it (not likely, but I gave it my best shot).  But in their concern over the well-being of the societies that they lead and participate in, I am firmly on their side and in their camp.  Yes, we need open access; but we need strong, vibrant and effective scholarly societies, playing a critical and key role in managing the scholarly communication enterprise.   


  1. I appreciate T. Scott's effort to get his provost to endorse FRPAA.  To date, 60 provosts have done so.
  2. There may be OA advocates who simply assert that journals have nothing to fear from FRPAA, but I believe the currents and cross-currents are more complex.  My own position has always been (1) that high-volume OA archiving --the intended consequence of FRPAA-- might well threaten subscription journals; (2) that if we want to look at existing evidence, rather than fears or predictions, then we have to look at physics, the only field where high-volume OA archiving currently exists; (3) that in physics both the APS and the IOP admit that arXiv has caused no subscription cancellations, and in fact both publishers host arXiv mirrors; and finally (4) that if mandated OA to publicly-funded research does undermine subscriptions, then the public interest in research should take priority over the private interest in publisher revenue.
  3. I fully agree with T. Scott that "traditional subscription-based publishing is on the wane, and societies whose economy is based on it are going to have to make radical changes in how they operate in order to survive...."  From this point of view, the most significant difference among publishers today is not that some are for-profit and some non-profit, or some large and some small, but that that some are focused on adaptation and some are focused on retrenchment.

Bailey profile of Monash University ePress

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital University/Library Presses, Part 8: Monash University ePress, DigitalKoans, August 31, 2006. Excerpt:

Established in 2003, the Monash University ePress publishes both digital scholarly books and journals, primarily in the humanities and social sciences. Some works are also available in print format via print-on-demand technology....

The press, which charges for its publications, has a two-year embargo period after which materials are freely accessible....There is a time-limited pay per article/chapter option. Use of content by individuals is governed by a license agreement as is use by institutions.

Monash University ePress manager Michele Sabto outlines the economic model of the press as follows:

The ePress has also now moved towards a fee-for-service model that guarantees a minimum income from each title, underwritten by the author/journal editor. Basically it is a publication fee offset by sales income....

The press currently publishes four journals....and four books....

Two more provosts endorse FRPAA

Two more provosts have added their signatures to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA).
  • Jeffrey Herbst, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Miami University
  • Thomas G. Burish, Provost, University of Notre Dame

September issue of Information Today

The September issue of Information Today is now online. There are two articles on OA but neither is among those made free for non-subscribers, at least so far.
  • Shelli Shaw, Hindawi Publishing: Catering to Open Access, .
  • Robin Peek, The Oxford University Press on OA

Microsoft objects to report language on open source and open content

Doug Lederman, Changing the Report, After the Vote, Inside Higher Ed, September 1, 2006. Excerpt:

Except for David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, every member of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education found enough to endorse in the draft the panel produced last month to support it over all. All of them, certainly, also found some aspects of the report objectionable, yet swallowed those objections and agreed, at a public meeting August 10, to sign the report....That agreement was nearly imperiled last weekend, though. Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, sent an e-mail message to fellow commissioners Friday evening saying that she “vigorously” objected to a paragraph in which the panel embraced and encouraged the development of open source software and open content projects in higher education. The paragraph read like this:

The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education....

The infighting is fascinating (read the full article), but in the end the commission agreed on this compromise language:

The commission encourages encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of information-technology-based collaborative tools and capabilities at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling access, interaction, and sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Both commercial development and new collaborative paradigms such as open source, open content, and open learning will be important in building the next generation learning environments for the knowledge economy.

Comment. When I blogged the commission's report back in July, the paragraph on open source and open content was the only section I found worth excerpting. 

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Open review, open commentary, open debate

Andrew I. Dayton, Beyond Open Access: Open Discourse, the next great equalizer, Retrovirology, August 30, 2006.
Abstract (provisional): The internet is expanding the realm of scientific publishing to include free and open public debate of published papers. Journals are beginning to support web posting of comments on their published articles and independent organizations are providing centralized web sites for posting comments about any published article. The trend promises to give one and all access to read and contribute to cutting edge scientific criticism and debate.

From the body of the paper:

If you are reading this you are benefiting from the Open Access movement in scientific publishing. Open Access reduces the great divide between the haves and havenots of the scientific world, allowing anyone, anywhere on the planet with internet access to read with full text and graphics the latest scientific reports, unfettered by prohibitive subscription fees or lack of affiliation with a major institution to pay for them. That the process directly delivers to the public a product paid for by their taxes can only be considered a just and additional benefit. But access to cutting edge knowledge is not the only divide between the haves and the have-nots. Even Open Access leaves a vast inequality in scientific discourse. If you can’t afford to attend the latest scientific meetings (say, for instance, you work for the US government) or are not a member of a prestigious institution, you can be frozen out of cutting edge scientific discussions. You can neither query the major players nor contribute to the debates, unless your prestige or the media value of the subject matter is such to garner you a published letter to the editor. You can’t even witness the debates until they are published in review articles, by which time they are mostly over....

Just as Open Access distributes primary knowledge, Open Discourse distributes debate....

OA in Latin American and the Caribbean

Dominique Babini and Jorge Fraga (eds.), Edición electrónica, bibliotecas virtuales y portales para las ciencias sociales en América Latina y El Caribe, Buenos Aires: CLACSO, August 2006.  A book of essays on electronic publishing, digital libraries, and social science portals in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The book exists in both a priced, printed edition and an OA edition. Most of the articles have implications for OA, but these are directly about OA:

OA advocates in Canada

The wiki of the Information Commons Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association has created a page on Open Access Advocates in Canada.

Comment. Great idea. Given the Canadian interests of the host, I understand why there aren't (yet?) pages on other countries. But if there were, this would be start of a very useful networking tool and OA speakers bureau.

BTW, I'd add the following Canadians: Michael Geist, Russell McOrmond, G.W. Brian Owen, and Sharon Reeves.

Michigan's copies of Google-scanned books

Jeffrey Young, U. of Michigan Adds Books Digitized by Google to Online Catalog, but Limits Use of Some, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2006. Excerpt:

As it works with Google to scan nearly all the books on its shelves, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has decided not to make full-text versions of copyrighted books available online, even to on-campus users.

The university has upgraded its online card catalog to include full-text electronic copies of books that have been scanned as part of its controversial partnership with Google.

Users will be able to read the complete text of out-of-copyright works online. For those volumes, the university is making high-resolution images available for each page....If a scanned book is still under copyright, though, users will not be able to read the digital copy. Instead, the card-catalog system will return a list of the pages that contain the search term and how many times the term appears on those pages. The reader will be directed to the library's stacks for the printed book.

Some observers had wondered whether the university might make full-text versions of copyrighted books available at on-campus computers, but Michigan officials ruled out that option early on. "We don't believe that fair use allows us to make that kind of access available to our user community," said John P. Wilkin, an associate university librarian....

Steven J. Bell, director of the library at Philadelphia University, said Michigan's new digital-book service could spur more scholars around the world to use interlibrary loans to request single pages or groups of pages from books held by Michigan. After all, if scholars can consult Michigan's online catalog to find out which pages contain the terms they are looking for, they might request just those pages rather than the entire book....

Using research grants to pay publication fees

Hernán A. Burbano, Funders should allow for cost of publication, Nature, August 30, 2006.  A letter to the editor.  Excerpt:
Open access to the literature allows scientists in the developing world to read original research papers for free, which contributes to scientific advancement. Nonetheless, in these same countries, funds are not sufficient to pay the publishing charges made by some publications, including 'open access' journals. For this reason, many journals waive fees for scientists from developing countries who submit to them.

Although these waivers benefit the scientists who submit, part of the solution should also come from developing countries themselves. The support from funders must include provision for submission fees, so that government agencies that support research projects take responsibility for their investment. I echo the Salvador Declaration on Open Access for Developing Countries and I urge governments of these countries to consider the cost of publication as part of the cost of the research.

Comment. I agree and have said so whenever it comes up, even if that means criticizing otherwise excellent policies like FRPAA.  However, I'd also point out that the majority of OA journals charge no author-side fees at all.

OA progress: slow but exciting

Bobby Pickering, A soap opera storyline ends, Information World Review, August 30, 2006.  Pickering is leaving IWR and reflects on some of the big issues he's covered in his three years there as editor.  Excerpt:
The open access movement made an impact, but not as much as I expected. It will undoubtedly continue to be corrosive, as the rivals parry and thrust over the big pot of gold to be made from publicly funded research. Government committees have become involved and hearings have been held, in the US, UK and Europe ­- all very exciting stuff!

Comment. Just to clarify: There's a huge pot of money spent on scholarly journals every year (I've seen estimates in the $12 billion range).  But those working for OA to publicly-funded research and, if successful, those hosting it, will not make any money from it.  There's money to be made from some kinds of OA journals (BMC and Hindawi are for-profit publishers and Hindawi is already profitable), but all national policies aimed at OA for publicly-funded research focus on OA repositories, not OA journals.

Good news for the ERC

The first Secretary-General of the new European Research Council (ERC) will be Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the current President of Germany's Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).  For more details, see Gretchen Vogel's story in yesterday's issue of Science.


  1. This is very good news for those of us hoping that the ERC will mandate OA for ERC-funded research.  (The ERC will fund €1 billion worth of research every year.)  It's good news because under Winnacker's leadership, the DFG adopted a strong OA policy for DFG-funded research. 
  2. Another ground for hope: one member of the ERC's Scientific Council is Wendy Hall, a professor at the University of Southampton Department of Electronics and Computer Science, which mandates OA to the research output of the department.
  3. The ERC has no web site yet.  But I'll blog the URL as soon as I learn it.

Comparing Google's contracts with Michigan and California

Karen Coyle has an excellent detailed analysis of the differences between Google's contract with the U of Michigan and its contract with the U of California. (Thanks to Katie Newman.)

"Open" satellite signals not open

Wendy M. Grossman, Galileo satellite's secure codes cracked, The Guardian, August 31, 2006. Excerpt:

One of the consequences of a national policy that taxpayers should have free access to the data their taxes pay for - as is the case in the US - is that if you tell American researchers something is free or open source, their expectations are raised.

So when a team of researchers led by Mark Psiaki, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University, discovered that the signals coming from a European test satellite that they thought to be accessible were instead protected by secret codes, they set about cracking them and succeeded. But their success, which allows them and others to test prototype receivers for Europe's new global satellite navigation system, raises two questions: can the body in charge of it, the Galileo Joint Undertaking, succeed as a public-private partnership? And how open will its service be? ...

Part of Galileo's goal is to improve global accuracy and availability. To enable that, an EU-US agreement says Galileo will use the same set of radio frequencies as [the US-built] GPS and in return must offer an open service "without direct fees for end use".

But having had to crack the test satellite's codes, Psiaki asks whether Galileo intends to charge for the part of the service that's supposed to be open? ...

Bailey's profile of HighWire Press

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital University/Library Presses, Part 7: HighWire Press, DigitalKoans, August 30, 2006.  Excerpt:

Established in 1995, Stanford University Libraries’ HighWire Press publishes over 967 journals in digital form, with more planned for future release. Working with scientific societies and other partners, the press focuses on producing high-impact STM (science, technology, and medicine) digital journals. It makes a significant portion of the articles it publishes freely available:

As of 8/30/06, we are assisting in the online publication of 1,403,007 free full-text articles and 3,648,630 total articles. There are 22 sites with free trial periods, and 34 completely free sites. 223 sites have free back issues, and 851 sites have pay per view!

The press provides sophisticated digital publishing services....More information about these digital publishing services is available, such as the Web page about journal hosting services and the Bench>Press Web page....

Headed by Michael A. Keller, the press has a large staff, which appears to include a significant number of dog owners.

Given its long history and its success, a number of articles have been written about the HighWire Press.

More on OA to avian flu data

Declan Butler, More on flu data access scheme, Declan Butler's blog, August 30, 2006. Excerpt:
Nature has an Editorial in this week’s edition — ‘Boosting access to disease data’ — on the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) — see previous post. It also has a short news story — ‘Plan to pool bird-flu data takes off.’  [PS: Both are accessible only to subscribers.]

Some excerpts from the Editorial:

“A new agreement by stakeholders to improve the sharing of flu data should eventually stimulate research on many infectious diseases. Now to make it work.” [...]

and the bottom line:

“GISAID’s broad endorsement of the goal of prompt sharing from multiple stakeholders, often with conflicting interests, is in itself progress and a tribute to the diplomacy of those involved. Tangible evidence of change has also come from the Indonesian government and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which both announced in August that they would share all flu genomic data; they should be congratulated on having the courage to change policy.

Agreement on the principles of GISAID is only a beginning, however. Prompt progress in establishing the ground rules for sharing will be essential to build confidence and momentum. Governments need to support laboratory capacities in those countries that need it most, where surveillance is weak. And unless donor countries also provide more funds and technical support to fight the disease in animals, which is the reservoir of human cases, we are likely to have more data to share on avian flu than we would like.”

Three more provosts endorse FRPAA

Three more provosts have added their signatures to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA).
  • Brad Born, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bethel College
  • Rita Cheng, Provost and Vice Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Stephen D. Gottfredson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University

Society frees access for members in developing countries

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is providing free online access to its three journals for SCB members in developing countries. The access is subsidized by a grant from The Nature Conservancy. For details see the August 24 press release.

PS: If full OA is out of reach, then why not free to all researchers in developing countries?

Retain the rights to self-archive and then self-archive

OhioLINK is recommending that Ohio scholars retain the rights they need for self-archiving and then that they actually self-archive. From its important statement of recommendations (approved in May, released yesterday):

There is a growing national and international movement for authors of peer-reviewed journal articles to self-archive their work in repositories that are openly accessible. Open access archiving has major advantages over sole reliance on the traditional publishing model. It substantially increases all researchers’ access to the research literature. There is strong evidence that articles that are made openly accessible have substantially more research impact than articles that are available only through subscriptions and licenses....OhioLINK is building the Digital Resource Commons (DRC) for [the] purpose [of self-archiving by Ohio scholars]....

If traditional publication policies are followed, Ohio authors will not retain the rights to disseminate their own works in electronic form....If this continues, the academic community foregoes the ability to maximize access and to control the economic costs of an expanding knowledge base which under the current system is increasingly unaffordable....

1. Faculty are encouraged to publish in journals that have responsible assignment of rights policies. In instances where faculty have a choice among journals, access to scholarship will improve if they choose publishers that, as a matter of practice, have favorable polices towards author self-archiving in open access vehicles. In addition, new journals are emerging that publish according to full open access models.

2. Whether as allowed by a publisher’s standard author agreement or by amendment, authors/copyright holders must retain the NON-EXCUSIVE right to make their work openly accessible and to use it for their own non-commercial educational and research purposes. This can best be accomplished by retaining copyright and only granting the publisher first publication rights. It can also be accomplished within current common practice where copyright transfers to the publisher by the proper retention of self-archiving and use rights....

By altering an author’s agreement with a publisher certain key rights can be secured that will be advantageous for the author, the institution, and potential readers without harming the publisher....[A]n Author’s Addendum to the publisher’s agreement can be used to ensure the author has retained a bundle of key rights. A template to do so from which a final addendum can be created is attached....

We recommend that faculty members, if the copyright owner, and institutions, if the copyright holder, retain author self-archiving and access rights in one form or another. The template illustrates the basic rights that should be retained. Several optional provisions are suggested which the author or institution can elect to incorporate. As noted below, a great number of publishers are receptive to author self-archiving rights and so a basic addendum may suffice in most cases....

3. In parallel with individual author action, OhioLINK will seek to add a clause to its licenses with publishers in its Electronic Journal Center. This clause will seek to automatically provide the recommended self archiving and access rights to all personnel of Ohio higher education institutions.

4. With the retention of rights, we strongly recommend that works in both Published and Unpublished works categories be deposited in the OhioLINK DRC or a campus repository that links to it.


  1. There are four important things going on here. First, OhioLINK is encouraging Ohio scholars to retain the rights they need for OA archiving. Second, it's providing its own Author Addendum to help authors retain those rights. Third, it's adding its weight as the licensing agent for member institutions to persuade publishers to agree to these terms. (It knows that most publishers already agree and is focusing on the remainder.) And finally, it's encouraging Ohio scholars to self-archive their preprints and postprints in their institutional repository or in OhioLINK's own repository.
  2. OhioLINK is a consortium of 85 academic libraries in Ohio representing more than 600,000 faculty, students and staff. It doesn't set campus policies on self-archiving, but it can facilitate them (by creating its own repository, by writing an Author Addendum, by pressuring publishers to drop permission barriers) and it can encourage member institutions to set policy. Here it is doing all that it can. It deserves all our thanks for that.
  3. The OhioLINK Author Addendum (pp. 7-8 of the new recommendations) joins those already crafted by SPARC, MIT, and Science Commons.

Balancing privacy and access for human genetic data

The NIH is creating a database for human genetic data that will combine strong privacy protection for research subjects, open access for researchers, and incentives for researchers to deposit their data even before publishing on it.  For more details, see yesterday's call for public comments or today's article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Sam Kean (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt from the Chronicle article:

The genetic information would be available on two levels. "Basic descriptive information" about each genome-wide association study would be available to the public, but the health and genetic data and some pre-analysis would be accessible only to researchers cleared by the NIH Data Access Committee. The NIH would also set up mechanisms to ensure that scientists who deposit results into the database before publication receive credit for their findings. Once results have been posted, any scientist could view them; but for a certain "grace period," only those who submitted the data could publish papers about it.

U of California supports transformative publishing models

The University of California Libraries have released a new version of their Principles for Acquiring and Licensing Information in Digital Formats (dated July 2006 but apparently not released until yesterday).  Excerpt:

UC will evaluate the cost/benefits of licensing digital resources of out of copyright information against opportunities to digitize equivalent UC resources or participate in other non-profit third-party digitizing efforts of that information....

The libraries make principled investments in publishing business models that produce high quality scholarly content and have the potential for transforming scholarly communication. A publishing or distribution effort can be considered transformative when it is developed principally to reduce access barriers (e.g. open access models)....

UC consideration of scholarly publishing endeavors is informed by endorsements and analyses by key organizations supporting transformative models such as the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC)....

The libraries support the right of UC authors whose scholarly work is included in materials licensed by UC to retain copyright to their work, transferring only first-publication and/or commercial use rights to the publisher while retaining all other non-commercial use and distribution rights....

UC affirms the importance of fair use in fulfilling its libraries' missions and requires that licenses not abrogate the rights allowed it or its members under copyright law, including, but not limited to, fair use and inter-library loan....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dworaczek index updated

Data on first full year of Oxford Open

Oxford University Press has released data on the first full year of operation for Oxford Open, its hybrid OA journal program. Excerpt:
In the first year of launch, almost 400 papers have been published under the optional open access model across 36 of the 49 participating titles.

The majority of uptake of optional open access has, as predicted, been in the life sciences, with approximately 10% of authors selecting the open access option across 16 participating journals in this area, compared with approximately 5% in medicine and public health, and 3% in the humanities and social sciences. Three life sciences titles in the areas of molecular and computational biology have seen over 20% uptake. The highest of these was for Bioinformatics, which has published over 50 open access papers in 2006. 2007 online subscription prices have been adjusted for these journals to reflect this uptake....

Twenty-one titles adopted [the Oxford Open hybrid] model in July 2005 [when the program launched], and further titles have joined in 2006, giving 49 journals participating at present.

Claire Bird, Senior Editor, Oxford Journals, commented, "we continue to see wide variation in uptake, and different levels of interest in 'author-pays' open access models between disciplines. The highest uptake has been in areas where more funding for open access is available, such as the life sciences, and we would expect this trend to continue in 2007." Managing Director, Martin Richardson also commented: "...These results show that while open access is beginning to be embraced in some subject areas, the level of uptake is generally quite low. These results continue to suggest that [the fee-based OA journal] is likely to be only one of a range of models that will be necessary to support the requirements of different research communities."...

80% of authors who chose open access in the first year of Oxford Open have paid a discounted open access charge, as members of a subscribing institution....

The online subscription prices of 3 journals (Bioinformatics, Carcinogenesis and Human Molecular Genetics) have been adjusted for 2007 to reflect how much original research material was made freely available in the first phase of the initiative in 2005-2006.

Google lifts access restrictions on public-domain books

Google to allow free downloads of books, Associated Press, August 29, 2006. 

Google Inc. on Wednesday plans to begin letting consumers download and print free of charge classic novels and many other, more obscure books that are in the public domain.

Using Google's Book Search service, Web surfers hunting titles like Dante's "Inferno" and Aesop's "Fables" will be able to download PDF files of the books for later reading, to run keyword searches or to print them on paper. Up to now, the service only allowed people to read the out-of-copyright books online....

The download initiative does not include any books under copyright....

More news coverage.

Comment. This is big. Of the major book-scanning projects, Google's library project never rivaled the Open Content Alliance for barrier-free access to the resulting texts, even when the texts were in the public domain. Google is now lifting the two largest and most irritating barriers --those that blocked downloads and printing.

What barriers remain? Both OCA and Google restrict downloads to analog image files, even though they have digital text behind the scenes for searching.  (Project Gutenberg is the best source for digitized public-domain books if you want the text in searchable, cut/pasteable form.)  And last I heard, Google is still blocking access, without pattern or explanation, to users in certain countries.

So far, I've seen no announcement on the Google Book Search blog. (Why would Google let itself be scooped by the mainstream press?)  Nor does the barrier-free access seem to have begun yet. Here's a public-domain 1897 edition of MacBeth scanned from Harvard's library.  I can print it one page at a time, but I can't find a way to print or download the full text.

Update. Here's Google's own press release and the Google Book Search blog post (both dated August 30).

University of New Hampshire supports OA journals

The University of New Hampshire library has publicly posted its May 24 proposal that the university should buy institutional memberships in BMC and PLoS. (Thanks to William Walsh.) Excerpt:

The high inflation rate for library journal subscriptions continues with projections for next year at 7-9%. One of the options for reducing the impact of journal inflation on Library and University budgets is to promote publication in the growing number of open access (OA) journals.

“In its second year of publication, Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology had an impact factor of 13.9, making it the highest ranked general biology journal in the world, and five OA journals from BioMed Central ranked in the top five journals in their specialties. These successes are backed by research showing that OA articles generate between 25% and 250% more citations than non-OA articles in the same journal from the same year” (Library Journal, April 15, 2006).

Previous efforts by the Library to support open access:

  • membership in SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) an organization started by the largest research libraries (ARL) to develop and promote alternatives to high priced commercial journals including open access journals and repositories. We were a founding member.
  • UNH joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), an active program of governmental, media, and public relations devoted to supporting the proposal by the NIH and the U.S. Congress to have taxpayer-funded biomedical research freely accessible in PubMed Central.
  • adding records for open access titles from the Directory of Open Access Journals (2200 titles) to the Library’s online catalog.
  • membership in the group of libraries supporting the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online reference work ($3000 over 3 years).

...By joining we could also encourage our faculty to participate in Open Access publication.

Another provost for FRPAA and OA

Abe Harraf, Provost of Southern Utah University, has added his signature to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA).

New OA policy at Stockholm University

Stockholm University has decided to sign the Berlin Declaration and do something with deposits in its institutional repository.  But I can't tell from the Swedish announcement whether it will require deposits or merely encourage them. 

I'm already trying to get human help with the translation.  But in the meantime, here's Systran's machine translation, which leaves the key question obscure: 

On Stockholm's universities, a workgroup with representatives has from the four faculties and University Library a left letter to the headmaster with proposals to new policy concerning handling of Open Access publication. Headmaster Kåre Bremer has the 29/6 taken decisions on the basis of the workgroup's recommendations to sign the Berlin Declaration and to advocate that the researchers in possibly anxious deposits a copy of each published scientific article in the university's digital archives. More information: Letter from the workgroup for Open Access wide Stockholm's universities

Update. Here's an unofficial statement of the new policy from Ingegerd Rabow. (Thanks, Ingegerd!)

The Vice Chancellor's decision for Stockholm University says that
  1. Through their prefects/equivalents institutions from 2007 are responsible for making bibliographic data available in the university publication database
  2. This registration shall cover all publications related to the teacher's/researcher´s employment at the university. This includes scientific/scholarly publishing and publishing within the framework of the cooperation with the surrounding society (i..e popular science, articles in the daily press)
  3. Researchers as far as possible deposit a copy of each published article in the university digital archive.

Developing open-science licenses

Andrés Guadamuz González, Open Science: Open Source Licenses in Scientific Research, North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, Spring 2006. 

Abstract: In recent years, there has been growing interest in the area of open source software (“OSS”) as an alternative economic model. However, the success of the OSS mindshare and collaborative online experience has wider implications to many other fields of human endeavor than the mere licensing of computer programmes. There are a growing number of institutions interested in using OSS licensing schemes to distribute creative works and scientific research, and even to publish online journals through open access (“OA”) licenses. There appears to be growing concern in the scientific community about the trend to fence and protect scientific research through intellectual property, particularly by the abuse of patent applications for biotechnology research. The OSS experience represents a successful model which demonstrates that IP licenses could eventually be used to protect against the misuse and misappropriation of basic scientific research. This would be done by translating existing OSS licenses to protect scientific research. Some efforts are already paying dividends in areas such as scientific publishing, evidenced by the growing number of OA journals. However, the process of translating software licenses to areas other than publishing has been more difficult. OSS and OA licenses work best with works subject to copyright protection because copyright subsists in an original work as soon as it is created. However, it has been more difficult to generate a license that covers patented works because patents are only awarded through a lengthy application and registration process. If the open science experiment is to work, it needs the intervention of the legal community to draft new licenses that may apply to scientific research. This article will look at the issue of such OA licenses, paying special care as to how the system can best be exported to scientific research based on OSS and OA ideals.

ARL, Elsevier, and Thomson on OA repositories

Kate Worlock, ARL: A Glimpse Into The Future For Institutional Repositories, EPS Insights, August 29, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
The ARL survey received responses from 71% of its members, and offers some interesting insights into how IRs are set up and managed by research organisations. 43% of respondents had an operational IR, with 35% planning an implementation in 2007; 22% had no development plans. The top three reasons for setting up an IR were to increase global visibility of, preserve, and provide free access to the institution's scholarship....

Research from Key Perspectives around this problem indicates that many academics are still unaware of the purpose and benefits of a repository. Once they are aware, there are concerns expressed over the time needed to make deposits, and over possible infringement of arrangements with publishers. Mandating content deposit seems to be proving effective however - over 90% compliance has been seen at the ECS repository in Southampton and at CERN....

Scirus, Elsevier's science search engine, indexes content from a group of repositories (both institutional and discipline-specific) including MIT OpenCourseWare, T-Space and CalTech Coda. In a recent development, Elsevier has announced that its A&I database Scopus is to provide a customisable feature enabling users to search within selected repositories....This ease of access could increase the usage of repositories significantly, and this in turn is a valuable argument for libraries looking to persuade academics to deposit their content....In addition, Scopus customers can request that Scirus index their repositories free of charge, which could open up these archives to a much wider audience. Thomson has also been working in this area, and its Web Citation Index (WCI) product (designed to be a comprehensive index of scholarly literature within institutional repositories) is due for commercial launch in October. Using WCI, users can search the full text of the repositories, and cited reference search/navigation is enabled where cited references can be harvested from the repositories. Around 20 repositories are fully covered, with 30 more lined up - those covered include arXiv with over 375K records with cited references. Over 200 institutional repositories have been targeted for inclusion over the next year.

Elsevier is strongly positioned here with its ability to use Scopus and Scirus together to broaden the service offering in two ways - increasing the profile of the IR within the institution, and making its content easily searchable by a global audience. Thomson's position is also compelling - all records are linked to the Web of Science and enable users to track citations within repositories and peer-reviewed literature. Additionally, repositories can link to citation counts in the Web of Science for documents that their researchers post - this enables them to show verified citation counts from the peer-reviewed literature to their faculty as an incentive for posting to repositories. However, there may be less opportunity for smaller publishers to create much of a service offering in this area - markets are showing duopolistic tendencies as users increasingly want to use only a small number of offerings....

India and Japan cooperating on OA?

India and Japan have signed a memorandum of understanding on scientific cooperation. One short article says that the two nations plan to cooperate on "open access database" [databases?], but doesn't elaborate. A longer article doesn't mention open access at all. If anyone has more detail on the possible OA story here, please drop me a line.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Presentations on successful OA repositories

The presentations from the Australian conference, The Successful Repository (Brisbane, June 29, 2006), are now online.

Author attitudes toward OA journals in the field of LIS

Elaine Peterson, Librarian Publishing Preferences and Open-Access Electronic Journals, Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, Summer 2006.
Abstract: Librarians have often led the way in championing Open-Access (OA) journals on the Internet as an alternative to established journal titles that are subscription based. In the discipline of Library and Information Science [LIS], all types of journals continue to be published—paper and electronic, subscription-based and free. Using a survey, this article explores how some librarians view OA titles. The article collects suggestions for editors of OA journals. The article also asks questions about the relationship of OA journals to the promotion and tenure process for academic librarians.

From the body of the paper:

Question 5 solicited ideas for “What would need to change before you would consider publishing in an Open-Access journal.” The vast majority took time to answer this question. Many authors responded that nothing needed to change. Of those that thought change was needed, their answers can be grouped into three broad categories:

  • The Quality Argument: “Has to be peer reviewed,” “rigorous, with editorial control,” “double-blind refereed,” “great reputation,” “permanence,” “on par with the print,” “indexed,” or “legitimacy.”
  • The Development Argument: “Needs to develop,” “has to cover specialized topics,” “more journal title options,” “more information about the journal,” or “more marketing on topics they are willing to cover.”
  • The University Tenure Argument: “Needs buy-in from the institution,” “perceptions in higher education,” “would that such a venue would be equally acceptable in education,” or the generic “institutional attitudes.” ...

[A]s shown in Question 6..., supporting OA journals through a conscious effort of publishing in them instead of an established, print title, is clearly not a priority with most authors....The written comments indicate that OA titles are not yet on par with their paper/electronic subscription based counterparts....

[L]ibrarians could routinely explore OA journals when seeking a publication venue. There seems to be a lot of interest percolating in the discipline. Moreover, in at least one comment, the percolation has boiled over. As one librarian wrote, “I’ve agreed to write one more...and after that, I will no longer publish in Haworth, Elsevier, or Emerald publications, just to name a few. Instead, I intend to publish only in peer-reviewed, open-access publications.” ...

For academic librarians, is it time to lead promotion and tenure discussions at universities to help open the door and legitimize OA publications? For librarians with tenure, those discussions of course can be more proactive. Most of us with tenure sit at some point on review committees and can educate others about electronic journals that have the same rigor as their print counterparts....

Perhaps this would also be an opportunity for librarians to mentor junior librarians (especially new library faculty) in pointing out legitimate publication venues in the OA sphere, or at least in some combination with print publications for their dossiers. In some ways, only time will establish the permanence and legitimacy of these journals, but librarians are in a position to push the envelope.

Comment. Until OA journals in LIS are more successful at attracting authors, it's critical that authors make their work OA through repositories, no matter where they publish. LIS is unusual for having two excellent OA repositories: E-LIS and dLIST.

Wikipedia will not cooperate with Chinese censors

In his talk on Saturday at Chinese Wikimania 2006, Jimmy Wales reiterated his view that he will not accept Chinese government censorship as a condition for restoring access to the full Chinese version of Wikipedia.  The Chinese have blocked access to full official version since last October and replaced it with an unofficial, censored abridgment. 

Fee-based OA journals in a two-sided market

Mark J. McCabe and Christopher M. Snyder, The Economics of Open-Access Journals, May 2006. A preprint self-archived July 14, 2006. (Thanks to DocuTicker.)
Abstract: A new business model for scholarly journals, open access, has gained wide attention recently. An open-access journal's articles are available over the Internet free of charge to all readers; revenue to cover publication costs comes from authors' fees. In this paper, we present a model of the journals market. Drawing upon the emerging literature on two-sided markets, we highlight the features distinguishing journals from examples economists have previously studied (telephony, credit cards, etc.). We analyze the efficiency of equilibrium author and reader fee schedules for various industry structures and for various assumptions about journals' objective functions. We ask whether open-access journals are viable in these various economic environments.

From the body of the paper:

On a superficial level, our analysis suggests there is merit to both sides of the debate. Consider the “possibility results” derived from our numerical examples. We showed it is possible for open access to emerge in equilibrium with profit maximizing journals. This was true for various journal market structures ranging from monopoly to Bertrand competition. We showed it is possible for open access to be socially efficient. On the other hand, all of the numerical examples had nonopen- access equilibria. Indeed, we provided additional examples (see footnote 14) in which open access did not emerge in any competitive equilibrium. We also provided a range of cases in which the second-best social optimum (second best in the sense journals are constrained to earn non-negative profit without external subsidy) did not involve open access.

On a deeper level, our interest is in characterizing the conditions under which open access is competitively viable and/or socially efficient....We found a profit-maximizing journal would be more likely to adopt open access in equilibrium (a) the lower the journal’s market power, (b) the lower the marginal cost of serving a reader, and (c) the higher the distribution of author benefits....[W]hile an increase in market power reduces the likelihood a profit-maximizing journal would choose open access in equilibrium, an increase in market power increases the likelihood a non-profit journal would find open access feasible.

Comment. As you can tell from the abstract (repeated in the body of the paper), McCabe and Snyder assume that all OA journals charge author-side fees. We know, however, that the majority of OA journals charge no author-side fees at all. When I pointed this out in response to another McCabe-Snyder preprint, dated June 2006, McCabe wrote to explain that he and Snyder acknowledge other OA business models in their ongoing research. They show that author-side fees can fluctuate down to zero, depending on other variables, and that one of the key variables is the availability of institutional subsidies. But we're still waiting for the paper that will correct, rather than reinforce, the false impression that all or even most OA journals charge author-side fees.

The gap between rhetoric and reality on free public education

Katarina Tomasevski, The State of the Right to Education Worldwide: Free or Fee: 2006 Global Report, Copenhagen, August 2006. This is a major, 281-page report surveying the laws and practices of 170 countries. There is no executive summary, but here's a short overview from the splash page:

[The] bitter reality of economic exclusion from education is evidenced in 22 different types of fees in primary school which should legally be free....The law, which mandates education to be free and compulsory, has been cast aside. Education should be free but it is for-fee.

People lucky to live in countries where at least compulsory education is free think that this is the case worldwide. People in poor countries are forced to pay up to a third of their annual income to keep a child at school. Worse, children are forced to work, even at school, to pay the cost of their primary education. None of this can be gleaned from official documents.

Success for the Libre Map Project

Yesterday Jared Benedict's Libre Map Project came to a successful conclusion. (Thanks to Boing Boing.)

Jared bought electronic copies of 56,000 topological maps from the U.S. Geological Survey. These maps are in the public domain but were not yet OA. Or more precisely, not all were OA and not all the OA maps were OA from the same site. Jared's project was to raise $1,600 to cover his expenses and then give the maps to the Internet Archive for permanent OA hosting. Yesterday he met his fund-raising goal and the 300 GB of data are on their way to the IA.


  1. The UK Free Our Data project likes to point to the US as a country that provides open access to publicly-funded data. While the US does have a commendable track record on this score (as opposed to OA for literature based on publicly-funded research), there are still many pockets of data funded by US taxpayers available only to those willing to pay a second fee. Kudos to Jared Benedict for identifying one such pocket and liberating it, and kudos to the Internet Archive for its assistance. 
  2. I doubt that the USGS will object to this project. The maps are not copyrightable; the (slight) diversion of traffic from the USGS store to the IA should trigger a (slight) reduction in agency expenses; and I've found that most US government agencies sincerely support the principle of public access for publicly-funded information even if various regulatory or political obstacles prevent them from fully implementing it. However, the USGS' business partners, through which it sells most of its priced products, might object. I'll follow this and blog what I hear.
  3. Jared raised the money by selling DVDs of the data he was trying to liberate. This is a beautiful model for any data unencumbered by copyright. Instead of needy taxpayers paying a public agency again and again for the same public information, benefiting only themselves, a small cohort pays the same price for the same information in order to liberate it once and for all for everyone.

Update. I'm glad to see the LibreMap Project getting some good press. See the articles in Federal Computer Week and

Data sharing is critical for new kinds of science

Sandra Braman, Transformations of the Research Enterprise, Educause Review, July/August 2006. Excerpt:
Large research projects are more likely to involve working with the results of data from multiple studies at multiple sites across multiple time periods than working with single studies alone. High-performance computing has made it possible to analyze much larger aggregates of data, expanding vision across space and time in ways previously not possible. Researchers working with such datasets need...institutional arrangements that ensure access to that data irrespective of where it resides or in what form....

The desire to maximize knowledge reuse has become a much more important factor in the design of libraries, databases, storage collections, and archives. Knowledge reuse occurs in several different ways: conducting a secondary analysis of a researcher’s raw data, analyzed either by another in the same field or by people in other fields; revisiting data through new analytical lenses; analyzing data of multiple types through a single analytical lens; synthesizing the results of many different types of studies for simultaneous analysis of multiple types of data about the same problem; adapting analyses of data for application in new contexts; and visualizing results of data analyses....

There is...a tension between the need to centralize data that is being used by multiple parties for multiple purposes and the interest in dispersing data in order to respond to vulnerabilities and to maximize access...

Monday, August 28, 2006

OA repository progress on two fronts

Barbara Quint, Institutional Repositories on Target: ARL Survey and Scopus/Scirus Features, Information Today NewsBreaks, August 28, 2006. (Thanks to George Porter.) Excerpt:
Institutional repositories (IRs) form a key component in the open access movement to bring scholarly research onto the open Web. Librarians and their clients regularly search digital IRs in pursuit of scholarship, but now more and more research librarians have begun to envision institutional repositories as a responsibility, involving themselves in the creation, maintenance, promotion, and advocacy of IRs. The Association of Research Libraries has surveyed its members to collect baseline data on this potentially transforming, technological realignment of scholarly communication. Scholarly publishers also have their eye on the phenomenon. Elsevier has introduced a new “Search Sources” feature for its Scopus users; the feature allows librarians to customize interfaces to direct their users to specific institutional repositories and special digital subject collections. It appears that the new Scopus feature will simply allow librarians to preset the content preferences in Scopus that users of Scirus, Elsevier’s free scholarly search engine, can set for themselves on a search-by-search basis, using the Advanced Search features. Scopus announcements also encourage Scopus clients to open their institutional repositories to the expanding Scirus Repository Search Program.

The 123 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) represent the largest academic research libraries in the United States and Canada. The 38-question survey in early 2006 received responses from 87 member libraries (a 71 percent response rate) with 37 respondents having implemented an operational IR, 31 planning an IR by 2007, and only 19 having no immediate IR plans. Results indicate rapid growth....

With most IRs only 2-years-old or less, it is not surprising that the mean number of digital objects carried in the IRs identified by the survey was only 3,844. Content usually encompasses theses and dissertations, article preprints and postprints, conference presentations and proceedings, technical reports, working papers, and multimedia material....Though the top reasons for establishing IRs were not open access, at 89 percent, it ran a close third behind increasing global visibility of an institution’s scholarship (97 percent) and preservation (95 percent)....

If you have any interest in IRs, this is a good start for examining what deep-pocket players are doing....

The Scopus service already has a Web search tab that takes users from the abstracts and citations that Scopus provides for print publications to the 250 million quality Web pages accessed by Scirus, Elsevier’s free scholarship search engine. But now, librarians can set a separate tab, Select Sources, to designate selected institutional repositories and digital archives for searching by their user communities. Last year, Scirus established a Repository Search Program to encourage universities and research institutions to make full content available to its spider software.

The announcement of the new feature indicated that librarians could choose from more than 19 institutional repositories. According to Niels Weertman, head of product development for Scopus, some of the 19 sources could cover more than one institution’s digital archives. He estimated that the number of archiving institutions was 60 or more. Among the 19 IRs or groups of IRs, the Scopus/Scirus connections lets librarians target the following:

  • 6,000 documents via CalTech
  • 4,400 documents via the University of Toronto’s T-space
  • 54,000 courseware from MIT OpenCourseWare
  • 237,000 full-text theses and dissertations via NDLTD
  • 363,500 e-prints on
  • 2,600 e-prints through Cogprints
  • 12,000 NASA technical reports
  • 180,000 documents via RePEc
  • 11,000 documents via DiVa
  • 2,200 documents via HongKong University of Science and Technology
  • 5,200 Organic e-prints
  • 600-plus documents via PsyDok of Saarland University...

Access barriers in China

Lyn Jeffery, Access to scholarly communication in Virtual China, August 27, 2006. Excerpt:

...My point [in an earlier blog post] was not to say that any particular [scholarly] site is never open to any particular group of people who would like to access it--rather that, faced with the knowledge that one might not be able to get through or will have to wait for long periods of time without knowing the payoff, some scholars just won't try. That goes for both scholars outside of China searching Chinese language materials AND scholars inside China searching for non-Chinese language materials.  Chinese universities may simply not have the resources to provide open internet access for scholarly work, but it seems absolutely critical if Chinese academics are to effectively prepare themselves for the future.

Several people also pointed out that MIT OpenCourseWare is available here on a Chinese server with bits and pieces translated into Chinese. (Those more broadly interested in open source scientific scholarly communication and the politics of academic publishing will want not want to miss the plethora of papers in Session 157, "Promoting Open Access" in Asia and Oceania (scroll down the program and you'll find the links), recently presented at the 2006 World Library and Information Congress in Seoul....

Finally, Li Kaifu reminded me of another common situation at Chinese universities -- some schools charge individuals extra to access foreign websites.  I do not know whether this practice inhibits scholarly searching for those faculty and students....

If anyone knows of a good study looking at the cost of accessing foreign websites for university scholars, and how it shapes their scholarly search practices, please do let us know! 

Epilepsy journal opens access to back issues

Epilepsy Action (a.k.a. the British Epilepsy Association) has decided to provide free online access to the articles from its journal, Seizure, after a 12 month embargo. Seizure is published by Elsevier. For more details, see yesterday's announcement.

Review of some peer-review management packages

Kam Shapiro, Bibliography and Summary: Electronic Peer Review Management, University of Michigan Scholarly Publishing Office. Undated. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.) Excerpt:
A variety of software tools are now available that enable the electronic management of peer review processes for scholarly journals. These tools promise to facilitate efficient and centralized control and/or supervision by journal staff of the submission, assignment, tracking and publication of articles though the web, as well as enabling a central archive of various tasks performed....The specialized features available vary widely, but the more highly developed programs share many characteristics....Despite their different “bells and whistles,” the workflow process is relatively constant across most of the software reviewed here. This no doubt reflects the relatively standard elements of peer review processes across multiple journals. That said, a primary concern for editors is the adaptability of any software to the idiosyncrasies of their process. However, editors may not appreciate the extent to which their processes resemble those of other journals.


  1. This review doesn't cover any of the open-source packages. To add them to your own review of the available tools, start with Open Journal Systems (the leader in this niche), but also take a look at DPubS, GAPworks, Hyperjournal, ePublishing Toolkit, OpenACS, SOPS, and TOPAZ.
  2. From an OA perspective, the chief benefit of peer-review management software is the way it automates the clerical tasks of conducting peer review, the primary cost of runnning a peer-reviewed OA journal. Of course it doesn't touch editorial judgment, but that is typically performed by editors and referees who (like authors) donate their labor.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Endorsement of OA journals from India's Public Health Foundation

Open access electronic journal gaining acceptance, The Hindu, August 27, 2006. Excerpt:
The open access electronic journal is an indication of how science communication will shape up in the 21st century, K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India, said on Saturday.

Delivering the fourth M. V. Arunachalam endowment lecture on 'Medical and scientific journalism-A 21st century perspective,' he pointed out that the open access format was gaining wide acceptance as opposed to the user-paid mode of accessing scientific journals.

The open access format, whose advocates include even the United Nations, could become an important tool in people's empowerment and straightening out the asymmetry of knowledge in the doctor-patient relationship....

Among the advantages of the printed journal...the most important attribute was the process of pre-publication peer review that lent authenticity to the scientific literature. The absence of gate-keeping to uphold the integrity of science was also the big drawback held against electronic publishing, he said....

Comment. Surely Reddy knows that OA journals perform peer review. Is it possible that the paper misunderstood a point he was making about preprint repositories?  As of today the DOAJ lists 2,350 open access peer-reviewed journals.

Update. An August 28 story on Reddy's talk, from South India's News Today, suggests that when Reddy discussed the absence of peer review, he was talking about preprint exchanges, not OA journals.

More on OA and peer review

Adam Rogers, Get Wiki With It, Wired, September 2006. Excerpt:

...When [peer review] works, it's genius – quality control that ensures the best papers get into the appropriate pages, lubricating communication and debate. It's the quiet soul of the scientific method: After forming hypotheses, collecting data, and crunching numbers, you report the results to learned colleagues and ask, "What do you folks think?"

But science is done by humans, and humans occasionally screw up. They plagiarize, fake data, take incorrect readings....The process is lousy at policing research. Bad papers get published, and work that's merely competent (boring) or wildly speculative (maverick) often gets rejected, enforcing a plodding conservatism...."Peer review was brilliant when distribution was a problem and you had to be selective about what you could publish," says Chris Surridge, managing editor of the online interdisciplinary journal PLoS ONE. But the Web has remapped the universe of scientific publishing – and as a result, peer review may finally get fixed.

The proof: In June, Nature began experimenting with a new method online. Authors submitting papers can choose a two-track process. While the work goes through the usual peer review drill, a preprint version gets posted on the Web. Anyone – even you – can comment, as long as you attach your name, affiliation, and email address...."The whole point of peer review is to help the editors select papers that are going to move science forward," says Linda Miller, US executive editor of Nature and the Nature research journals (Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics, et cetera). "If there's a better way, then why not? How could I say no?"

In other quarters, traditional peer review has already been abandoned. Physicists and mathematicians today mainly communicate via a Web site called arXiv....The online journal Biology Direct publishes any article for which the author can find three members of its editorial board to write reviews....And when PLoS ONE launches later this year, the papers on its site will have been evaluated only for technical merit – do the work right and acceptance is guaranteed. "Data becomes useful only if it's shared," Surridge says. "At the moment, our mechanisms for sharing information are the traditional journals, and if they're hard to get into, data is completely lost."...

[O]pen comments are great for nailing fakes and plagiarists. (The online community, not peer review, helped bust the South Korean stem cell fraud Woo Suk Hwang.)...Have papers that went through an open process and got rejected been essentially published already? Plus, the idea of all these articles online, free for the Googling, terrifies the lucrative journal-publishing industry.

But seriously: Who cares? An up-and-coming researcher can get more attention from the right experts by publishing something earthshaking on arXiv than by pushing it through the usual channels. Crazy ideas will get batted around in moderated forums, which is pretty much what the Internet is for. Eventually, printed journal articles will be quaint artifacts. Scientific papers will be living documents with data published on Web pages – commented on, linked to, and mirrored by labs doing the same work 6,000 miles away. Every research effort will have thousands of reviewers working in real time. Today's undergrads have never thought about the world any differently – they've never functioned without IM and Wikipedia and arXiv, and they're going to demand different kinds of review for different kinds of papers. It's in their nature.


  1. It's no accident that innovative forms of peer review are conjoined with OA initiatives. Both are ways of taking advantage of the internet. But (apologies, here comes my standard warning) it would be a mistake to assume that OA requires or even favors open review, when it only has some very promising synergies with it. Removing access barriers and reforming peer review are independent projects. OA is a kind of access, not a kind of quality control and is compatible with every kind of peer review, from the most conservative to the most innovative. Tying OA to just one model of peer review doubles the difficulty of persuading institutions to support OA.
  2. ArXiv does not show that "traditional peer review has already been abandoned...." True, some arXiv users, like Grigory Perelman, think that depositing a preprint in arXiv suffices and that formal peer review is unnecessary, a potentially significant development. But that doesn't change the fact that most preprints in arXiv are steps along the way to publication in peer-reviewed journals. The real significance of arXiv is not that it bypasses peer review but that it bypasses price barriers, helps authors reach an audience orders of magnitude larger than the subscriber base of any journal, helps authors revise and improve their work, helps authors get an early time-stamp for their findings, and helps readers learn quickly about new work done by others.
  3. And even if arXiv did show that traditional peer review had been abandoned, that would not be a reason to celebrate.  I certainly agree that traditional peer review is flawed and that new forms of open review are promising.  But we should be careful not to confuse two kinds of alternative to it. In trying to fix the faults of traditional peer review, the goal is a better system of quality control, not a professional consensus to bypass quality control. --Or, let me revise that, since the term "quality control" needlessly suggests ugly forms of control, perhaps left over from the days of limited space in expensive print publications. The goal is a better system for identifying good work, not a consensus that it can't or shouldn't be done. Open review may be that system, or part of it; I'm not offering an opinion about that here, merely distinguishing open review from non-review. We need reliable second-order judgments, not a retreat from judgment. Without saying that objectivity in science is easy or even attainable, we need to get as far as humanly possible past the swamp of politics, religion, money, ideology, and fad thinking, not a group decision to live in the swamp.  (I'm not saying that Rogers disagrees.)

More on Freeload Press

Randall Stross has a story in today's New York Times, on Freeload Press, the company publishing ad-supported free online textbooks.