Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Defending the NIH policy against misunderstanding

Michael Rogawski and Peter Suber, Support for the NIH Public Access Policy, Science Magazine, September 15, 2006.  A letter to the editor.  Since the Science version is only accessible to subscribers, I've posted an OA copy here (and a correction here).  Excerpt:

In their letter "Public Access Failure at PubMed" (7 July, p. 43), M. Stebbins et al. express a skeptical view of the NIH public access policy, basing their critique on several misconceptions that deserve comment.

1) Is the policy too costly? The current NIH appropriation is $27.9 billion. The $3 million anticipated yearly cost of the public access policy represents 0.011% of the appropriation. In fact, the expenditure on public access is dwarfed by the $30 million annually that NIH reports it provides its funded investigators for page charges and other costs of publishing in subscription journals.

2) Stebbins et al. claim that there is a lack of a demonstrated desire by the general public for access to primary research papers. Usage statistics for PubMed Central (PMC)the NIH database that provides full-text research articles to the public for free and serves as the repository for articles submitted under the public access policy suggest otherwise. There were more than 5 million users of PMC in April. That level of use suggests that not only are working scientists taking advantage of the resource, students and the lay public are as well. There is surely usage from junior colleges, research institutes, small companies, and many other organizations that do not have large budgets for biomedical research journal subscriptions.

3) The public access policy is criticized because there is no dedicated system to guarantee that corrections can be made after publication. Substantive author corrections or retractions are often made by the subsequent publication of errata or retraction notices. The National Library of Medicine has an established system that ensures that any published errata or retractions are noted in the PubMed citation and PMC full-text articles include a link....

6) Stebbins et al. claim that the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act (S.2695) requiring federal agencies to implement a public access policy has drawn criticism because it unfairly places scientists between funding agencies and publishers. Actually, organizations that have a financial stake in publishing are the main source of opposition to the policy and to S.2695. Scientists submit articles without compensation, they carry out peer review usually without compensation, and they often serve as editors for little or no compensation. Publishers make huge profits from this business model based on free labor. Because of the unsupported concern that the public access policy would adversely affect their business interests, they use their political and economic clout to lobby for restricted access, which is detrimental to the professional interests of the scientists that they claim to be serving....

Review of Antelman's work on the OA impact advantage

Suzanne P. Lewis, Open Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact Than Articles Not Freely Available, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 1, 3 (2006).  A review of Kristin Antelman, Do Open-Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact? College & Research Libraries, 65, 5 (Sep. 2004) pp. 372-82.  From the abstract:

The four disciplines represented a range of open access uptake: 17% of articles in philosophy were open access, 29% in political science, 37% in electrical and electronic engineering, and 69% in mathematics. There was a significant difference in the mean citation rates for open access articles and non?open access articles in all four disciplines. The percentage difference in means was 45% in philosophy, 51% in electrical and electronic engineering, 86% in political science, and 91% in mathematics. Mathematics had the highest rate of open access availability of articles, but political science had the greatest difference in mean citation rates, suggesting there are other, discipline?specific factors apart from rate of open access uptake affecting research impact....

The finding that, across these four disciplines, open access articles have a greater research impact than non?open access articles, is only one aspect of the complex changes that are presently taking place in scholarly publishing and communication. However, it is useful information for librarians formulating strategies for building institutional repositories, or exploring open access publishing with patrons or publishers.

More on publishing coops

Heather Morrison, Publishing Cooperatives: Another Seminal Work by Raym Crow, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 15, 2006.  Comments on Crow's case for publishing cooperatives (longer February 2006 version or shorter September 2006 version).  Excerpt:

[Crow] presents a blueprint for moving to open access that will work for a great many publishers....

From my perspective, this is a unique opportunities for libraries to be involved in helping to set up and support such cooperatives. Many of these societies would very much like to move to open access, but lack the means. Their members are our faculty; it makes sense for us to help them, as this creates the changes in scholarly communications we have been seeking.

It is not hard for a library to provide support. There is free, open source software available. Hosting costs are minimal, and technical supports costs can be quite reasonable. Simon Fraser University Library, for example, has analyzed the costs involved per-journal to come up with a cost-recovery fee of $750 Canadian per journal, as listed on the SFU library web site [here].

This is a unique window of opportunity for library leadership in creating change in scholarly communications, in my view.
For the small, print-only publisher, with a little help, it could actually be quite easy to move from print-only to online and open access. It is easier to move to open access immediately, than to set up authentication and electronic subscription tracking first (it's probably more work to set up authentication and tracking than it is to set up an electronic journal)....

Even if the cooperative approach initially is likely to appeal first to the smaller publishers, not the big expensive ones where we'd really like to see changes, here is something to think about: once a cooperative is established, any editorial board fed up with high prices and limited access - has someplace else to go....

Commons-based digital libraries

Anita Sundaram Coleman, Commons-based digital libraries, a preprint self-archived on September 15, 2006. 
Abstract:   This is a submission to the "Interrogating the social realities of information and communications systems pre-conference workshop, ASIST AM 2006." Commons-based digital libraries (CBDL) are an emerging phenomenon – they are digital libraries based on notions of common pool resource management. Developing a CBDL framework will provide a sustainable and equitable vision for digital information management and use. The common-based digital library is first defined followed by the essential aspects of the framework. The metaphorical meanings and theories of libraries, repositories, and the commons are not included. Interested researchers are encouraged to contact the author. Acknowledgments: Thanks to Blaise Cronin for very helpful comments on a very early draft. Thanks to the faculty at Indiana University - they helped me develop some of these ideas by asking lots of hard questions. Thanks also to Heather Morrison for helping me refine the definition.

NIH strikes an agreement with publishers

The NIH has agreed that when publishers deposit articles on behalf of authors, under the NIH's public access policy, then it will consider the authors to be in compliance with the policy.  The agreement was worked out with the American Society of Hematology (ASH) but will extend to other publishers who wish to take advantage of the option.  From yesterday's announcement:

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have signed an agreement that creates a new option for nonprofit publishers to comply with the NIH's Public Access Policy. Implemented by NIH on May 2, 2005, the policy has achieved less than 4% voluntary compliance. This new agreement will substantially increase compliance with NIH's policy thus enhancing access to science, help achieve NIH's goals of managing its research portfolio and developing a digital research archive, and protect the integrity of journal articles while maintaining the publisher embargo period of up to 12 months....

The new option was originally developed by a group of nonprofit publishers and includes the following provisions:

  1. Participating nonprofit publishers will submit to NIH the final version of NIH-funded research articles upon publication. NIH will view the author as compliant with the policy and the author will not incur the burden of submitting and negotiating with NIH.
  2. NIH has internal use only of the articles during the journals' embargo periods of up to 12 months.
  3. Following the embargo period, NIH can publicly provide links to the articles on the journals' Web sites, and also distribute the content of articles from the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) Web site.

As negotiations neared completion, a new provision was added by NIH that allows the NLM to distribute the full content of NIH-funded research articles to foreign country archives.

"ASH has volunteered to have its journal, Blood, be the first participant in this effort," said Bradford S. Schwartz, MD, Chair, ASH Journals Committee, and Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and Dean, College of Medicine at Urbana of Illinois. "We hope that other nonprofit publishers will also participate. Regrettably, some publishers are reconsidering participation because the new provision is duplicative given the fact that the articles are accessible on the journals' Web sites and will be on PMC."


  1. The good news:  Publishers may deposit immediately upon publication, and probably will.  The bad news:  Under this option, the embargo will always be 12 months. 
  2. To elaborate the good news:  This is a variation on the dual deposit/release strategy, which Stevan Harnad first conceived and I've often recommended.  To move closer to the full strategy, the NIH should release article metadata immediately upon deposit. 
  3. To elaborate the bad news:  The NIH is letting publishers strong-arm authors into accepting the maximum embargo.  This may only formalize the status quo, but it's a retreat from several earlier understandings about the policy.  Don't forget (a) that the NIH policy is a request to authors, not to publishers, (b) that the policy "strongly encourages" authors to permit public release "as soon as possible" after publication, (c) that Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, said in February 2005 that authors have a "right" to early release and that the "NIH is committed to helping our scientists exercise this right," and (d) that Zerhouni told the Washington Fax on January 21, 2005, that "we expect 12 months to be the exception, not the rule." All of this is now forgotten. 

Friday, September 15, 2006

Retroactive OA to an award-winning article

The Journal of Labor Economics is providing retroactive OA to an award-winning paper originally published in January 2004:
Pascal Courty and Gerald Marschke, An Empirical Investigation of Gaming Responses to Explicit Performance Incentives.

From the journal's announcement:

The Journal of Labor Economics awarded Pascal Courty (European University Institute) and Gerald Marschke (SUNY ­ Albany) the H. Gregg Lewis Prize for their article....Awarded biennially in even-numbered years, the Lewis Prize honors the best paper published in the Journal in the last two years....In honor of Courty and Marschke’s award-winning work, the University of Chicago Press has temporarily lifted all access restrictions to the article....

Comment. It's an excellent idea to provide retroactive OA to articles when they, or their authors, win subsequent awards or recognition. But why not make it permanent OA? Does the press really think it will gain more from toll access to an old but respected article than it will gain from OA that draws new readers, impact, and citations? In a forthcoming article, I argue for systematically providing permanent OA to past research articles, starting with the most important.

Comparing software for OA repositories

G. Sayeed Choudhury, A Technology Analysis of Repositories and Services, D-Lib Magazine, September 2006.  Excerpt:

With funding from the Mellon Foundation, the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University has conducted an analysis of repositories and services based on a methodology for connecting user requirements with repository programmatic features. The Sheridan Libraries considered a diverse range of content types and end user services by developing and gathering numerous scenarios from multiple institutions, and collaborating particularly with MIT, UVA, and ProQuest to evaluate DSpace 1.3.2, Fedora 2.0, and Digital Commons. In all cases, we worked with the "out of the box" system and documented APIs. It is important to note that our analysis focused on the ability of each of these systems to support specific functionality through documented APIs. Future work should include additional analysis of other means for supporting functionality (e.g., user interface or application based import or access), and of additional systems (e.g., ePrints)....

All project materials, including final results, are available at the main project wiki.

EPJ C adds an OA letters section

The European Physics Journal (EPJ), which already has an OA letters section for EPJ A (Hadrons and Nuclei), announced today that it would add an OA letters section for EPJ C (Particles and Fields). (Thanks to George Porter.)

BMC collects funder policies on OA

BioMed Central has released its Summary of funding agency policies on open access.  From today's press release:  

BioMed Central today released the results of its international survey of 75 biomedical funders on their policies regarding open access to the results of research. The survey confirms that there is strong support by funders for moves to increase access to the results of research, through open access publishing and open access archiving.

Summary of survey findings:

  • 33 funders responded to the survey (or had already made their policies on open access publicly available)
  • 31 funders have confirmed that they are willing to fund article processing charges for open access publication
  • 16 funders are signatories of one of the major international declarations in support of open access
  • 15 funders have an official policy in support of open access
  • 11 of these official funder policies either encourage or require funding recipients to deposit all resulting research articles in an open access repository
To assist authors wishing to publish in open access journals, the results of BioMed Central's survey have been compiled into a comparison table, bringing together detailed information on each funder's policy.

Matthew Cockerill, BioMed Central's Publisher, commented: "It is very encouraging to see a growing number of funders expressing official support for open access, and confirming that they will make funds available to allow authors to publish in open access journals. Many of the funders we contacted as part of the survey indicated that, while they did not yet have an official policy in support of open access, it was an issue that they were actively working on. We hope that publication of this comparison table of funder policies will encourage even more funders to define official policies on open access."

PS:  For another collection of funder OA policies, see JULIET.

OA impact advantage: for links too, not just citations

Yanjun Zhang, The Effect of Open Access on Citation Impact: A Comparison Study Based on Web Citation Analysis, Libri, September 2006. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far. Excerpt:

Abstract. The academic impact advantage of Open Access (OA) is a prominent topic of debate in the library and publishing communities. Web citations have been proposed as comparable to, even replacements for, bibliographic citations in assessing the academic impact of journals. In our study, we compare Web citations to articles in an OA journal, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC), and a traditional access journal, New Media & Society (NMS), in the communication discipline. Web citation counts for JCMC are significantly higher than those for NMS. Furthermore, JCMC receives significantly higher Web citations from the formal scholarly publications posted on the Web than NMS does. The types of Web citations for journal articles were also examined. In the Web context, the impact of a journal can be assessed using more than one type of source: citations from scholarly articles, teaching materials and non-authoritative documents. The OA journal has higher percentages of citations from the third type, which suggests that, in addition to the research community, the impact advantage of open access is also detectable among ordinary users participating in Web-based academic communication. Moreover, our study also proves that the OA journal has impact advantage in developing countries. Compared with NMS, JCMC has more Web citations from developing countries.

Encouraging OA in the humanities

Linda Hutcheon, What Open Access Could Mean for the Humanities, University of Toronto Project Open Source | Open Access, September 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

Unlike the humanities, in most of the sciences today, the debates about open access (OA) are focused on ethical, professional and financial issues, not intellectual ones. In other words, few disagree that "the world-wide distribution of peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other interested minds" (to use Professor James Till's phrasing) is a positive intellectual move....

In the humanities, little of this debate has been evident. Perhaps it is because the publication of humanities research findings is less time sensitive, so rapid OA archiving has not seemed necessary. The silence about OA publishing is likely because of the continuing emphasis on monograph rather than article publication: books are still the currency in the tenure and promotion market. But the much discussed "crisis in scholarly publishing" has steadily been taking its toll, prompting the Modern Language Association of America to urge changes in the tenure process to provide more recognition for research disseminated in other than book form. If libraries cannot afford to but new scholarly books and university presses cannot afford to publish books few will buy and so cut back on their lists, junior scholars cannot get their books into print and therefore find it difficult to get tenure.

There are two obvious answers to this professional problem and both should be considered seriously. The first is the publication of books electronically: in July, an announcement was made that Rice University Press (which ceased publication in 1996) was being revived but would publish only online books --- peer reviewed, like all high quality scholarly publications....The second answer is that university tenure and promotion committees in the humanities should move away from the printed book as the measure of success and validate journal articles (in print or online) or electronic books as well, when the same processes of peer review are in place....

[T]his kind of step...would be a positive response to the crisis faced by young scholars whose careers are bying hijacked by the economic problems of the scholarly publishing industry....

In the course of our research, we often amass enormous files of visual and print materials that we could store --- and share --- through open access repositories. In my experience, few scholars feel particularly possessive about the material, even if they have often gathered it arduously: they share it readily with colleagues and students. The next step would be to share it with even more interested people through this kind of public archive....

PS:  For my take on why OA is moving more slowly in the humanities than in the sciences, see Promoting Open Access in the Humanities.

First results of the MIRACLE survey

Karen Markey and five co-authors, Nationwide Census of Institutional Repositories: Preliminary Findings, a presentation at JCDL 2006 (Chapel Hill, June 11-15, 2006).   (Thanks to DigitalKoans.) 

Abstract:   The MIRACLE (Making Institutional Repositories A Collaborative Learning Environment) Project is a multi-phased research project that is investigating the development of institutional repositories (IRs) in American colleges and universities to identify models and best practices in the administration, technical infrastructure, and access to repository collections. This paper features preliminary findings from the project’s first phase, a nationwide census that will reveal the extent of college and university involvement with IRs in the United States. Preliminary findings address the types of investigative activities that institutions are conducting prior to making the decision to implement an IR, perceived benefits of IRs, staffing for IRs, methods of recruiting digital content, characteristics of operational IRs including their costs, and respondents’ next steps on the road to implementing an IR.

One table in the paper ranks the top and bottom three benefits of IRs.  The top three were "Capturing the intellectual capital
of your institution", "Better service to contributors", and "Longtime preservation of your institution’s digital output".  The bottom three were "Reducing user dependence on your library’s print collection", "Providing maximal access to the results of publicly funded research", and "An increase in citation counts to your institution’s intellectual

When institutions without IRs were asked why they didn't have one yet, the top two reasons given were "Other priorities, issues, activities, etc., are more pressing than an IR" and "We have no available resources to support planning".  The bottom three reasons were "We do not understand or believe in the value or effectiveness of an IR", "We have no support from our library’s administration", and "We do not need an IR
These top and bottom reasons indicate".

"A new era in digital scholarship"

Richard K. Johnson, Will Research Sharing Keep Pace with the Internet? The Journal of Neuroscience, September 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

The ways scientists share and use research are changing rapidly, fundamentally, and irreversibly....These changes signal a new era of digital scholarship. Many of yesterday’s limitations on research and learning are being swept away by the Internet. For the first time in history, we have a practical opportunity for efficient, unlimited sharing of information at virtually no cost beyond that of providing it to the first reader.

Many elements comprising the process of scientific exchange have been quick to respond to the opportunity....However, journals have been comparatively slow to embrace the potential of the ubiquitous network. True, online editions are now the norm for most journals and online reference linking has made it easier to navigate the literature. But fundamentally, most online journals are simply digital editions of their print analogs. Little changed since they were invented >300 years ago....

[T]he scientific paper and its historic container, the journal, are poised for change. The possibilities and demands of science together with new enabling technologies are just too compelling to resist....

The Internet offers the opportunity to eliminate access barriers that limit use of scientific findings, to share research freely among all potential readers. Because scientific discovery is a cumulative process, with new knowledge building on earlier findings, it is counterproductive to keep research locked up like books in a fourteenth century monastery....

To its credit, the Society for Neuroscience is taking steps to embrace change rather than guard the status quo that seduces so many successful organizations. The guiding principles of SfN's Open Access Publishing Strategy well capture the spirit with which all societies should approach the transition ahead: recognize the value and likelihood of open access publishing and be ready with an effective strategy when this happens; maintain the ethos of scientific publishing (i.e., that it is by and for scientists and that the advancement of science ranks above all other publishing motives); maintain peer review as an essential element in any open access format (Society for Neuroscience, 2006).

Knovel's free content

KnowledgeSpeak has interviewed Chris Forbes, the CEO of Knovel, September 15, 2006.  Excerpt:

Q:  Many of Knovel’s science and engineering data tools are available for free. Can you please comment on the degree of success of your hybrid model which accommodates both paying customers and individual free accounts?

A:  We offer a material amount of content for free, primarily in the academic market. All of the content we offer for free, which is generally high value chemical data, is owned by Knovel. We do this as a thank-you to academe in general as they have been tremendously supportive of Knovel and our strong growth. In fact, we provide free access to significant content to almost 1,000 institutions around the world and are pleased to provide access to any institution that would find chemical property information useful. Although, this approach is not entirely altruistic as the graduates of these institutions become our end users in the future and it is our goal to have those graduates demanding to know “where’s my Knovel” when they land at their first job.

OA learning-object network for Australia

The Australian government has announced the approval of an OA Learning Object Repository Network (LORN).  The network should launch later this year.

OA data service wins ALPSP/Charlesworth Award

ALPSP has announced the ALPSP/Charlesworth and ALPSP Awards 2006.  One winner is an OA data service.  Excerpt:

ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation

...This year’s award was made to the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) for their Data Exchange, Quality Assurance and Integrated Data Publication (CIF and checkCIF).

The crystallographic information file (CIF) and associated data dictionaries allow the seamless transfer of information from experimental apparatus, through computation analysis, to database deposition and publication. CIF also allows the definition of quality standards for data deposition and publication and the deployment of mechanisms for checking compliance with such standards, via the checkCIF web accessible service. The main features of the standard are its well defined machine readable syntax, large collection of individually defined data names and the formalism which allows automatic validation of certain attributes of data. The standard has been extended to assist with routine aspects of editorial checking and peer review, which can now take place with much increased speed and confidence.

The judges were impressed with the way in which CIF and checkCIF are easily accessible and have served to make critical crystallographical data more consistently reliable and accessible at all stages of the information chain, from authors, reviewers and editors through to readers and researchers. In doing so, the system takes away the donkeywork from ensuring that the results of scientific research are trustworthy without detracting from the value of human judgement in the research and publication process.

The development and maintenance of CIF and checkCIF is sponsored by several publishers, but it is freely accessible to all. IUCr already works closely with other related structural science communities and is looking to extend this cooperation. The judges felt that in developing CIF and checkCIF, the IUCr has established an important example of data quality assurance with potential applications in other scientific, medical, and indeed social sciences publishing.

OA database of government grants and contracts

Congress has passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which creates an OA database of government grants and contracts. The bill was nearly derailed by Senators who didn't want their favorite pork-barrel spending projects exposed to the light of day. The database should launch in 2008.

Here's an academic take on the legislation from today's Chronicle of Higher Education:

Congress has approved a bill establishing a Web-based, Google-like search engine to provide a single, public source of information about federal contracts and grants, including projects financed through academic earmarks.

The move was part of a flurry of activity in Congress this week to provide more transparency and accountability for earmarks, the noncompetitive awards secured by lawmakers for colleges and other constituents. The House of Representatives approved on Thursday a rules change requiring that all Congressional sponsors of earmarks be publicly identified.

The move for increased disclosure came as Congressional Republicans face low poll ratings and a November election. Critics fault the party for presiding over an explosion in earmarks for colleges and other recipients since Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.

But it was unclear whether the increased sunshine would reduce the number of these set-asides -- many members of Congress and college officials already boast openly about specific earmarks they obtain....

For each federal award, the new database must identify the recipient and give a description of the project and the amount of any federal funds that this recipient has received in the past 10 years. The bill sets a deadline of January 1, 2008, for the database to go online and January 1, 2009, for it to list subcontracts and subgrants....

[The database will include individual grants for scientific research.] Roy D. Blunt, a Missouri Republican who is House majority whip, said the database could highlight a variety of "wasteful government grants," and he mentioned two specific grants to universities that were financed by the National Institutes of Health and that the House voted in 2004 to eliminate (The Chronicle, September 10, 2004.) Congressman Blunt cited "millions of dollars spent with the National Institute of Mental Health to study what makes a meaningful day for college students, or to study how college students decorate their dorm rooms."

[N]umerous Democrats and some Republicans said the measure, H. Res. 1000, was flawed because it contained loopholes. The disclosure requirement applies, for example, to earmarks in appropriations bills passed by House committees but not to amendments introduced during floor debates. Those "manager's amendments" are often loaded with earmarks and introduced shortly before a final vote, leaving legislators little time to examine or debate them.

For more, see my first blog posting on this bill and other news coverage.

Upgrade to OpenDOAR

OpenDOAR, the Directory of Open Access Repositories, has announced some enhancements to its service.  Excerpt:

OpenDOAR is pleased to announce an upgrade to its service, with more repositories listed and more features for both users and repository owners.

OpenDOAR...has now surveyed over 1000 candidate sites world-wide for inclusion in the list. This has produced a quality assured list of 760 repositories....

A key feature of OpenDOAR is that all of the repositories we list have been visited by project staff, tested and assessed by hand. We currently decline about a quarter of candidate sites as being broken, empty, out of scope, etc. This gives a far higher quality assurance to the listings we hold than results gathered by just automatic harvesting....

OpenDOAR recently came as the leader in a global survey of 23 repository listings carried out by John Hopkins University for the purposes of analysing repositories and their holdings....

OpenDOAR listings can be sorted by subject area, language, country, content type and results searched in combination with keywords. Results can be displayed in different formats, including a tabular form which can be changed and specified for an individual's interests. Entries highlight repository features such as the size of holdings, presence of e-alerts, RSS feeds and language....

The OpenDOAR team have produced tools to assist repository administrators in defining the re-use policies for their holdings. These tick-box tools are simple to use and help administrators clarify their permissions. They produce complete policies, ready to plug into a repository's structure....

Study will affect EU digitization policies

The EU is willing to fund a study of its digitization needs, process, and policies.  From its call for tenders:

[We will fund] the development and testing of a framework and associated methodology for the collection and analysis of data on digitisation of material by libraries, archives and museums in the EU. The aim is to be able to better identify the total European digitisation effort and progress, make international comparisons, and stimulate further digitisation.

The study results will be used by stakeholders that have an interest or direct involvement in digitisation policies and funding (governments, statistical agencies, cultural institutions, academic and scientific institutions, publishers, industry).

Part 2 of Ulrich Herb on OA

Ulrich Herb, Journale, Impact Factor, radikale Monopole und Karrieren, Telepolis, September 15, 2006.  Part 2 of Herb's lengthy survey of OA issues.  (Part 1 appeared yesterday.)  Read it in German or in Google's English.

Copyright law hinders scholarship in the UK

The British Academy has previewed a report to be released on Monday that will show how UK copyright law hinders scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.   Excerpt:       

A report from the British Academy, to be launched on 18 September, expresses fears that the copyright system may in important respects be impeding, rather than stimulating, the production of new ideas and new scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

It is in the nature of creative activity and scholarship that original material builds on what has gone before – ‘if I have seen further, it is because I had stood on the shoulders of giants’ – therefore provisions that are overly protective of the rights of existing ideas may inhibit the development of new ones.

Existing UK law provides exemption from copyright for fair dealing with material for purposes of private study and non-commercial research, and for criticism and review. “There is, however, little clarity about the precise scope of these exemptions, and an absence of case law” said John Kay, who is Chair of the Working Group which oversaw the Review. “Publishers are risk-averse, and themselves defensive of existing copyrights.”

The situation is aggravated by the increasingly aggressive defence of copyright by commercial rights holders, and the growing role – most of all in music – of media businesses with no interest in or understanding of the needs of scholarship. It is also aggravated by the unsatisfactory EU Database Directive, which is at once vague and wide-ranging, and by the development of digital rights management systems, which may enable publishers to use technology to circumvent the exceptions to copyright which are contained in current legislation.

The Academy publishes with the report a draft set of guidelines for Fellows and scholars on their rights and duties under copyright legislation. They include

  • authors and producers of original creative material should understand that their interests in copyright are not necessarily identical with those of publishers and should not rely on publishers to protect them
  • the law should be clarified - statutorily if necessary – to make clear that the use of copyright material in the normal course of scholarly research in universities and other public research institutions is covered by the exemptions from the copyright act.
  • publishers should not be able to use legal or technological protection through digital rights management systems to circumvent copyright exemptions
  • the growth of digital databases should be monitored to ensure that ready access continues to be available for the purposes of scholarship

Comment.  The US suffers from all the same problems except the EU Database Directive.  I wish the US National Academies, perhaps joined by the AAU, would say so and recommend the same remedies.  In both countries, the set of remedies could be expanded to include the first-sale doctrine for digital content, Lawrence Lessig's Public Domain Enhancement Act, a reduction in the term of copyright (at least prospectively), and clarification that search indexing is fair use.

Update. The full report is now online (September 18, 2006).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Temporary free access to RS journals back to 1665

The Royal Society has finished digitizing all the back issues of all its journals back to 1665.  To celebrate, it's offering free online access to the lot until December.  See the RS announcement or The Register's news story.  (Thanks to Matt Cockerill.)

Normally I don't blog trial offers of free online access but I'm making an exception for this one.  This window onto the history of science is extraordinary.

Update. Here's a comment from Tom Wilson on the Information Research Weblog:

The journals will be freely available until the end of the year but then only through subscription. Unfortunately, the Royal Society has teamed up with JSTOR in making this offer, and JSTOR is not an open access supporter.

So - this fascinating resource will not be available readily to historians of science, unless their institutions pay the subscription, or to enthusiastic amateurs, or, presumably, to school-children. Surely the archive could have been made partially open access - from 1665 to 1899, perhaps?

Once again, we have an instance of commercial interests closing down access to scholarly, scientific information.

Temporary TA access to public info in exchange for digitization

Michael Cross, National Archives squares the data circle, The Guardian, September 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

[T]hrough a series of innovative licensing deals, the [UK National Archives] is taking an unusual approach to the task of digitising even obscure archives: it's encouraging private firms to foot the bill for doing so, in return for a certain amount of exclusivity - often time-limited - on the use of data. One result, according to chief executive Natalie Ceeney, is to create a thriving industry for genealogy websites in the UK - and the study of our ancestors is already one of the biggest pursuits on the web.

Britain's online genealogy sites are "probably better than any other country," she told the Guardian/RSA Free Our Data debate in July. And certainly, wider access for the public and for private companies is very much what Technology Guardian's Free Our Data campaign seeks to create with Her Majesty's digital crown jewels....

Access to the National Archives is already free, says Ceeney; the problem is that access is to the paper form. Digitising the data makes it far more easily available, and useful; but...[d]igitising documents, especially old ones, is a slow, labour-intensive business.

Thus National Archives online data is not free to electronic shoppers. It'll cost you £3.50 to order your great-grandfather's medal record from the first world war (if he was of that generation, he'll probably have one), and £8.50 to order an electronic image of a document not yet digitised.

But, according to Ceeney, licensing data to commercial firms is keeping costs down. "The average price to download a census record is 60p, about a tenth of what it would cost to digitise it ourselves."

Ceeney's approach may be a neat way of squaring the cost circle as public organisations come under dual pressures to minimise their taxpayer funding while simultaneously making their data widely available....

Macmillan CEO on "copyright erosion" by OA

Tim Coates has blogged some notes on yesterday's keynote by Richard Charkin (CEO of Macmillan) at the National Acquisitions Group conference (Reading, September 13-14, 2006).  Excerpt:

[Charkin] urged the [publishing and library] sectors to build a united front to help battle "copyright erosion" by open access models, Google digitisation, and other threats.


  1. This is all I have on the OA part of Charkin's talk.  If anyone has more details, I'd like hear them.
  2. Of course OA literature does not depend on the infringement or abolition of copyright.  I assume that Charkin knows this.
  3. How about if universities and libraries build a united front to battle the "copyright enclosure" by publishers who demand to own the copyrights to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers?

The brave new world of OA

Ulrich Herb, Schöne neue Welt des Open Access, Telepolis, September 14, 2006.  (Thanks to Der Schockwellenreiter.)  Part 1 of a multi-part story, this part focusing on price barriers to scientific research --either in the form of reader-side subscription fees or author-side publication fees.  FWIW, here's Google's English.

PS:  I can't tell whether Herb acknowledges two important qualifiers:  (1) that most OA journals charge charge no author-side fees and (2) that more TA journals charge such fees than OA journals.  He does acknowledge that OA archiving charges no user fees.

New multi-disciplinary journal combining open access and open review

Philica is a new OA journal covering every academic field, charging no author-side fees, providing immediate OA to the submission, and using a form of open review with anonymous, recursively weighted reviewers.  Articles in different fields are collected into sections called PsychoPhilica, EduPhilica, JurisPhilica, and so on.  (Thanks to inn0vate.)  From the site:

Philica was conceived by two British psychologists who had grown dissatisfied with traditional academic journal publishing. This makes profits from researchers’ efforts through strong copyright restrictions which greatly limit the free exchange of information, both between research groups and between researchers and the public. Philica gives control back to researchers, and provides an open and transparent forum where knowledge and thought can live and grow.

Crucially, Philica still provides a process of academic peer review, allowing proper critical examination of ideas and findings. However, for the very first time this process is both transparent and dynamic. It is transparent as reviews can be seen publicly; it is dynamic because opinions can change over time, and this is reflected in the review process....

You submit Articles or Observations using our submission page. Here’s the interesting bit: Your work is published to the community instantly. It is available for viewing by everyone and anonymous refereeing by any other professional researcher....And because Philica is the “Journal of Everything”, never again will you read that awful phrase, “Your work is great — but this isn’t the right place for it”....

Philica is like eBay for academics. When somebody reviews your article, the impact of that review depends on the reviewer’s own reviews. This means that the opinion of somebody whose work is highly regarded carries more weight than the opinion of somebody whose work is rated poorly. A person’s standing, and so their impact on other people’s ratings, changes constantly as part of the dynamic Philica world. Ideas and opinions change all the time — Philica lets us see this.

For more information, see the FAQ.

OA for medical librarians

Heather Morrison and Andrew Waller, Open access for the medical librarian, Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, Summer 2006.   (Self-archived copies here, here, and here.)
Abstract:   In this article open access is defined, and the resources and issues of greatest relevance to the medical librarian are discussed. The economics of open access publishing is examined from the point of view of the university library. Open access resources, both journals and articles in repositories, are already significant and growing rapidly. There are close to 2300 fully open-access peer review journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (320 health sciences titles are included). DOAJ is adding titles at a rate of 1.5 per day. An OAIster search of resources in repositories includes more than 7.6 million items (a rough estimate of the number of articles in repositories, although not all items are full text), and this number will exceed one billion items before the end of 2007. Medical research funders, including the US National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Medical Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, either have implemented or are considering open access policies. This will drive greater growth in open access resources, particularly in the area of medicine. There are implications and leadership opportunities for librarians in the open access environment.

Law school is proud of its OA track record

The Chapman University School of Law (in Orange, California) issued this press release last Friday:

In an increasingly important objective measure of scholarly productivity, the Chapman University School of Law has been ranked #1 in the nation in terms of the number of scholarly articles posted in the past 12 months on the Social Sciences Research Network, or SSRN, a key online distribution network for legal scholarship.

The rankings [free registration required], which became available this week based on data through September 1, 2006, list Harvard Law School at #2 , New York University at #3 and the University of Minnesota at #4. Rounding out the top ten were UCLA (#5), Yale (#6), Duke (#7), and the University of Chicago, University of Illinois and George Washington University (tied at #8). Chapman law professors also took top honors in the number of scholarly articles posted by author, out of 1,500 professors listed nationwide: Professor Jeremy Miller was #1, Professor John Eastman was #3, and Professor Donald Kochan was #21.

The Chapman law faculty also broke into the Top 100 on SSRN in terms of the number of articles downloaded over the past 12 months....

Parham Williams, dean of the Chapman School of Law, noted that the accomplishment was even more impressive than it first appeared, as the majority of Chapman faculty only began posting their scholarship on SSRN this past summer....

Joe Hodnicki at Law Librarian Blog excoriates the Chapman statement:

US News ranked Harvard the second best law school in the country in its 2006 report. Chapman, well, Chapman is a Fourth Tier school. Harvard's academic peers rated the school and its faculty 4.8 on a scale of 5.0. Chapman's peer assessment score is 1.5, only four law schools scored lower than Chapman in peer assessment.  I conclude, reasonably I think, that these two school aren't exactly playing in the same league, not even in the same law school fantasy league....

[O]f the 145 Chapman Law documents posted in the SSRN digital depository in the last 12 months ending on September 1, 2006, a whooping 108 were submitted in August 2006 (and most of those were submitted on the last day of August). This has to be the most creative jag any law school faculty has ever experienced -- just-in-time productivity, no less.  But a closer examination reveals that the only person who was really productive in Orange, California in August was the person who uploaded the documents to SSRN, documents whose dates of publication ranged from 2006 to ... wait for it ... 1981. Yes, 1981!...

I hope the Chapman Law Library staff didn't spend its entire summer tracking down hardcopies for scanning!

Comment.  Note for non-lawyers:  SSRN is the OA repository of choice for legal scholarship in the US. 

Hodnicki is right that Chapman doesn't rank high on the standard criteria for evaluating law schools and he's right that Chapman's recent SSRN posts don't show recent productivity.  But since Chapman made neither claim, his arguments are beside the point except to put Chapman's real claim in a wider context.  Chapman claimed that it was doing better than other law schools at providing open access to its research output --which is true and commendable. 

There are many criteria for judging the worth of a law school.  (Disclosure:  I graduated from Northwestern Law School in 1982.)  Willingness to provide open access to its research output is new, and Chapman is right to say that it's "increasingly important".  It may not be in the US News set of criteria, but it's a valid measure of a school's commitment to live up to its mission to share the knowledge it generates. 

I do hope that the Chapman's law librarians spent the summer tracking down hardcopies for scanning.  I also hope they spend regular time helping faculty (or those who need help) post OA copies of their born-digital research.  I hope they work just as hard next year as they did last year and I hope that other law school librarians will try to catch up with them. 

And by the way, I also hope that US News will soon add, as one criterion among many others, the percentage of a school's annual research output on deposit in OA repositories.  I hope all similar guides do the same, whether they are evaluating law schools, medical schools, graduate schools, or any other kind of research institution.

Four more presidents and provosts endorse FRPAA

Four more top administrators 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).
  • Elizabeth Kiss, President, Agnes Scott College
  • Ronald D. Liebowitz, President, Middlebury College
  • Robert R. Lindgren, President, Randolph-Macon College
  • Douglas Bennet, President, Wesleyan University

The tally is now 120 and counting.

Dutch ETD repository launched

The Dutch DARE project has launched Promise of Science, an OA repository for electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) in the Netherlands.  Promise of Science covers all Dutch universities and on launch day (yesterday) already contained 10,000 Dutch ETDs.  The site supports searching by keyword, author, institution, or year.  For more details see the announcement.

New web site for the i2010 digital libraries initiative

The EU i2010 strategy has launched a new web site on the Digital Libraries Initiative, including a new FAQ.  The project is European-wide and multi-lingual, covering both the sciences and cultural heritage, and includes a commitment to massive digitization, long-term preservation, and open access for works in the public domain and those copyrighted works for which the project can obtain permission.

PS: I'd say more about this important initiative here but I've often blogged it in the past.  I hope the new web site lets the i2010 team streamline or simplify its confusing proliferation of sites.

Gates Foundation helps PLoS launch a new OA journal

The Gates Foundation has given the Public Library of Science a $1.1 million grant to launch a new OA journal on neglected diseases.  The grant is part of a larger Gates initiative to find cures for neglected tropical diseases.  From today's announcement:  

Public Library of Science (PLoS), to launch a new medical journal on neglected diseases -- US$1.1 million: PLoS will launch PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a new open-access, peer-reviewed medical journal covering science, policy, and advocacy on neglected tropical diseases. While other medical journals have increased their attention to neglected diseases in recent years, few journals focus on the topic. The new journal will provide an important forum for scientists from developed and developing countries to share the latest information on neglected disease research.

Comment. The Gates Foundation has come close to supporting OA in the past, particularly through its annual Access to Learning Award and its recent decision to mandate data sharing for Gates-funded AIDS research.  But I believe the PLoS grant is its first direct support for OA literature.  This could mark the beginning of a significant new source of funding for OA to medical research.

Update. Here's the PLoS press release on the new journal. Excerpt:

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) announced today the creation of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the first open access journal devoted to the world's most neglected diseases.

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases will focus on the overlooked diseases that strike millions of people every year in poor countries, including elephantiasis, river blindness, leprosy, hookworm, schistosomiasis, and African sleeping sickness. The journal, supported by a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will begin accepting submissions in 2007....

[Peter Hotez, Editor-in-Chief of PNTD] will discuss the journal during a panel discussion on neglected diseases on September 21 at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York. The panel will also feature former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has helped to lead the successful global campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease....

"Through its open-access format, the journal will help build health and research capacity in the regions most affected by neglected tropical diseases," said Dr. Hotez.

The journal's distinguished international editorial board includes many experts from developing countries, and some of the biggest names in tropical medicine and global health, including renowned health economist Jeffrey Sachs and the director of the World Health Organization's African river blindness control program, Uche Amazigo....


EU project to widen access to European research information, September 13, 2006.  The CORDIS announcement of the DRIVER project.  (See DRIVER's own announcement on Monday.)  Excerpt:

A new EU-funded project will lay the foundations of a large-scale, pan-European public infrastructure for research information.

Open-access to research information is vital for researchers. The long-term vision of the DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research) project is to create an knowledge infrastructure for European researchers, which could include any form of scientific resource, from reports, to research articles, to raw data to other media.

A number of countries and institutions already have repositories and networks which bring together a wide range of research content. A good example of this is the DARE Network in the Netherlands. Launched in 2004, DARE networks the digital data collections of all Dutch universities, as well as several related institutions, and allows users to access the information, which is arranged consistently. To date, DARE provides access to more than 75,000 digital records. The organisation behind DARE, SURF (the Dutch higher education and research partnership organisation which networks services, information and communications technology), is a partner in the DRIVER project. 

In a similar way, the European Digital Repository Infrastructure will eventually be a virtual network of repositories from across Europe. Initially, the project will focus on linking 51 institutional repositories from the Netherlands, UK, Germany, France and Belgium. This early 'test-bed' version of the European Repository will offer users a number of services, such as search, data collection, profiling and recommendations....

Ultimately, the project partners hope their virtual repository will build up a critical mass of research materials which will represent a powerful demonstration of Europe's research output.

Notes from the Jordan OA meeting

Rolf Kleef, Open Access To Knowledge, Corante, September 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

I have just returned from Amman, Jordan, working with the General Assembly of eIFL, a network of library consortia representing well over 3,000 libraries in almost 50 countries, serving over 8 million users. They do a lot of work on "Open Access", to make books and content available in countries in development and in transition. Advocacy work to make sure that authors have alternatives to giving up the rights to their own work, and the new role a librarian can have in dealing with such issues on behalf of research staff, while negotiating with the big publishers.

Paul Peters of Hindawi Publishing Corporation in Cairo explained how they have built a growing company out of material available under Creative Commons licenses, very much along the same lines as software companies produce open source software: the creator pays to make the initial version, after that the cost of reproduction is nearly zero.

The reasoning of Hindawi and Open Access: few authors are driven by a need (or possibility?) to create income from selling copies of their work. Most are writing to get maximum exposure of their ideas or research, so any barrier to distribution should be eliminated. Exposure will generate better opportunities to attract funding or better-yielding other engagements: jobs, speeches, project opportunities...

Behind Swarthmore's support for FRPAA

David Lau, Bloom signs letter supporting open access to researchThe Phoenix, September 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

On Sept. 6, a group of 56 presidents from various liberal arts colleges around the country issued an open letter supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 [FRPAA]. This letter, which was co-signed by Swarthmore College President Al Bloom, brought the issue of open access research further to the forefront of higher-level education.

“[President Bloom] was pleased to [sign the letter] for precisely the reasons the letter urges support of the legislation,” Vice President Maurice Eldridge ’61 said in an e-mail....

“In a nutshell, the basic idea [of open access] is that academic research should be published in venues without restrictions to use,” Department of History Professor Timothy Burke said. “We as a college are supporting faculty to carry out research which the academic author receives nothing for, and then the library has to pay to be able to read it. This is a bizarre economic irrationality.” ...

[College Librarian Peggy Seiden] was happy at the progress that was being made, particularly in Congress. “I’m generally supportive of the open access movement, in most ways that it’s been defined,” she said. “I think it’s important for faculty and their institutions to retain ownership of information and not cede rights to publishers. I’m certainly happy this is on the congressional agenda. For too long, libraries have had to lead the effort to reform scholarly communication on our own.”

Burke said that the support for open access makes sense for most faculty who publish their research. “What you accrue [through your publishing] is reputation capital, all of which helps you,” he said. “What are the conditions of circulation that will help you? As much circulation as possible.”

He also expressed hope that the administration would continue its efforts in pushing for a higher degree of open access research. “I know there’s a lot of interest and discussion between college presidents and college provosts, and the leaders understand that open access is a no-brainer that helps financially and ethically. It’s a win-win situation.”

Vice President Eldridge agreed with Burke’s viewpoint about the advantages of open access. “I suspect that open access would not change fundamentally the way that faculty and students conduct their research so much as enhance and perhaps even streamline the process,” he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More on the APS hybrid journals

Kim Thomas, APS extends open access to all its journalsInformation World Review, September 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

Physics research promoter and publisher the American Physical Society (APS) is to extend open access to all its journals.

The APS previously made its five print journals available through subscriptions, and its two e-journals (Physical Review Special Topics and Physics Education Research) on an open access basis.

Payment of a $975 (£514) publication fee will secure the free online availability of any article from Physical Review A-E (the fee for Physical Review Letters articles is $1,300). The model covers all articles, including those from the APS archive, which stretches back to 1893, should any philanthropic sponsors wish to pay for articles to be released online for free.

Tom McIlrath, APS treasurer and publisher, said the society had been keen to keep the fee low to make it as attractive as possible to authors....The society had been discussing ways of introducing open access for some time, said McIlrath. The difficulty, he said, lay in enabling authors to publish open access articles without significantly impacting subscription revenue.

“If we get a lot of requests this way, [McIlrath said,] we can lower subscription prices further. If it begins to be a predominant path for authors to take, we’ll have to reconsider, because it begins to eat into our subscription fees.” ...

Comment. For my evaluation of the APS implementation of the hybrid model, see my article in the September SOAN.

Survey of OA in India

Can Open Access offer science where no one is left behind?, September 1, 2006. Excerpt:

India is making noticeable progress in the field of 'Open Access', a growing global trend which could help it get out of the trap which blocks researchers from here reading what other Indians have published.  Yet, a lot more still remains to be done, say experts working in the area.

"Nearly a hundred journals have already taken the Open Access route," says Chennai (South India)-based Subbiah Arunachalam, an information scientist once called India's and the developing world's "great advocate for open access".
Open Access (OA) implies the free online availability of research-oriented scientific and scholarly journal articles. It picked up globally since around 2002.

"Journals of the Indian Academy of Science, the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), the Mumbai-based (medical publishing) MedKnow, NIC-Medlars and the Calicut Medical Journal, among others, have gone the Open Access route," Arunachalam told APC.

In early 2006, the Bangalore-based information company Informatics (India) Ltd, launched Openj-gate. This portal covers 3500+ English-language [OA] journals. Some 2000 of these are peer-reviewed.

But much [more] is needed. Says Arunachalam: "Research performed in India, funded by Indian taxpayers, is reported in a few thousand journals, both Indian and foreign. Since some of these journals are very expensive. Many Indian libraries -- including sometimes the author's own institutional library -- are not able to subscribe to them." ...[Cutting discussion of many OA successes.]

Interestingly, some major global commercial publishers had promised to offer access to countries having less than $1000 per capita incomes. But they went back on their word, on the plea that they enjoyed sizeable subscriptions in India.
So, will this solve the dilemma of having so much science, and yet so little of it -- for a world which is "developing" but where the gap is simply growing?

Introducing Ruby-OAI

For Ruby programmers there is now Ruby-OAI, a Ruby implementation of the OAI protocol for metadata harvesting. I haven't heard of any Ruby-based archiving software yet, but I doubt that will last much longer.

Sleepwalking away from our responsibility

Peter Murray-Rust, Do you read journals, or “use a database”?  A Scientist and the Web, September 11, 2006. Excerpt:

...[T[here is a [growing] tension between the publisher and the users - significant content is illegally downloaded and an important role of the publisher is acting as “policeman” making sure that content is not stolen....

Now, I have never advocated breaking or abolishing copyright, but it is clear that this is creating a tension in the publisher/reader community. I’ve been involved in setting or being on the board of scientific journals and I see their major purpose as enhancing scholarly communication. I’m worried that we are losing sight of this, where journals in non-profit organisations are seen as a way of subsiding other activities of the society. If the publishers see “users” as a group who have a major motive to steal content, I suspect things will get worse.

At some stage we seem to have flipped from a community where publishers interpreted the wishes of the community and served them - for a reasonable fee - to a world where publishers make the rules and police their non-compliance....

It worries me that this has happened almost silently. I remember in ca. 1970 (when I was too inexperienced to notice) that authors were asked to transfer copyright to publishers....I didn’t think twice about it - but it was one of the biggest mistakes of my scientific life. Are we sleepwalking into something just as serious? ...

Defining open data

Peter Murray-Rust, Open Data - the time has come, A Scientist and the Web, September 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

The term “Open Data” is now becoming commonly used and we (Blue Obelisk) are trying to define it (our mantra being ODOSOS. Open Data, Open Source, Open Standards). It was not commonly used two years ago although the concept is general enough to have been important. In the last 12-15 months there has been a lot of use, particularly in the techie web logs and meetings. The idea is potentially very much broader and looks set to become very important....

There seem to be several related threads:

  • scientific data deemed to belong to the commons (e.g. the human genome)
  • infrastructural data essential for scientific endeavour (e.g. GIS)
  • data published in scientific articles which are factual and therefore not copyrightable
  • data as opposed to software and therefore not covered by OS licenses and potentially capable of being misappropriated. (this is a very general idea)

I think the current usages are sufficiently close that we should try to bring them together. Comments here would be useful. Maybe a Wikipedia article would help?

More on the broadcasting treaty and OA

Mike Carroll, The Broadcast Treaty and Open Access, Carrollogos, September 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

Michael Geist has a nice column today once again reminding us about why the WIPO negotiations over a Broadcast Treaty are trouble. See also the CPTech blog. A number of technology companies and public interest organizations oppose the treaty for these reasons.

One quick point about the Treaty and then a point for Open Access advocates. In my view, representatives of copyright-owning organizations have made the wrong bet in either supporting or staying neutral on this issue. They have bet that broadcasters will, on balance, help them enforce their rights against those who transmit copyrighted works that have been broadcast. As technology evolves, and broadcasters use the rights created by the Treaty to protect their business model, these copyright owners will regret the choice they make today.

Some Open Access advocates, librarians in particular, have been active in opposing the treaty. For those who have not tuned in, the important thing to watch is how the policy debate is conducted. Who has the burden of persuasion? Ben Ivins of the National Association of Broadcasters argues that because other countries give broadcasters a distinct right in their signal, it is opponents of the treaty who must show that the treaty would be harmful. This argument is exactly backward. In the United States, a proponent of a law that restricts speech has the burden to show that the restriction will advance an important governmental interest....

Allocating the burden of persuasion is just as important with respect to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). The AAP is doing its best to argue that proponents of the legislation must prove that the benefits of open access outweigh the costs. That, I am afraid, is not the way it works in any society that embraces a principle of freedom of expression. Thus, the first response from the open access community should be that the burden is on those who would restrict public distribution of publicly-funded research to show that such restrictions advance an important public interest. Then, we can take up the question of how to measure benefits and costs.

PS: For more background, I discuss other OA implications of the WIPO broadcast treaty in Three gathering storms that could cause collateral damage for open access (March 2006).

Another provost for FRPAA

Susan Herbst, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York at Albany has added her 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).

Launch of Chemistry Central Journal

From today's press release announcing the official launch of Chemistry Central Journal:

Chemistry Central Journal, a revolutionary open access peer-reviewed, online chemistry journal, was announced today at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco. Chemistry Central Journal is the first international open access journal that covers all of chemistry....

Expected to publish its first articles in early 2007, Chemistry Central Journal is part of Chemistry Central, a new initiative from the team that created BioMed Central, the leading biomedical open access publisher.

Drawn from academia and industry, Chemistry Central Journal's distinguished Editorial Advisory Board is made up of senior chemistry researchers from all over the world, including four Nobel Laureates....

"I think open access journals are a great idea and am delighted to join you in this venture as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board," said Professor Robert Curl (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1996).

[Bryan Vickery, Deputy Publisher at BioMed Central and a chemist by training] continues, "Open communication of research results in physics and biomedicine has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Many believe Chemistry has lagged behind, with access to chemistry-related journals and databases still predominantly limited to subscribers only." ...

Chemistry Central Journal will offer a home for research in areas where there has previously been no open access journal available. In his new blog Peter Murray-Rust, commenting on the recent launch of Chemistry Central, noted "Before Chemistry Central there were no open journals that supported chemoinformatics." Vickery adds, "Chemistry Central Journal aims to change all that, by offering an open access publishing option to scientists worldwide. The journal will cover all areas of chemistry...."

Comment. Congratulations to all at Chemistry Central.  This is a long-need breakthrough for the field of chemistry.

I have a minor problem that I hesitate it to bring it up on the same occasion as this major announcement.  Today's press release doesn't name of the publisher this journal --and therefore doesn't give guidance to people like me who want to write complete sentences in the active voice that attribute actions to actors.  I know that Chemistry Central is produced by the same team that brought us BioMed Central, that the team is called the Science Navigation Group, and the CC-SNG connection was openly announced last month.  The problem isn't secrecy but diction.  It may be inaccurate to call SNG the "publisher" of CCJ.  But it may be more inaccurate to say that the publisher is BioMed Central or Open Access Central, the new umbrella organization to coordinate Chemistry Central, BioMed Central, and other sibling initiatives still to come.  Is Chemistry Central the publisher of Chemistry Central Journal? (If so, then is SNG launching multiple publishers, not just multiple publishing projects?) I'm not trying to get to the bottom of a mystery so much as avoid the passive voice.  SNG-BMC-OAC-CC:  Help me say "x launched y" rather than "y was launched [by launcher unknown]". 

Monday, September 11, 2006

Europe is building a large-scale network of OA repositories

A consortium of international research institutions has launched DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research).  From today's announcement:

An international partnership has started work on a project to build a large-scale public infrastructure for research information across Europe.

The "Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research" (DRIVER) project responds to the vision that any form of scientific-content resource, including scientific/technical reports, research articles, experimental or observational data, rich media and other digital objects should be freely accessible through simple Internet-based infrastructures. Like GEANT2, the successful European network for computing resources, data storage and transport, the new DRIVER repository infrastructure will enable researchers to plug into the new knowledge base and use scientific content in a standardised, open way. The project is funded by the European Commission....

Open Access to research information is vital for researchers and helps the public appreciation and understanding of science. DRIVER will be helping countries to create networks of openly-accessible repositories for research information....

DRIVER will put a test-bed in place across Europe to assist the development of a knowledge infrastructure for the European Research Area. The project will develop over the next 18 months, building upon existing institutional repositories and networks, from countries including the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK. The aim is for one large-scale virtual content resource to be created to access and integrate individual repositories....

Several user services, including search, data collection, profiling and recommendation, will be implemented in the test-bed....Availability of such a basic scientific content infrastructure should encourage academic and/or non-academic service providers to build high-valued and innovative services on top of it....

The DRIVER Consortium consists of the University of Athens (Greece), Bielefeld University (Germany), Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (Italy), Stichting SURF (Netherlands), University of Nottingham (UK), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique DIS (France), University of Bath (UK), Uniwesytet Warszawski (Poland), Universiteit Gent (Belgium), and Goettingen University (Germany).

Comment.  This is big.  It should greatly increase the number of OA institutional repositories at European universities, tilting the balance so that universities without them will feel the need to catch up.  Its test bed will demonstrate powerful new services on top of interoperable OA archiving, enticing universities to make their research output available to these services through local incentives to deposit.  And it should make it much easier for public funding agencies in European countries, and the now-emerging European Research Council, to mandate OA archiving for all the research they fund.

September First Monday

The September issue of First Monday is now online.  Here are the OA-related articles.
  • Raym Crow, Publishing cooperatives: An alternative for non–profit publishers.  Abstract:  "Publishing cooperatives — owned, controlled, and benefiting non–profit publishers — would provide an organizational and financial structure well suited to balancing society publishers’ twin imperatives of financial sustainability and mission fulfillment. Market challenges and structural constraints often render it difficult for small society publishers to compete individually. Publishing cooperatives would allow society publishers to remain independent while operating collectively to overcome both structural and strategic disadvantages and to address the inefficiencies in the market for academic journals. Publishing cooperatives can provide a scaleable publishing model that aligns with the values of the academy while providing a practical financial framework capable of sustaining society publishing programs."
  • Giliam de Valk and Brian Martin, Publicly shared intelligence.  Abstract:  "Publicly shared intelligence is the gathering and analysis of information of political value that is openly available to the public and able to be tested. This is a potential alternative to the sort of secret intelligence normally carried out by government agencies. Desirable features of publicly shared intelligence can be determined by analogy to other open knowledge production systems, including science and open source software. The case of the Shipping Research Bureau illustrates the potential of publicly shared intelligence. We outline features of a publicly shared intelligence system, including implications for public education."
  • Adrienne Russell, Covering music file–sharing and the future of innovation.  Abstract:   "This paper explores the coverage of file–sharing from before the RIAA/Napster trial of 2000, drawing on interviews with journalists from the New York Times, Wired, Salon and the Los Angeles Times and on analysis of their stories and columns of opinion. It argues the file–sharing story saw “establishment” journalists unapologetically move away from long–established norms of journalism — by relying on alternative sources and by frankly including their own points of view, for example. The course of the stories these journalists produced points to the tensions that continue to mount in the new–media news landscape and to the forces that shape stories in the mainstream press. For more than a decade U.S. journalists lingered on the margins of profound questions about the limits of freedom under the rule of the market. Yet, with the emergence of the recording industry into the online music scene, journalists backed off, leaving the questions they raised unanswered and the larger issues behind the questions mostly unaddressed.'
  • Tom Cross, Puppy smoothies: Improving the reliability of open, collaborative wikis.  Abstract:   "The reliability of information collected from at large Internet users by open collaborative wikis such as Wikipedia has been a subject of widespread debate. This paper provides a practical proposal for improving user confidence in wiki information by coloring the text of a wiki article based on the venerability of the text. This proposal relies on the philosophy that bad information is less likely to survive a collaborative editing process over large numbers of edits. Colorization would provide users with a clear visual cue as to the level of confidence that they can place in particular assertions made within a wiki article."
  • David M. Berry and Giles Moss, The politics of the libre commons.  Abstract:   "The project of ‘free culture’ is committed to the creation of a cultural space, rather like the ‘public domain’, seeking to complement/replace that of proprietary cultural commodities and privatized meaning. This has been given a new impetus with the birth of the Creative Commons. This organization has sought to introduce cultural producers across the world to the possibilities of sharing, co–operation and commons–based peer–production by creating a set of interwoven licenses for creators to append to their artwork, music and text. In this paper, we chart the connections between this movement and the early Free Software and Open Source movements and question whether underlying assumptions that are ignored or de–politicized are a threat to the very free culture that the project purports to save. We then move to suggest a new discursive project linked to notions of radical democracy."

Recognizing the voluntary commons in international law

Philippe Aigrain, Towards a positive recognition of commons-based research and innovation in international norms, an extended extended version of a talk at the Access to Knowledge conference (Alexandria, September 7-8, 2006).  Excerpt:

In the recent years, a powerful trend has developed internationally of creating voluntarily knowledge that can freely exchanged and used. This was in part a reaction against the extension of restrictive property-like
rights. But it also built up as a natural possibility in the information era where knowledge and creations can easily be represented in information, and can be created, processed and exchanged using information and communication technology. As soon as information technology and information representations for knowledge in fields such as biology were born, researchers and users have started informally creating and exchanging information in a way that prefigured today's voluntary information and knowledge commons. From John von Neumann to John Sulston, from Donald Knuth to the creators of the Internet and the Web, it seemed simply the right thing to do to create and share knowledge in the information era.

Those willing to create information and knowledge commons did not have an existing legal concept which they could simply apply to the corresponding artefacts. They had to simulate it using contractual arrangements or permission notices. In parallel, those who wanted to make possible some public interest usage of copyrighted works or patented matter without going to complex or often impossible negotiations and transactions had recourse to exceptions and limitations provisions in laws and treaties. Remarkable achievements have been done under both the licensing and exceptions/limitations mechanisms. They range from free software to open science, from freely accessible publications to publicly accessible libraries and legal deposit. However, generalising these achievements to other fields, and making them possible in different areas of the world would be greatly facilitated by a direct recognition of the "voluntary commons" in international norms. Do not mistake me, I don't think that such a recognition would be a replacement for the existing IPR titles. It is a different layer of norms, and it can not be designed on the same basis, by copying the property-like

Good discussion of OA journals in philosophy

The Leiter Report posted a reader comment on September 7 calling for OA journals in philosophy (Leiter's field --and also mine). Since then the post has generated a large, supportive discussion.

Germany's Pirate Party advocates OA

Stefan Krempl, Deutsche Piratenpartei kämpft für die freie Wissensgesellschaft, Heise online, September 10, 2006. A news story (in German) on the Piratenpartei Deutschland (German Pirate Party or PPD), whose platform includes open access to publicly-funded research.

Comment. Good platform, bad name. OA to research has nothing to do with copyright infringement, let alone piracy. Even taking the Pirate name as a subversive gesture of pride hurts the cause by confusing people about this often-confused point. OA is already lawful. The largest obstacle to OA is ignorance and misunderstanding, and any association with piracy is part of the problem, not part of the solution. We have to demystify OA, not decriminalize it. OA is lawful because it rests on copyright-holder consent or the public domain (the expiration of copyright), not on infringement or expropriation. For the narrow purpose of achieving OA, we don't even need copyright reform, although many reforms would help. I cannot endorse any description of OA that classifies it as a kind of piracy.

OA keeps authors honest

I've seen several arguments over the years that citing OA articles makes it easy for readers to verify that authors are accurately representing their sources, while citing TA articles makes this difficult and protects authors who want to blow smoke.  The most detailed case I've seen for this conclusion is also the most recent:  Mark Liberman, Open-access sex stereotypes, Language Log, September 10, 2006. 

Pre-submission review can lower journal expenses and help OA journals

Heather Morrison, Pre-submission peer-review (transitioning to open access), Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Transitioning to open access can be facilitated for everyone involved by looking for efficiencies in the production of scholarly communications. This post looks at the hypothesis that pre-submission peer review results in higher quality submissions, reducing the workload for editors and peer-reviewers. If correct, this has interesting implications: enhanced viability for some types of open access journals, such as the strictly volunteer / in-kind or membership fee subsidized models, or potentially reduced processing fees for open access journals that rely on the latter.

To me, this is such a no-brainer that I'm not waiting for the results of the suggested research! In my view, open access publishers are well advised to include suggestions for pre-submission peer-review in their author guidelines, right now! ...

Implications:  If this hypothesis is correct, there are some interesting implications. If a journal is using a processing fee approach, why should an author who submits an article close to perfection pay exactly the same rate as an author whose article needs substantial revision? Does it make sense for a volunteer / in-kind or membership fee subsidy based journal to actively encourage authors to seek pre-submission peer review? ...

This post is the third in the Transitioning to Open Access series.

More on the Libre Map Project

Aliya Sternstein, ‘Ransom’ demand pays for free maps, Federal Computer Week, September 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

Two years ago, a mountain biker, frustrated because he could not find free, official topographic maps online, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Geological Survey. After USGS denied the request several times, the cyclist — Jared Benedict — decided to raise enough money to centralize the government’s topographic maps online for free.

USGS had told Benedict that he could buy the maps he needed from the agency, so he did. He purchased a hard drive containing more than 56,000 digital topographic maps from a USGS business partner and used his Web site to ask donors for a $1,600 “ransom” to cover the expense.

“Donate or purchase maps on DVD to meet the ransom demand,” Benedict urged readers of his Web site. “Once the $1,600 ransom is met, all maps will be handed over to the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive will make every map available for free download forever!” ...

USGS spokeswoman Denver Makle said the agency neither supports nor objects to Benedict’s efforts. Citizens can buy topographic maps through the online USGS store for a small charge that covers the cost of materials, labor, shipping and handling, he added. The agency does not make a profit from its map sales, he said.

In addition, most topographic maps are available for download at the USGS Seamless Server at

The Internet Archive is committed to helping Benedict complete his project. “We will make these files available to others to build applications on top of” and at no cost, said Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s co-founder.

PS: For more background, see my blog posting for August 29, 2006.

List of OA databases

Tenn-Share (a resource-sharing initiative of Tennessee libraries) has started a list of open-access databases and invites readers to help enlarge it.

French research institute launches OA repository

France's Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer (Ifremer) has launched Archimer, an OA institutional repository. (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.) From the English-language version of the repository front page:

[Archimer] provides a database of full-text documents covering post-publications (final drafts published in peer-reviewed journals), theses, conference proceedings and Ifremer reports.  These scientific publications can thus be read online, free of charge, by any potential user with access to the Internet.

Archimer aims at:

  • providing a better visibility to Ifremer research output, in all fields related to oceans (aquaculture and fisheries for instance, but also geosciences, biology, ecology...)
  • increasing impact: more scholars and scientists have free and rapid access to Ifremer research output, thus increasing its citation impact
  • promoting research output of the institute by aggregating its publications in a structured and interoperable database (compliant with the OAI-PMH)
This project fits in the international development of Open Access, which aims at providing free access to scientific literature to the widest audience via the Internet.

Update. I've just heard from Frederic Merceur, director of Archimer. He informs me that Archimer was launched a year ago but is in the news now because it has recently released a report (in French) showing that more than 70% of Ifremer articles published in the past year are now OA through Archimer. (Kudos to Merceur and Archimer for that unusually high deposit rate.) OAN readers will also be interested in Avano, an OAI Harvester for the marine and aquatic sciences that Ifremer launched two weeks ago.

Universities take industry word for copyright law

Cory Doctorow, USC Copyright rules are flawed, Daily Trojan, September 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

As students were returning to the USC campus for the 2006-2007 year, they were sent an ominous memo on "Copyright Compliance," signed by Michael Pearce, USC deputy chief information officer and Michael L. Jackson, vice president for Student Affairs.  This extraordinary document set out a bizarre, nonlegal view of copyright's intent and the university's purpose, and made it clear that in its authors' views, scholarship takes a backseat to copyright....

The memo's purpose was to warn the student body from using peer-to-peer programs and other file-sharing tools. They did so not to warn them against using these tools to infringe copyright, but rather to warn them against using them at all on pain of losing their Internet access. The memo equates file sharing with infringement. 

But this is a narrow and inaccurate view of P2P. P2P systems are the largest libraries of human creativity ever assembled. Even Grokster, the system shut down by the Supreme Court in a highly publicized case last year, was found by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to have more noninfringing documents than were held in the world's largest library collections - millions, tens of millions of works that were lawful to search and download.

P2P is a collection of material that might have reduced an earlier generation of scholars to tears. As a science-fiction writer, I've grown up with grandiose predictions about the future, but no jet-pack futurist was so audacious as to imagine a repository of knowledge as rich and potent as P2P....

Why would USC trumpet this one-sided, extremist view of copyright?  Isn't the university's purpose to promote scholarship? Shouldn't a university be aggressively defending scholarship against organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America, whose indiscriminate enforcers send sloppy takedown notices to university profs named "Usher" whose lecture audio files called "usher.mp3" are mistaken for songs by the artist Usher?

The answer is that, according to the memo, "USC's purpose is to promote and foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property."

It's hard to imagine a more shocking statement in an official university communique.  If this statement were true, then the measure of USC's success would be the number of patents filed and the number of copyrights registered rather than the amount of original research undertaken, the number of diplomas granted, the volume of citations in scholarly journals....


Comment. Cory is right and the problem extends far beyond USC. Universities routinely accept propaganda from the copyright industry as an accurate statement of copyright law.  This causes two kinds of harm.  First, universities needlessly shrink the scope of fair use and retreat from permissible (i.e. licensed) copying and redistribution, both for entertainment and for scholarship.  Second, they abdicate their responsibility to understand the actual rules and teach them to students.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Better Bailey feed of OA-related news

Charles Bailey has enlarged and improved his compendium of sources for OA-related news:

The Blogdigger feed was not updating properly, and it has been deleted.

I’ve created a MySyndicaat Feedbot feed to replace it. The aggregate feed provides recent postings for the current week for selected Weblogs and other sources (currently 14 sources). The Open Access Update page’s feed has been switched to the MySyndicaat feed and the number of possible postings increased to 50. The MySyndicaat Feedbot Web page is now available as well.

Although the MySyndicaat Feedbot is set to the shortest update cycle, keep in mind that there are bound to be some feed update delays.