Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Case study in digitizing journal backfiles for OA

Yan Han, Jeanne Pfander, and Marianne Stowell Bracke, Digitizing Rangelands: Providing Open Access to the Archives of Society for Range Management Journals, Quarterly Bulletin of IAALD, 3, 4 (2005) pp. 105-110.  Self-archived February 24, 2007.

The University of Arizona Library is a vital participant in the AgNIC Rangelands project and has contributed to the initiative in many ways. For example, in the mid-to-late 1990’s the Library digitized the backfiles of the Journal of Range Management for open access on the web. Funding and completing digitization projects such as this is a complicated process and requires many decisions along the way. This paper outlines the process taken by the Library to manage a more recent project to scan back issues of the journal Rangelands. It starts with the decision to develop a project plan and request funding from the National Agricultural Library (NAL). It continues on to describe negotiating agreements with project partners, the process for outsourcing of scanning, the design of the technical infrastructure needed to support digitized content, and issues of sustainability that any digital library encounters.

U of Bergen perspective on Norwegian cancellation of Blackwell titles

Lars Holger Ursin, UB breaks with publisher, På Høyden, February 23, 2007.  (Thanks to Adam Hodgkin.)  Excerpt:

...[Quoting University of Bergen Library Director, Kari Garnes:] ‘The problem is that we cannot enter into agreements in which we see ourselves being deprived outright of our financial control.’ She tells us of rather dramatic developments in recent years, in which the demands from the publishing giants are becoming steadily more unreasonable: 

  • The libraries cannot choose which journals they wish to subscribe to; instead they are forced to take big packages, and thus journals that in principle they do not wish to pay for.
  • Nor is it possible for the libraries to terminate subscriptions in the course of the contract period.  
  • The publishers fix their prices on the basis of how many subscriptions the institution has had, and the libraries must thereby pay for subscriptions that individual departments or research centres have had on the side.
  • In addition, a high annual price rise in the contractual period is being demanded, in Blackwell’s case 7 per cent.  
  • The publishing houses concede a discount for transition to pure electronic subscriptions, but this is much lower than what the publishers actually save. 

‘The discount is normally around 10 per cent, but on top of that we have VAT, in Norway’s case 25 per cent’, explains the head of the Acquisitions Division at UB, Ole Gunnar Evensen....[But] Blackwell was only willing to concede the much lower discount of 5 per cent. That made an already expensive subscription scheme so costly that the libraries cannot afford it. Ironically enough, the libraries will soon be unable to buy books....

Breaking off the negotiations altogether and cancelling the agreement on electronic journals is a drastic step, but it has been done before. In 2003, for example, the prestigious Cornell University broke off negotiations with the biggest publisher, the Dutch company Reed Elsevier. The following year, after hard negotiations, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and all the institutions in the University of California system pared their subscriptions down to the bare minimum.

Several American researchers then protested volubly against the pressure from the publishers, pointing to the paradox that they are supplying articles and quality control to the journals for free, and giving the journals legitimacy and status by citing them, at the same time as they have to pay steadily more money to be allowed to read them. For the publishing houses it is good business: according to The Harvard Gazette, between 1999 and 2004 Elsevier doubled its revenues in the fields of natural science, technology and medicine, to a total of USD 2.33 billion....

The [Norwegian] university libraries are now aiming to obtain paper editions of all these [cancelled Blackwell] journals, and will offer free inter-library loans. This means a lot of extra work for the librarians....

PS:  For background, see the January 2, 2007, joint statement by four of Norway's six university libraries on their decision to cancel the whole package of 778 Blackwell journals because of "unacceptable conditions and price increases" (blogged here January 8, 2007).

OA supporter becomes Dutch minister of education, culture, and science

Wouter Gerritsma, Important OA proponent becomes minister of education in the Netherlands, Wouter over het Web, February 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

With the installment of the new government in the Netherlands, an important OA proponent, Ronald Plasterk, has become minister of Education. Prof. Dr. R. H. A. Plasterk was director of the Hubrecht Laboratory in Utrecht (An English version of his CV can be found in the Google Cache, our ministers normally don't need a CV in another language than Dutch). Amongst others he is still listed at this moment as member of the editorial board of PLoS Biology. Plasterk is probably the best known advocate of OA publishing in the Netherlands. Vouching his opinion on OA in his columns in the Dutch press, as well as figuring in many interviews on OA in the same press. He was not only advocating OA, he was also actively participating in the OA movement. As an editor of the first PLoS journal. Or through making his papers published elsewhere available on his website (Partly to be found in the Google cache, on being appointed as a minister some odd things happen to your webpages).

Policy makers at Dutch Universities are thrilled with his appointment. Since he was quite a popular columnist a lot of his opinions are well known. So far, his ideas on OA, and his active participation, and his open rebellion against copyrights of the big publishers, have not been highlighted yet. It is about time to do a review about this subject. It will be really interesting to see how he deals with the OA issue on the political agenda.

PS:  Congratulations to Ronald Plasterk and kudos to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende for this exciting appointment.

John Wilbanks on the Neurocommons OA project

John Wilbanks, Second-Generation Open Access: Building an Open Content, a 92-minute video- or audio-cast of a presentation at Oxford's Internet Institute, February 8, 2007.  Oxford's description:

The Open Access movement reserves the right to re-use the peer reviewed literature: translation, republication, annotation and analysis. This talk will lay out a specific re-use of the open literature - extracting a set of annotations and republishing those annotations for use in analysis software. The volume of scholarly literature is such that it is now becoming critical to use automated approaches to manage the information, and copyrights can have a significant chilling effect on this usage.

Science Commons is building a test case in this area called the Neurocommons, and the talk will lay out the key elements of the project.

Using natural language processing and other automated technologies, we are extracting machine-readable representations of neuroscience-related knowledge as contained in Open Access Literature and taxpayer-funded databases. We use standard Semantic Web markup languages to assemble those representations into a 'graph' that we re-publish with no intellectual property rights or contractual restrictions on reuse. Our goal is to demonstrate that the rights of re-use, combined with new technologies, can dramatically increase the value of knowledge on the web.

ERC will launch next Tuesday

The European Research Council (ERC) will officially launch in Berlin on February 27-28.  For details see the February 22 press release.

What's the OA connection?  In December 2006, the Scientific Council of the ERC pledged to adopt an OA mandate for ERC-funded research "as soon as pertinent repositories become operational".

Update. Wendy Hall, member of the ERC Scientific Council, Head of the School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and friend of OA, will be on the opening panel at the launch conference.

Pro bono legal services for fair-use defendants

In November 2005, American University's Center for Social Media released an important report, Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.  Now the Stanford Center for Internet and Society Fair Use Project is building on the AU guidelines with a stunning offer.  Quoting Lawrence Lessig

For films that are certified to have followed the Best Practices guidelines, Media/Professional [an insurance company] will provide a special (read: much lower cost) policy; Stanford’s Fair Use Project will provide pro bono legal services to the film. If we can’t provide pro bono services, then Michael Donaldson’s firm will provide referrals to a number of media lawyers who will provide representation at a reduced rate. Either way, filmmakers will be able to rely upon "fair use" in the making of their film. The Fair Use Project and Donaldson will defend the filmmakers if their use is challenged. Media/Professional will cover liability if the defense is not successful.

This is a huge breakthrough....

Comment.  This beautiful offer amounts to free or nearly free insurance against fair-use liability for conscientious film-makers.  I'd love to see a similar project for conscientious scholars, especially in fields like art history that are crippled by copyright over-reaching.  We have to pull together three elements:  good guidelines for fair use, public-spirited lawyers willing to defend scholars who comply with them, and a public-spirited insurance company willing to cover damages in the rare case of liability.  (If the guidelines are good and eligible clients comply, then we know liability will be rare --and will become even rarer as the guidelines are revised.)  Kudos to AU, Stanford, Media/Professional, and Michael Donaldson for inventing the recipe and committing themselves to implement it for film-makers.  Now that we know the recipe, what are the chances that a new or overlapping set of players can implement it for scholars?

The state of scholarly communication in South Africa

Eve Gray, The State of the Nation - South African scholarly publishing and the global knowledge divide, Gray Area, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[I]t is perhaps time, in a series of postings, to do my own State of the Nation overview of where South Africa stands at the start of 2007 in relation to my area of interest - the dissemination and publication of African scholarship.

First, a background sketch. I hold an International Policy Fellowship from the Open Society Institute (Budapest) investigating policy for the dissemination of African scholarship....In particular, the project researches the question of whether countries like South Africa and its African neighbours can start to turn around the global knowledge divide and raise the reach and visibility of African research using electronic media and the Open Access publishing approaches currently taking hold across the world.

If one looks at the current state of research publication in African countries, what stands out most strongly is the persistent marginalisation of African knowledge - particularly of scholarship about Africa, produced in Africa....

This publication takes place within a generally unquestioned value system in which quality is measured by publication impact in an international arena in which scholars and publishers from Africa are unequal players in the global research economy....

[T]he very criteria that the developing world uses for its traditional-model scholarly output are those that contribute also to its marginalisation in the global arena....

2007 might well be the year in which South Africa starts to pay more attention to these issues. On the international front, a number of initiatives are putting the issues on the front burner - the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) is in the process of creating an African Science and Innovation Facility; the World Bank has identified higher education as a key driver for African economic growth and poverty eradication; the funding agencies are taking an increasing interest in the potential for unlocking access to African knowledge through the use of ICTs and Open Access; and the steadily growing number of international initiatives for access to publicly funded research (the most recent being the EU meetings held last week). Locally, the Academy of Science of South Africa's project on scholarly publishing is beginning to take shape, under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology (more on that in another posting), an increasing number of Open Access projects are beginning to emerge and the middle economy alliance of Brazil, India, China (and South Africa, tagging on behind) is beginning to impact. But a lot still needs to be done to get these debates a higher profile in the universities and in government.

CC licenses 3.0

Creative Commons has launched the 3.0 versions of its licenses.

Usability data on Michigan's MBooks

The University of Michigan Library has posted some usability data on MBooks, the ebooks digitized from the Michigan library by the Google Library Project.

OA journal program at Swinburne U of Technology

"The world has changed"

M.J. Tooey, Why Open Access Won't Go Away, Connective Issues, February 2007.  Tooey is the Executive Director of the University of Maryland Health Sciences & Human Services Library.  Excerpt:

Throughout my life I have been blessed and cursed by my ability to see both sides of an issue. In the past, compared to many of my respected academic library colleagues, I have taken a moderate approach to the subject of open access. I believe that open access is the right way to go, but also understand that publishing is a business. Society publishers use revenues to support their activities and services to members and commercial publishers need profits to return money to investors and shareholders.

The recent revelation in the January 25 issue of Nature that the Association of American Publishers, on behalf of its Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire Eric Dezenhall, "the pit bull of PR," to fight the growing support for public and open access, appalls but does not surprise me. Desperate people do desperate things.

Through my service in the Medical Library Association and on library advisory boards for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the New England Journal of Medicine, I have participated in and facilitated countless panels where reasonable people from both sides of the table have had civil discourse on how the scholarly publishing model needs to change. This latest revelation has engendered more discussion and disgust than I have seen in the almost five years of debate.

With this recent turn of events, it's time to take a firm stand and set the record straight on open access!

Some open access facts:

  • Open access journals are peer-reviewed.
  • Peer review is not an expense for the publisher. It is based almost completely on free labor from the research community.
  • Publishers typically do not pay authors for their articles and authors frequently have to pay additional publication charges.
  • The Cornyn-Lieberman Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) only affects federally funded research. The current NIH policy "Enhanced Access to NIH Research Information" only affects NIH grant recipients, and is voluntary.
  • The world has changed. If the noble goal of scholarly communication is the dissemination of research and important discoveries, isn't it imperative and morally right that this information be disseminated as widely as possible and shared for the greater good?...

Elsevier's US lobbying during 2006

William Walsh has a detailed summary of Elsevier's lobbying activity in the US during 2006.  His summary is based on a report from the Center for Public Integrity, using data from the Senate Office of Public Records.

Bottom line:  in 2006, Elsevier spent $2.84 million on lobbying Congress.  That's less than it spent in 2005 but still its second-highest total ever.  The company's US lobbying budget increased 610% from 1998 to 2006.  Among the many bills on which Elsevier lobbied, presumably for amendment or defeat, was FRPAA and the two Labor/HHS appropriations bills (House and Senate) that would have strengthened the NIH policy from a request to a requirement. 

PS:  There's nothing illicit about this lobbying.  Pro-OA groups lobbied for passage of the same three bills. 

CLIR census of IRs in the US

Karen Markey and four co-authors, Census of Institutional Repositories in the United States: MIRACLE Project Research Findings, CLIR, February 2007.  From the splash page:

In this report, the authors describe results of a nationwide census of institutional repositories in U.S. academic institutions. The census is one of several activities of the MIRACLE Project, an IMLS-funded research program based at the University of Michigan.

A considerable portion of the scholarly record is born digital, and some scholarship is produced in digital formats that have no physical, in-the-hand counterparts. The proliferation of digital scholarship raises serious and pressing issues about how to organize, access, and preserve it in perpetuity. The response of academic institutions has been to build and deploy institutional repositories (IRs) to manage the digital scholarship their learning communities produce.

From the executive summary:

Why Study Institutional Repositories?

...IR efforts require a considerable financial, personnel, and technical investment. For this reason, it would be helpful if academic institutions could learn from one another, sharing their experiences, building models, and formulating best practices. Such sharing would streamline the implementation of IRs at institutions where the decision to initiate an IR effort has not yet been made....

Who Bears the Responsibility for IR Planning, Pilot Testing, and Implementation?

At PPT [planning and pilot testing] and IMP [implemented] institutions, librarians take the lead in IR pilot testing and system implementation (Table 2.4), assume most of the responsibility for the IR effort (Figure 2.6), and are members of various IR committees (Figure 2.5). Funding almost always comes from the library (Table 3.1). A typical approach to funding the IR is to absorb its cost in routine library operating costs....IR committee membership becomes increasingly less inclusive as the IR project progresses from pilot testing to implementation, leaving the library “holding the bag” (Figure 2.5)....

Who Contributes to IRs and at What Rate?

Authorized contributors to IRs are typically members of the institution’s learning community —faculty, librarians, research scientists, archivists, and graduate and undergraduate students (Table 6.3). Staff who facilitate the research and teaching missions of the institution (e.g., press, news service, academic support staff, central computer staff) are less likely to be authorized to contribute. Asked to identify the major contributor to their IR, only PPT staff are unified in their response, with almost 60% naming faculty (Table 6.4). Percentages drop to 48.1% and 33.3% for PO [only planning] and IMP respondents, respectively. The unified response of PPT staff probably stems from the fact that they work one-on-one with faculty who are early adopters during the planning and pilot-test phase of the IR effort. In fact, PO, PPT, and IMP respondents choose “IR staff working one-on-one with early adopters” as the most successful method for recruiting IR content (Figure 6.5). Other successful methods are “word of mouth from early adopters to their colleagues” (Figure 6.6), “personal visits to staff and administrators,” and “presentations about the IR at departmental and faculty meetings” (Figure 6.7).

Respondents report that recruiting content for the IR is difficult (Figure 7.3). At institutions with operational IRs, IR staff are willing to entertain institutional mandates that require members of their institution’s learning community to deposit certain document types in the IR (Table 7.3). Asked why they think people will contribute to the IR, respondents give high ratings to reasons that enhance scholarly reputations and offload research-dissemination tasks onto others. Lower-ranked reasons pertain to enhancing the institution’s standing....

PS:  For background, see Kathlin Smith, U.S. Institutional Repositories: A Census, CLIR Issues, January/February 2007 (blogged here 2/3/07).

Friday, February 23, 2007

More on the EC Communication

Martin Enserink, European Union Steps Back From Open-Access Leap, Science Magazine, February 23, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

Europe took center stage last week in the growing battle for free access to the results of publicly funded research. An online petition, signed by almost 14,000 researchers and 500 research organizations in the European Union (E.U.) and presented here at the start of a 2-day meeting, asked the European Commission to take bold action on so-called open access. Traditional scientific publishers launched a counteroffensive, arguing that the future of scientific communication —as well as their €3 billion European
industry— is at stake.

For the moment, the publishers’ argument has carried the
day: In a policy brief, the commission failed to enact a mandatory open-access policy for E.U.–funded scientists, to the disappointment of ardent supporters of the petition. “This doesn’t reflect the spirit of what’s happening in Europe,” says cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom....

The U.S. National Institutes of Health asks researchers to [self-archive] on a voluntary basis....[F]ive research councils in the United Kingdom have made self-archiving within 6 months of publication mandatory, as have other research funding agencies. If the E.U. required the same from the scientists it funds through its €50 billion Seventh Framework Programme, many individual countries —within and outside the E.U.— might follow suit, contends Harnad. “It would be terrific if this big domino fell,” he says. Indeed, a commission-sponsored study of the publishing industry by Belgian and French academics recommended mandatory self-archiving in January 2006, as did a December report by the commission’s European Research Advisory Board. The brand-new E.U.–funded European Research Council also supports the idea.

But mandatory self-archiving has met stiff resistance from most scientific publishers. Making papers freely available after just 6 months may lead librarians to cancel subscriptions....

In a 14 February policy statement, [the EC] acknowledged that data from publicly funded research “should in principle be accessible to all” and offered steps to move in that direction, such as a promise to reimburse scientists publishing in journals such as PLoS. But it didn’t endorse a mandate to self-archive, asking for more studies and debate instead.

Robert Campbell, president of Blackwell Publishing, calls it a “sensible and encouraging” position. But Harnad says the commission’s steps are “wishy-washy.” It appears to be protecting publishers’ interests without realizing that open access would have much greater economic benefits overall, he says. Other supporters of open access take a more optimistic view. The commission is still new to the debate and may come around, notes Sijbolt Noorda, chair of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands. “Rome wasn’t built in one day.”

The AlouetteCanada Declaration

AlouetteCanada, the digitization and OA project for Canadian cultural heritage, has issued a Declaration that includes language supporting OA.  The Declaration is undated but appears to be new.  Excerpt:

...We recognize that the AlouetteCanada vision will be implemented by fostering the greatest possible degree of easy, universal, online access for all Canadians to their documentary heritage. We will advocate for integrated, coherent, flexible, open access to digital content for education and research in Canada; and furthermore we will work in concert with the Canadian digital information strategy being developed by Library and Archives Canada....

The Declaration is accepting signatures from individuals and institutions.

British Columbians support DOAJ

Heather Morrison, BC Libraries support DOAJ! Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, February 22, 2007.  

The emerging tradition of Canadian leadership in the open access movement continues. Of the 3 first libraries outside of Europe to participate in the recently announced DOAJ membership program, 2 are Canadian - and both are from British Columbia.

Kudos to Simon Fraser University Library and the University of British Columbia Library for their early leadership in supporting this key open access initiative!

"The publishing industry is merely the flea on the tail of the dog"

Stevan Harnad, A Tale of Fleas, Tails, Dogs, and Pit-Bulls..., Open Access Archivangelism, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Open Access (OA) to research maximizes research usage, impact, applications, productivity and progress in the online era. Hence OA is optimal for researchers, for their institutions and funders, for the vast research industry, and for the tax-paying public that funds the research and for whose benefit the research is conducted....

Self-archiving mandates are accordingly being adopted by a growing number of funders and institutions worldwide, and are being proposed by still more of them -- notably the European Commission for European research and the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) for most of US research.

The publishing industry lobby has been attempting to derail or delay the optimal and inevitable, prophesying, with no evidence whatsoever, that self-archiving mandates will destroy journals and a viable industry.

But in reality this doomsday prophecy is completely false, and in any case the publishing industry is merely the flea on the tail of the dog: The tax-paying public, the research community -- and the vast research and development industry that applies the fruits of research for the general public and for the national and international economy -- are the dog.

The flea has so far successfully wagged the dog, and is lately resorting to "pit-bull" tactics to try to continue doing so. But fortunately, the flea is fated to fail to forestall the optimal and inevitable outcome for research, researchers, their institutions and funders, the research applications industry, and the tax-paying public. OA self-archiving mandates are now imminent, as the sleepy dog is at last waking and coming to its senses about what is in its own best (and hence the public) interest in the online age.

The flea can and will, of course, successfully adapt to the new online reality; what it cannot hope to do is to continue to defer the optimal and inevitable....

More on the National Library of Australia as an OA journal publisher

Charles Bailey has written a profile of Open Publish, the OA journal service from the National Library of Australia.  Excerpt:

Using Open Journal Systems, the National Library of Australia’s Open Publish service currently publishes five open access journals:

You can read more about Open Publish in Bobby Graham’s Information Online 2007 paper "Open Publish: Open Access to Scholarly Research."

Benjamin Mako Hill on OA

Ellen Duranceau, A Conversation with Benjamin Mako Hill, organizer of the MIT Student Day of Action for Open Access, MIT Library News, undated but c. February 22, 2007.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpt:

Benjamin Mako Hill, a graduate student in the Media Lab’s Computing Culture group, coordinated the February 15th “Student Day of Action for Open Access” at MIT. Following the successful “Overprice Tags” event, Hill spoke with Ellen Duranceau, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing Consultant in the MIT Libraries, about how he came to be involved in the open access (OA) movement, and why it matters to him as a student, author, programmer, and reader....

Libraries: How is your thinking about free software and open access to research related?

Hill: I think that cultural works, knowledge, and information should be free. Free software has very good definitions of what is free. … The OA movement makes a series of strong normative claims about what should be free and backs these up with compelling argument and evidence. That’s the kind of movement that I think is likely to be successful and it’s the kind of movement that I want to be a part of....

Libraries: You are an author of articles as well as code; how do your views about open access relate to your own works — where you choose to publish, how they are made available?

Hill:...I write both academic papers and technical books regularly which, economically, are very different beasts. I’ve only started to publish academically so I’m still thinking about the range of possibilities but I’m looking forward to supporting OA in any way that I can; I want any papers I produce to be distributed openly....My last book was the best selling book on Linux for most of last year and is under a Creative Commons “Attribution-Share Alike” license. It’s possible that I didn’t make as much money off the book as I might of. Then again, I think much of the book’s success was due to the fact that it was open.

Libraries: In your paper “How free became open and everything else under the sun,” you argue that “Free Software exists as a politically agnostic field of practice”....Do you think this true of the open access movement in scholarly publishing, too?

Hill: Sure. OA benefits a variety of different people. MIT administrators might support OA for purely financial reasons. I support it because that I think that it is wrong to deprive people of a good that could be had by everyone, everywhere, for the same cost that it is had by anyone. Those are very different perspectives but I’m happy that OA is defined in such a way that we can work together toward an overlapping goal....

Libraries: Why should students become involved in this movement?

Hill: For undergrads, it’s your tuition that pays [for high-priced journals and a system that suffers from barriers to access]. More important though, it’s unfair....Once we’ve edited a journal, it doesn’t cost anything to let everyone in the world view it. Why doesn’t this happen? When other people are [choosing to set up barriers to] their [own] work, that’s one thing. But [publishers are] also doing it with *our* work and they are not giving us a choice to act otherwise....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wendy Hall on OA and the science of the web

R. Rangaraj, Towards a Science of the Web, ChennaiOnline, February 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras and British Council organised a talk on Towards a Science of the Web by Prof Wendy Hall, CBE FREng, University of Southampton, on February 19, 2007.

The initiative was to popularise the ‘Open Access’ method of information transfer....

In her talk ‘Towards a Science of the Web’, oganised as part of the Extra Mural Lecture Series at IITM, Dr Wendy Hall discussed how hypertext visionaries foresaw a richly inter-linked global information network....

Open Access to published research has been promoted and supported vigorously within the world’s research community over the last 10 years. The School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton was the first academic institution in the world to adopt a self-archiving mandate (2001). Since then ECS has created the first and most widely used archiving software (EPrints) and demonstrated the citation-impact advantage of self-archiving....

Five problems with the subscription business model

Jan Velterop, Failing business models, The Parachute, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...The subscription system has the following problems (and quite possibly more) [PS: numbers added]:

  1. The price to readers/libraries bears no relation to quality....
  2. The price to readers/libraries bears no relation to the amount per article that's taken out of the academic market. A 'cheap' journal can, on a per-article basis, take more money out of Academia than an 'expensive' journal. This is more common than is perhaps realised. A substantial number of not-for-profits have seemingly low subscription prices, but take more money per article out of the academic market than even the most expensive commercial publishers (where it hovers in the $5000 range). I know of several cases where it is twice or even three times as much....
  3. The price to readers/libraries bears no relation to the cost of publishing, but rather, to the numbers of subscribers. This is the origin of the price spiral. Journals were cancelled, and for some reason commercial journals suffered more than not-for-profit journals, on the whole (with exceptions), as a result of which subscription prices went up. This caused further cancellations and thus the vicious cycle was created. One of the reasons why some not-for-profits have been able to maintain lower prices is the existence of cancellation-resistant compulsory member subscriptions.
  4. The cost to libraries of subscriptions that are needed bears little relation to the size of the actual research or teaching efforts at the institute in question, but instead, reflects the width of the range of disciplines researched or taught. A specialised institute (take CERN as an example) needs no more than a handful of journals. On the other hand, a university where the name 'university' still relates to 'universal' knowledge, and where a wide range of subjects are taught and researched, needs vastly larger numbers of journals to satisfy the needs of its constituents.
  5. Subscription price stability can only exist in an environment of stability of the number of subscriptions, and of articles published. But that environment doesn't exist. Library budgets have been under pressure for the longest time, which is especially apparent if they are expressed as a percentage of the research budgets. And the number of articles keep on growing.

Most of these problems are solved in a system in which the 'publish or perish' culture (which is definitely not of the publishers' making) is reflected more transparently. A system in which research articles are seen for what they are: a kind of 'advertisement' in which the author 'advertises' his scientific prowess, in order to get acknowledgment, citations, leading to tenure, future funding, for a few the Nobel Prize, et cetera. That doesn't mean that articles aren't full of information useful to readers. But so are conventional advertisements.

The advertising analogy is not perfect, but I'm using it to illustrate the point that there is logic in the system that levies charges for the processing and formal publication of research articles and subsequently makes them universally available with open access. Open access publishing.

Comment.  I'd add two problems that Jan omits. 

  • The first he'd clearly accept:  the subscription model erects a price barrier that excludes human readers who want to read and software readers that seek to index, mine, summarize, translate, recommend, alert, or subject the text to some other kind of processing. 
  • The second is implicit in Jan's post but deserves to be made explicit:  in a world in which the volume of published research grows faster than library budgets, the subscription model doesn't scale.  As the literature grows, the accessible percentage of it for the average researcher or library declines.  The faster the literature grows, the faster the percentage declines.

Calling for OA to historical UK election data

S.A. Mathieson, Copyright sets boundaries on history, The Guardian, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

A project to put historical election data online has run into a problem familiar to supporters of Technology Guardian's Free Our Data campaign: Ordnance Survey's copyright....

Such data is collected by the boundary commission, a taxpayer-funded government department, and then turned over to and made available by Ordnance Survey:  ...OS makes all electoral boundaries available through the Election Maps website, where they can be viewed at high resolution street-map scales.

Use of the site is limited to political activity such as campaigning and canvassing, full-time educational, and personal use. The data cannot be extracted - a restriction that has puzzled some electoral parties which have contacted the Free Our Data campaign over the past year, including the Scottish Green Party, which wanted to put boundaries of forthcoming council elections on a website. It was turned down on the grounds that the maps are Crown copyright....

Dr Humphrey Southall, the director of the University of Portsmouth's project [to put some 19th century election data online], points out a further irony: if the project's website, which is funded by the universities' Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), were visible only within further and higher education institutions, it would be covered by EDINA, a wide-ranging access agreement between data suppliers including OS and JISC. "It only arises because it's open access," says Southall. "Taxpayers would be amazed what is available within higher education, which is paid for by the general public but isn't available to the general public." ...

Southall says the ideal would be for OS's data to be in the public domain, as in the United States, and as Guardian Technology's Free Our Data campaign argues....

DC Principles petition opposing FRPAA misses the target

The DC Principles Coalition has launched a petition in support of society publishers who oppose FRPAA (c. February 21, 2007).  Excerpt:

We, the undersigned, believe that our society supports the broad and timely dissemination of research findings through their journals while providing the financial resources needed to support the training and development of the next generation of scientists....

For these reasons, we the undersigned do not support Congressional efforts to mandate when journal access must be provided and thus undermine my society’s efforts to promote the development of the next generation of scientists and sustain innovative publishing.


  1. FRPAA doesn't "mandate when journal access must be provided".  It mandates when access to the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript must be provided through an OA repository.  If the publisher chooses, the journal's published version may remain behind a price barrier forever.  (If this is news to you, then see my Twelve reminders about FRPAA from earlier this month.)
  2. FRPAA may not "undermine my society’s efforts to promote" scholarship and scholars, for reasons I've often enumerated (for example yesterday).
  3. Hence, it's perfectly possible to sign this petition, support FRPAA, and oppose hypothetical "Congressional efforts" to force journal access and undermine societies. 
  4. If the plan is to present this petition to members of Congress, does the DC Principles Coalition really think that the members will not know what the bill says? 

7/10 of most popular web sites in biology are OA

Seven of the 10 most popular web sites in biology are open access, according to Alexa.  They include the National Center for Biotechnology InformationPubMed, and BioMed Central.  The three non-OA sites in the top 10 are NatureSigma-Aldrich, and the American Society for Microbiology.  (Thanks to BMC.)

PS:  It would be interesting to look for this pattern in other fields of science.

Wikimedia Foundation signs the Berlin Declaration

The Wikimedia Foundation has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.  The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization running Wikipedia and other projects.

Web 2.0 meets traditional publishers

Mark Chillingworth, Will Web 2.0 revolutionise information providers or kill them? Information World Review, February 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

...So how will the traditional online information providers adapt and cope in the Web 2.0 world? Huddled together in a hotel in west London, IWR discovered a cabal of bright young Web 2.0 things debating the issue with online publishers from the legal and scientific worlds.

At first there was the appearance of never the twain shall meet, with the Web 2.0 crew sporting jeans, trainers and a laid-back air of confidence while the traditional online publishers were impressively corporate in suits and ties.

Tom Coates, a technologist from Yahoo Technology Development, kicks off by summing up the disruption in attitude that is affecting information providers. “It’s in your interests as an author, researcher or scientist to get your work read, so you slap it on the internet, but that is not in the interests of your publisher,” he points out.

Paul Miller, technology evangelist at library automation supplier Talis, adds: “The debate is how do publishers and scholars share data, yet formulate a business model?” ...

Miller at Talis believes there has been an enforced change taking place. “The sharing of information goes on all along. Previously, you only shared information post-publication; now, the act of publication becomes a distraction rather than something you really want to do,” he says of the new collaborative working methods researchers are using as a result of Web 2.0 technology.

Coates believes the organisation that recognises this yet remains a traditional information publisher is Nature. “Nature has recognised communities,” he says of its Connotea service for sharing research resources and tags....

Miller at Talis...: “Web 2.0 is opening up data, not always free data, and making it available to be dropped into other services and sites.” ...

"Sharing information is power"

DH News Service Bangalore, Coming up: a planetary web, Deccan Herald, February 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

...“People say information is power. I believe that sharing of information is power. Open access to the world’s information is what one should look at,” says [Vinton] Cerf who is the Vice-President & Chief Internet Evangelist of Google....

The sharing of various databases leads to newer inventions in science, technology and related fields. For instance, transfer and easy availability of data in genome theory specific to medical fields have led to breakthroughs in curing diseases.
“In today’s times, new technology is built on the fact that the internet is the basic foundation. The advantage being that applications are separate from the transmission systems giving it greater freedom,” said Cerf....

More on the DC Principles Coalition's new old arguments

Stevan Harnad, The DC Coalition: A Matter of Principle, Open Access Archivangelism, February 22, 2007.

Summary:  The "DC Principles" Coalition is once again recycling old arguments that have already been repeatedly refuted:

(1) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy journals": There exists no evidence to date -- even in the subfields where self-archiving has been at or near 100% for years -- that author self-archiving ("Green OA") even causes cancellations; but if/when it ever does, publishing will adapt, quite naturally, first cutting costs, and then, if subscriptions become unsustainable, converting to OA publishing ("Gold OA"). In other words, this doomsday scenario is a counterfactual myth, designed to stave off the obvious, demonstrated and reachable benefits of the online era for research and researchers through crude alarmist speculation, based on neither objective evidence nor rigorous reasoning.

(2) "Mandating self-archiving will force a conversion to OA publishing which will force money to be redirected from scarce research funds": No research funds need be redirected if OA publishing comes only after those self-same subscription cancellations that were hypothesized to force the conversion, for then institutions will pay for their researchers' OA publishing costs by redirecting part of their windfall subscription-cancellation savings, rather than redirecting them from scarce research funds, as they would have to do if they had to pay OA publishing charges now, when the money is still tied up in subscriptions, and subscriptions are still paying the costs of publication.

(3) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy peer review": Peers review for free. Publishers just manage the peer-review process and certify its outcome with their journal's name and reputation. That is the service that OA publishing charges will pay for, redirected from institutional subscription savings, if/when cancellation pressure ever forces a conversion to OA publishing; until and unless that happens, self-archiving mandates will simply do what they are intended to do: provide 100% OA.

(4) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy Learned Societies' other 'good works'": The research community was never consulted, and never agreed to subsidise Learned Societies' other 'good works' from researchers' own lost access and impact. Those 'good works' (publicity, meetings, scholarships, mentoring, etc.), will need to find other forms of support if/when Learned Society publishing revenue surpluses no longer cover them (at the expense of research access and impact).

(5) "Mandating self-archiving means government control of publication": Nonsense: Self-archiving means researchers' ensuring that their own research findings are accessible (online) to all their would-be users, in their own Institutional Repositories, rather than just to those users whose institution happens to be able to afford a subscription to the journal in which they happen to be published, as was the case before the online era made OA possible.

(6) "Mandated self-archiving is unnecessary because publishers already provide a lot of free access of their own accord": Self-archiving mandates are to ensure OA for all those articles to which publishers do not provide free access of their own accord.

Return of FRPAA

Randy Dotinga, Senator's Spokesman: Open-Access Bill Will Return, Wired News, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

I've been working on a story for Wired News about the debate over open access to scientific and medical journals (see previous posts here). Yesterday, I talked with a spokesman for Senator John Cornyn (R.-Texas, who said his boss will be reintroducing a bill that would require federally funded research to be made available to the public for free.

The bill didn't make it out of committee last year, but it definitely ruffled the feathers of journal publishers, several of whom have united in an effort to quash the legislation. Spokesman John Drogan said Cornyn "definitely plans to reintroduce something."

I'm trying to get a comment from Senator Cornyn...or Senator Joe Lieberman (I.-Connecticut), who co-sponsored the legislation. If they're not available, I'd like to hear from their staffs about why this issue is important to them and whether prospects for the legislation's passage are any better this year.

Podcast interviews from the CNI meeting

Matt Pasiewicz has posted a raft of podcast interviews with participants in CNI's 2006 Fall Task Force Meeting, including:

  • Cliff Lynch, the Executive Director of CNI
  • David Rosenthal, Chief Scientist of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University
  • MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at MIT Libraries
  • Herbert Van de Sompel, Digital Library Researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Christopher L. Greer, Program Director at the National Science Foundation
  • Brett Bobley, Chief Information Officer and Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative at the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Kenneth Hamma, Executive Director of Digital Policy at the J. Paul Getty Trust
  • William Arms, Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University
  • Chuck Henry, Vice Provost & University Librarian at Rice University, and incoming CLIR president
  • Geneva Henry, Executive Director of Digital Library Initiative at Rice University
  • Bas Cordewener, Manager of International Collaboration at the SURF Foundation

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

39 patient and consumer organizations for FRPAA

Thirty-nine patient and consumer organizations have written a letter to Senators John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman (and another to Senator Susan Collins) in support of FRPAA (February 16, 2007).  From the Cornyn-Lieberman letter:

The undersigned organizations are writing to express their sincere appreciation for your sponsorship of the Federal Research Public Access Act in 109th Congress, and to urge you to resubmit and continue to promote this important legislation in the 110th Congress.

The dissemination of scientific, and especially medical, research findings is integral to achieving advances that have the potential to save and improve countless lives. The Internet now provides an unprecedented opportunity to amplify the rewards of medical research by making it more widely and easily available than ever before. Greater access to scientific findings helps scientists build on cutting edge research and match pressing challenges with available expertise, accelerating innovation that provides treatments and cures....

Congress should ensure that the public reaps the full value of its investment in science by making publicly funded scientific publications easily available to scientists, medical researchers, physicians, students and patients.

As organizations concerned with public health and a fair return on public investment in the creation of knowledge, we greatly appreciate your efforts on this issue....

The letters are signed by these organizations: 

AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, Alliance for Human Research Protection, American Medical Student Association, Arthritis Foundation, Autism Speaks, Colorectal Cancer Coalition, Center for International Environmental Law, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Chemical Sensitivity Disorders Association, Coalition of Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue, Community Catalyst, Christopher Reeve Foundation, Connecticut Legal Services, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Union, Essential Action, Families USA, Genetic Alliance, Genetic Alliance BioBank, Harm Reduction Coalition, Health GAP (Global Access Project), International Mosaic Down Syndrome Association, Knowledge Ecology International, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Tay Sachs and Allied Diseases Association, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, People’s Health Movement – USA, PXE International, Universities Allied for Essential Medicine, and William E. Morris Institute for Justice.

"In the spirit of open and collaborative science that transcends national borders" the letters are also signed by these non-US based groups organizations:

Consumer Association for Quality of Life, Consumers’ Protection Center, Health Action International – Europe, Healthy Skepticism Inc., Insulin Dependant Diabetes Trust, International Society of Drug Bulletins, Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society, Wemos Foundation, Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention Project.

Also see today's press release from Knowledge Ecology International on the letters.  Excerpt:

...The [39] groups stress the particular importance of greater access to published medical research, which would help scientists speed the development of new treatments and cures.

“Every barrier to obtaining this research could mean lost opportunities for medical breakthroughs that happen when the right data find their way into the hands of the right scientist,” explains Benjamin Krohmal of Knowledge Ecology International....

Heather Joseph of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access notes that "Expanding access to the results of publicly funded research is critically important to every American and to people around the world. We all benefit when scientific understanding advances more rapidly. When research is funded by taxpayers, the obligation to share findings as broadly as feasible can no longer be ignored.” ...

Gold OA and two forms of payment

Jan Velterop, It's about copyright, right?  The Parachute, February 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[T]ransfer of exclusive rights to a publisher is a form of 'payment'. Payment for the services of a publisher. The publisher subsequently uses these exclusive rights to sell subscriptions and licences in order to recoup his costs, in a rather roundabout way. This form of payment – as opposed to cash – has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is seemingly for the author, who (mistakenly) has the feeling that he doesn't have to pay for the services of formal publication of his article, but who seldom realises why he is asked to transfer exclusive rights. The disadvantage is that payment in the form of exclusive rights limits access, because it needs a subscription/licence model to convert this form of 'payment' into money. And subscriptions/licences are by definition restrictive in terms of dissemination. Article fee supported open access publishing, where the transfer of exclusive rights is replaced by the transfer of money, consequently doesn't have the need for subscriptions and can therefore abolish all restrictions on dissemination....

I am a great fan of open access, but not a great fan of 'green'. 'Green' is a kind of appeasement by publishers (some of who, it must be said, themselves didn't – sometimes still don't – realise the 'payment' nature of exclusive rights transfer). Appeasement is often regretted with hindsight. Instead of allowing the nature of exclusive rights transfer to be compromised, publishers should much earlier have offered authors the choice of payment – either transfer of exclusive rights, or cash. The appeasement, the 'green', now acts as a hurdle to structural open access, perhaps even an impediment.

Harnadian orthodoxy will dismiss this. It holds that subscription journals will survive, that they will be paid for by librarians even if the content is freely disseminated in parallel via open repositories, and that it doesn't matter anyway (the guru is tentatively beginning to admit that large scale uptake of self-archiving, for instance as the result of mandates, may indeed destroy journals) because a new order will only come about after the complete destruction of the old order....

Marginal journals do not have to suffer a lot of subscription loss before they go under....They could of course convert to open access journals with article processing fees, but setting those up is no sinecure, and requires a substantial financial commitment, as the experience of PLoS and BMC has shown. Journals that are run for the love of it, by the commendable voluntary efforts of academics, are mostly very small, and are the first to be affected, unless, of course, they do not need any income because they are crypto-subsidised by the institutions with which their editors are affiliated. Such journals have always been there and there are probably more now than ever (and some are very good indeed, or so I'm told), but to imagine scaling them up to deal with the million plus articles per year published as a result of global research efforts seems far-fetched, indeed.

Open access is the inevitable future, and it is worth working on a truly robust and sustainable way to achieve it.

More on OA to legal scholarship

Jan Ryan Novak and Leslie A. Pardo, The Evolving Nature of Faculty Publications, Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 07-134, February 7, 2007.  (Thanks to Lawrence Solum.)

Abstract:   Technology increasingly drives the evolving nature of the library's role in managing faculty publications. Libraries not only create physical archives of faculty scholarship, but take on the active role of facilitating immediate access to content. Trends in legal scholarship, including new formats such as blogs and podcasts and the open access initiatives, compel libraries to develop creative solutions such as enhanced bibliographies, searchable databases, and digital repositories to manage access, preserve, and disseminate faculty writings.

From the body of the paper:

The demise of exclusive rights also changes the landscape of access to faculty scholarship. Open Access, the most significant recent development in scholarly publishing, seeks to provide free online access to scholarly literature. In the open access environment, authors retain copyright privileges in their works, whether self or commercially published. Methods of open access distribution include publication in open access journals, deposit of pre-prints or post-prints in a digital archive (e.g., SSRN or bepress), and publication on one’s own and/or an institutional web site. Open access addresses the scholar’s primary motivation: to be read and to be read widely.  

Open access is not, incidentally, a phenomenon recognized only in the academy. Law firm web sites increasingly include publications repositories. While practitioner scholarship occasionally makes its way into traditional law journal publications, more often such articles will appear in practice-oriented newsletters and reporting services or simply as self-published by the firm. Such a repository accomplishes firm marketing goals and, indeed, may be the primary purpose, but it nonetheless also contributes to the sharing of ideas in the practice world. Similarly, the law school's publications repository launches the ideas of its authors into the scholarly community, which might be its primary purpose, while at the same time marketing the expertise of its faculty....

Nearly fifty legal journals have already adopted the Creative Commons’ Open Access Law Journal [Principles] and there is no doubt the list will grow....

The open access movement makes it imperative for librarians to recognize, accommodate, and even promote scholarship posted in open access repositories. The open access principles are the very principles that drive library collections. Think back to the “open shelf” movement in public libraries, the very novel idea, at the time, that there should be no barrier between the user and information.  Electronic resources shrouded behind passwords and licenses are in many ways a step back from such library ideals. Open access repositories are a leap forward, and what we are all about, after all, which is removing barriers to access. The Budapest Open Access Initiative states it well, “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make an unprecedented public good.” ...

It is critically important for librarians to assume leadership roles and maintain responsibility for institutional repositories if they are to remain relevant during this next phase of the technological revolution....

Hindawi becomes an OA-only publisher

Hindawi Publishing converted its last two TA journals to OA and is now an OA-only publisher.  From today's announcement:

"Hindawi Publishing Corporation" is pleased to announce the conversion of the last two of its subscription based journals, "EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing" and "International Journal of Mathematics and Mathematical Sciences," to open access....

"We didn't have a firm time frame for completing our OA transition when we started this process in late 2004," said Ahmed Hindawi, co-founder and CEO of Hindawi. "However, we are pleased to have completed the process in a bit over two years. Now that we have the legacy publishing model behind us, it is time to fully concentrate on aggressively growing our OA publishing program."

Hindawi publishes 64 open access journals covering several areas in Engineering, Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences. Hindawi is currently the only open access publisher with such a diversified OA journal collection.

Comment.  This is a milestone in OA publishing.  Hindawi now joins the ranks of other OA-only publishers, like PLoS and BMC.  On the basis of its first-hand experience with subscription-based and OA publishing, it not only chose OA, but chose it for its entire line.  Finally, it is not determined to lose money; on the contrary, it's is a for-profit OA publisher and already profitable.

New issue of JERDA

A blog-like news module for EPrints

Anita Sundaram Coleman, and Joseph Roback, "Latest News": EPrints Meets Web 2.0, a presentation at Open Repositories 2007 (San Antonio, January 23-26, 2007). 

Abstract:   ...A key Web 2.0 tenet is that users add value and expand the usefulness of the software. EPrints, originally envisioned as software for building a digital repository, is now being extended in many ways by its users. We report on the development of "Latest News" a small feature, we added to our EPrints-2.0 based archive, dLIST. Latest News is wildly popular as a social networking tool with the dLIST communities. dLIST is a disciplinary, cross-institutional archive for the Information Sciences with about 10 editors who connect the fragmented communities in the related areas. It has become obvious that a News module that is more blog-like whereby multiple editors can post News to stay in touch with their respective communities would greatly enhance our efforts to grow active users for the repository. We have now developed Latest News as an EPrints 3.0 plug-in. Scholarly behavior, including self- archiving, varies by discipline but services/features such as News may help all scholars to see themselves as active participants not just in repository growth and use but also its design and software development. The plug-in is available from the Eprints Registry and dLIST and feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

DC Principles Coalition still opposes an OA mandate

Nonprofit publishers oppose government mandates for scientific publishing, a press release from the DC Principles Coalition, February 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

A coalition of 75 nonprofit publishers opposes any legislation that would abruptly end a publishing system that has nurtured independent scientific inquiry for generations. One such measure, the Federal Research Public Access Act, introduced in the 109th Congress, would have required all federally funded research to be deposited in an accessible database within six months of acceptance in a scientific journal.  Some open access advocates are pressing for the introduction of a similar measure in the 110 Congress.

In essence, such legislation would impose government-mandated access policies and establish government-controlled repositories for federally funded research published in scientific journals....

“The long tradition of methodical scientific inquiry and information sharing through publication in scholarly journals has helped advance medicine to where it is today,” said Martin Frank of the American Physiological Society and coordinator of the coalition. “We as independent publishers must determine when it is appropriate to make content freely available, and we believe strongly it should not be determined by government mandate.”

The Coalition also reaffirmed its ongoing practice of making millions of scientific journal articles available free of charge, without an additional financial burden on the scientific community or on funding agencies. More than 1.6 million free articles are already available to the public free of charge on HighWire Press....

The Coalition expressed concern that a mandatory timetable for free access to all federally funded research could harm journals, scientists, and ultimately the public. Subscriptions to journals with a high percentage of federally funded research would decline rapidly....

Undermining subscriptions would shift the cost of publication from the publisher who receives subscription revenue to the researcher who receives grants.  Such a shift could:

Divert scarce dollars from research....

Result in only well-funded scientists being able to publish their work....

Reduce the ability of journals to fund peer review....

Harm those scientific societies that rely on income from journals to fund the professional development of scientists....

“By establishing government repositories for federally funded research, taxpayers would be paying for systems that duplicate the online archives already maintained by independent publishers,” Case noted. “The implications of the U.S. government becoming the world’s largest publisher of scientific articles have not been addressed,” she added.

According to Frank, “As not-for-profit publishers, we believe that a free society allows for the co-existence of many publishing models, and we will continue to work closely with our publishing colleagues to set high standards for the scholarly publishing enterprise.”

Comments.  There's nothing new here and I've answered the major arguments many times before. 

  1. The long tradition of methodical scientific inquiry and information sharing through publication in scholarly journals has helped advance medicine to where it is today.  Yes, publishers have helped.  But what aspect of traditional journals has helped?  I'd suggest that providing access to knowledge has helped much more than limiting access to paying customers. 
  2. We as independent publishers must determine when it is appropriate to make content freely available.  This is key:  scientists who did the research should have no say, and taxpayers who paid for the research should have no say.  Access should be controlled by a group that didn't conduct the research, didn't write it up, and didn't pay for it.
  3. The Coalition also reaffirmed its ongoing practice of making millions of scientific journal articles available free of charge.  True and welcome.  The DC Principles publishers all accept some form of delayed OA.  Some DC Principles publishers even use the same embargo period allowed by FRPAA, the legislation they oppose.  For them, it's not the access policy that bothers them but the group deciding the access policy.
  4. The Coalition expressed concern that a mandatory timetable for free access to all federally funded research could harm journals.  Yes, it could.  But whenever publishers air this fear they don't point out that the best evidence to date is in physics, which has the highest level and longest history of OA archiving.  In physics, high-volume OA archiving has not harmed journals; it has even led physics publishers to launch their own mirrors of arXiv.  Nor do they point out the publisher-commissioned study finding that high journal prices are a much more significant cause of cancellations than OA archiving.
  5. After articulating the assumption that OA archiving will harm journals, the publishers give reasons to fear it, but not reasons to think it's true. 
  6. In enumerating their grounds for fear, the publishers bring in two additional unspoken assumptions:  that FRPAA will force TA journals to convert to OA, and that all OA journals charge author-side fees.  FRPAA is about green OA, not gold.  It regulates grantees, not publishers.  If it undermines subscriptions and pressures TA journals to convert to gold, then it free up the money now paid in subscriptions to pay for the OA alternative.  And of course, only a minority of OA journals charge author-side fees.  See my Twelve reminders about FRPAA for more reminders of what the bill really says.
  7. By establishing government repositories for federally funded research, taxpayers would be paying for systems that duplicate the online archives already maintained by independent publishers.  Some publishers are providing OA to some content when it's sufficiently old. But this is a far cry from providing OA to virtually all federally-funded research within six months of publication. If publishers are saying that over time their voluntary efforts will approach what FRPAA would mandate, then they have to give up their claim that this will harm journals. They can't have it both ways.
  8. We believe that a free society allows for the co-existence of many publishing models.  We agree on what a free society allows.  But that's moot here, since FRPAA doesn't prohibit any publishing models.  The publishers' real quarrel is not with a feared ban on some publishing model but with a thoughtful decision to prefer one access policy to another.  We'd all do well to keep the debate focused on the question whether interests of science and taxpayers would both be better served by OA to publicly-funded research.

OA increases researcher productivity

Beverly Brown, Cynthia Found, and Merle McConnell, Federal Science eLibrary Pilot: Seamless, equitable desktop access for Canadian government researchers, The Electronic Library, 25, 1 (2007) pp. 8-17.  Only this abstract is free online for non-subscribers:

Purpose – This paper seeks to describe a pilot project for the Federal Science eLibrary to measure the impacts on Government of Canada researchers when provided with seamless, equitable access to an expanded core of electronic journals in science, technology and medicine (STM). The Federal Science eLibrary is an initiative supported by the Strategic Alliance of Federal Science and Technology Libraries to provide improved access to information at the desktop for the 22,000 Canadian federal scientists, policy analysts and decision makers. The pilot project was designed to evaluate the benefits of increased access to e-journals at the pilot sites and test network performance in connecting to a central digital repository.

Design/methodology/approach – A total of 500 users in three Canadian government sites with limited access to electronic resources were provided with full text access to a digital repository of over 3,000 e-journals over a 12-week period. Questionnaires, teleconferences, usage statistics and e-mail correspondence were used to gather and measure researchers' response and show impacts on their ability to do their work.

Findings – Pilot groups reported significantly reduced time finding and verifying information. Time saved was redirected into critical activities such as research, laboratory activities, manuscript preparation, peer review activities and professional reading. Participants found that increased desktop access had a very positive impact on their ability to do their work.

Originality/value – This study shows the benefits of expanded access to electronic journals for federal government scientists through a Federal Science eLibrary initiative.

Comment.  This study directly confirms the claim of OA proponents that OA accelerates research and increases the productivity of researchers --in case anyone actually doubted it.

Cost per downloaded article: Elsevier v. BMC

Matt Cockerill, Maximum access at minimum cost, BioMed Central blog, February 20, 2007. 

At the EC meeting on scientific publishing in Brussels last week, Nick Fowler, Elsevier's Director of Strategy, noted that the cost per article download from Science Direct had fallen, and the UK academic community now paid only £2 in subscription revenue per Elsevier article downloaded.

This caught my attention, and prompted me to do a quick check on the cost per article download, under BioMed Central's open access publishing model.  Looking at the 2006, BioMed Central delivered 18.5 million fulltext open access article downloads. If we conservatively use the full article processing charge, before waivers and discounts, as the basis for the calculation, we find that BioMed Central offers an effective cost per download of just £0.25. Even this underestimates the benefits of open access, as it  takes into account only accesses on BioMed Central's own website, but since BioMed Central's fulltext content is mirrored in PubMed Central and several other open access archives, the true figure is even lower, and continues to fall as BioMed Central publishes more research.

A recent Australian report examined the cost per download issue, and found that the the effective cost per download being paid by a consortium of Australian research institutions under the traditional subscription system varied by from $Au1.24 - $Aus10.11 depending on the publisher, with a weighted average of $Aus3.60 (£1.45). When it comes to distributing articles to as many readers as possible at minimum cost, the economics of open access are hard to beat.

More on Free High School Science Texts

Alex Steffen, South Africa's Free High School Science Texts, WorldChanging, February 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

Five years ago, Mark Horner had just finished giving a talk on wave phenomena at a South African science fair when a group of young scholars from a poor rural high school came up to him, asking him to proof the notes they'd taken by hand in a notebook. Mark was stunned by the comprehensive diligence reflected in the notes, and asked why the students were so attentive. They explained that they had no science texts in their school and that this notebook would be the textbook for the rest of their schoolmates. In an era of nearly free information and collaborative content creation, such a knowledge gap seemed obscene, Mark told me, and he resolved to do something about it.

The result? Free High School Science Texts, a project the South African physicist founded that "aims to provide free science and mathematics textbooks for Grades 10 to 12 science learners in South Africa." ...

JISC report on the Brussels meeting

European Commission discusses future of scientific publishing, a press release from JISC, February 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

More than 500 delegates from nearly 50 countries attended a major European Commission conference last week to discuss the future of scientific publishing in the European Research Area. Held in Brussels, the conference attracted researchers, publishers, policy makers, research funders, librarians and administrators drawn to debate the issues of open access of research outputs, dissemination of research and preservation in the digital age....

[EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik] received a petition, sponsored by JISC and European partners, which was signed by more than 20,000 individuals and nearly 750 organisations, indicating the level of public support for the principle of open access (see last week’s news item).

Among the questions discussed over the two days were the policies of research funding bodies, including the European Commission, new opportunities for the research community in widening access to their research outputs, and a debate on the scientific publication market.

Discussion highlighted the need to address the challenges of providing not just open access to information but to provide integrated access to both full text of articles and primary research data and to deliver new and innovative means of exploiting the capabilities of data mining for further research. 

Other topics covered during the conference included business models for scientific publications, the required e-infrastructure, the need for long-term preservation, quality assurance, and copyright and digital rights management....

The event was closed by Viviane Reading, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, who announced that scientific publishing will be one of the highlights of the upcoming Portuguese presidency of the European Commission. She also reported that the Commission would like a discussion with ministers and the European Parliament on these issues and to work towards a common European approach.

In principle, she said, access to research outputs should be accessible to all through open repositories after an embargo period. The EC will experiment, she continued, with faster and wider access and will support the cost of author payments in their research grants.

The Commissioner told delegates that the EC will fund infrastructure to store and share data through the FP7 (Seventh Framework Programme) Capacities Programme which has 50m Euros set aside to build the top level infrastructure. A further 25m Euros is earmarked for preservation in the ICT programme in 2007-2008 with 10m Euros for greater accessibility and usability through the e-content programme. Through the Digital Library Forum, the Commission will bring the various stakeholders together and listen to all views in establishing a way forward, she concluded....

Liverpool IR coming

The University of Liverpool is gearing up to launch an institutional repository and is calling on interested faculty and departments to participate in a pre-launch pilot project.  (Thanks to Lisa Bryce.)

German press on the EC communication

Stefan Krempl, EU-Kommission fördert Open-Access-Publikationen, Heise online, February 20, 2007.  Read the original German or Google's English.

Monday, February 19, 2007

OA to increase impact of publicly-funded research

Colin Steele, Profits before public brains trust in push for open research, Canberra Times, February 19, 2007.  A letter to the editor.  (Colin didn't pick the title!)  Excerpt:

[T]o ensure that CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] "research achieves maximum impact", [we] should note the growing global evidence that maximum impact derives from making research openly accessible.

The Department of Education, Science and Training's accessibility framework, for example, aims to make "it possible for research conducted in Australian higher education providers to be discoverable, accessible and shareable".

These words come from DEST's January 2007 response to the Productivity Commission's draft research report on "Public Support for Science and Innovation". Last week, a petition signed by more than 20,000 researchers, Nobel Prize-winners, librarians and concerned citizens was delivered in Brussels to the European Commissioner for Science and Research supporting policies for free public access to research results.

Such public availability of research includes traditional peer review processes.

Copyright protection of research, as recommended by the DEST-funded OAK Law Project ("Creating a Legal Framework for Copyright Management of Open Access within the Australian Academic and Research Sector"), is more protective of individual and institutional copyright than that allowed by most of the major six-seven multinational commercial science publishers. Publishing by these firms of largely tax payer-funded research have become billion-dollar businesses, which are more focused on increasing profits to shareholders than to the open distribution of knowledge.

More on open courseware

Joe, More Universities Recognize The Value Of Free, TechDirt, February 19, 2007.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

We've written many posts on business models that involve giving something away for free, and one of the points we've tried to hit home is that giving things away for free is not some utopian, un-capitalist notion. It's often an important component of a solid, profit-making business model. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today looking at how universities are increasingly embracing this concept, with many top schools offering things like class notes and lecture videos free to the public. Some schools, like MIT, have been doing this for awhile, but what's interesting is how many schools are now pushing more and more free material out to the public. Ostensibly, the reason for doing this is to "democratize education", but there's clearly self-interest as well. Schools compete with each other for students, professors and money, and they hope that by showing off their academics in this way, they can do better at acquiring these things. Individual professors also recognize the potential for increased prestige, which is evidenced by the number of professors that are now blogging. Of course, there remains a big gap between the value of free downloadable lectures and that of a paid university education, so there's little chance that doing this will eat into their core business. For other business -- and the music industry is a prime example -- the challenge should be expanding this gap, by offering something of real value above and beyond what's available for free.

Utrecht conference on institutional repositories

The Knowledge Exchange blog has some notes on each day (one, two) of its recent Institutional Repositories Workshop (Utrecht, January 16-17, 2007).

OA and OS in chemistry

Matthew H. Todd, Open access and open source in chemistry, Chemistry Central Journal, February 19, 2007. 

Abstract:   Scientific data are being generated and shared at ever-increasing rates. Two new mechanisms for doing this have developed: open access publishing and open source research. We discuss both, with recent examples, highlighting the differences between the two, and the strengths of both.

Different perspectives at Brussels meeting

More experiments needed to find best open access models, CORDIS News, February 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

...While they were broadly in favour of open access, the publishers on the panel pointed out that running a journal costs money and in the end, someone has to pay. 'We are a not for profit publisher, but we are also not for loss!' commented Martin Blume, Editor in Chief of the American Physical Society (APS). Currently two of the APS' nine journals are open access; one is funded by sponsorship from large laboratories such as CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), while the other is funded by the 'author pays' principle. However, scientists who have papers published in the other seven journals are welcome to self archive their articles in their institutions' open-access e-print archives.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) went completely open access for a few years, but the experiment was stopped as the policy led to a sharp fall in the level of subscriptions to the print version of the journal. 'We like the idea of open access but we realised that to survive we needed to close the open access website,' explained Alex Williamson, the BMJ's Publishing Director.

They have since introduced an option under which authors can pay for access to their articles to be free online, but uptake of this is very low, with less than 2% of authors choosing to do so. Ms Williamson pointed out that around half of the research papers they receive have not been funded.... 

Norbert Kroo, Vice-President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and member of the European Research Council (ERC) and European Research Advisory Board (EURAB), spoke strongly in favour of open access. 'Publishers are for scientists and not the other way round,' he said....

The European University Association (EUA) is working to raise awareness of the open access issue among researchers and decision makers in universities....The aim of the group is to promote the development of well-functioning open access repositories, and encourage business models for publishing based on open access principles.

The session concluded with a presentation from Southampton University's Steven Harnad, a long-time advocate of open access. He pointed out that while 'gold' open access (in which articles are immediately available on the publisher's website) was still some way off, 'green' open access (in which authors self-archive their work as soon as possible after publication), was already widely allowed by journals and should be used more.

It is 'green' open access which is the focus of the petition for guaranteed access to publicly-funded research results [PS: and recommendation A1 from last year's EC report]. The petition was presented to EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik before the conference. So far around 20,000 individuals and organisations have signed the petition, including Nobel prize winners, leading research organisations, research funders and national academies. Interestingly, 43 publishers have added their weight to the petition, the same number as signed a recent statement voicing their concerns about open access.

India moving toward OA for govt geospatial data

Rajeev Deshpande and Nitin Sethi, GIS loosens govt hold on useful info, Times of India, February 18, 2007. 

Getting information out of government is a bit like getting blood from a stone. For more than two years, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) project has struggled to ensure that departments open their trove of information maps and data on forests, minerals, town planning, rainfall, archaeology for being placed on a proposed Geospatial Information System (GIS) backbone.

Slowly, official curmudgeonness gave way to curiosity and then an awareness of the power of GIS. As turf-zealous babus began to understand that GIS has immense benefits for every department which will be part of NSDI, and that they would be at the frontiers of science and technology, that data began to be shared....

The NSDI web-user interface will provide open access of the information processed by the project....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Larry Page on unlocking scientific knowledge

Stefanie Olsen, Google's Page urges scientists to market themselves,, February 17, 2007.  On a talk by Google co-founder Larry Page at the AAAS Annual Meeting (San Francisco, February 15-19, 2007).  Excerpt:

...And that was his main advice to the scientists in the room: take their scientific studies, market them better and make them readily accessible to the world. That way, the world might have a better chance at solving problems like energy consumption, poverty and global climate change....

"Science has a real marketing problem. If all the growth in world is due to science and technology and no one pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem."

To that end,...[he] said that scientists should get in the habit of investing part of their scientific grant money to marketing budgets, in order to get the word out to the media about their research....

Finally, he called on the scientists to make more of their research available digitally. Even though Google Scholar tries to open access to scientific work, it still falls short.

"Most of the works you guys have done are not represented in those searches. We have to unlock the wealth of scientific knowledge and get it to everyone. I don't care what we do, but we need to do something," he said....

PS:  Google supports OA by indexing the contents of OA repositories and journals and, in a different way, by digitizing public-domain books for free online reading (even if not full OA).  I have a dozen serious ideas if it wants to do more.  I've raised some of these ideas with the Google Corporation and the Google Foundation in the past and would be delighted to take them further.

Update. See Matt Cockerill's post on the BMC blog, listing three things that "Google could do to improve the communication of scientific research":

  1. Highlight universally accessible articles on Google Scholar....
  2. Generate alternative citation metrics for the scientific literature....
  3. Build search tools that take advantage of the semantic web...

The human rights argument for OA

Gavin Yamey, Time to End the Slavery of Traditional Publishing, PLoS Publishing Blog, February 18, 2007.  Excerpt:

In a characteristically provocative talk last week [PPT, MP3, RSS], Richard Smith, who is on the Board of Directors of PLoS, accused traditional subscription-based publishers of acting like slave owners. And he compared open access advocates to abolitionists.

Richard was speaking at the BioMed Central Open Access Colloquium...

In his slavery analogy, Richard recalled the famous George Yard meeting. On 22nd May 1787, 12 men met in a printing shop at 2 George Yard in the City of London determined to end slavery. At that time, said Richard, more people were slaves than were free and the British economy depended on slavery. Yet by March 1807 slave trading was abolished in the British Empire.

Today's traditional publishers, he argued, are the slave traders. The research articles and many of the academics who write them are the slaves. "And the shock troops of open access-- Paul Ginsparg, Harold Varmus, Vitek Tracz, Pat Brown, Mike Eisen, Stevan Harnad-- are the abolitionists," he said.

So when was the equivalent of the George Yard meeting in the biomedical publishing world? Some of the crucial events, said Richard, were:

Richard is certainly not alone in taking a human rights-based approach to the issue of restricted access to essential scientific and medical information. I've been doing a little research on the rights-based angle to restricted access, and I've been surprised at how many human rights declarations call for free and open access to scientific and medical information.

The United Nations, for example, has repeatedly championed the universal right to access scientific knowledge. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the the primary UN document articulating human rights standards and norms, states that everyone has the right “to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” (article 27, section 1).

In 1999, the World Conference on Science, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), adopted the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge. The declaration emphasizes “the importance for scientific research and education of full and open access to information and data belonging to the public domain” (article 3, section 38).

The declaration also notes that “Equal access to science is not only a social and ethical requirement for human development, but also essential for realizing the full potential of scientific communities worldwide and for orienting scientific progress towards meeting the needs of humankind” (article 4, section 42).

As John Willinsky argues so convincingly in his brilliant book The Access Principle (which is freely available online), the right to access knowledge "has a claim on our humanity that stands with other basic rights, whether to life, liberty, justice, or respect." ...

Presentations from FreeCulture OA panel

The presentations from the Panel on open access research (Gainesville, Florida, February 15, 2007) are now online.

Lowering the costs of journal publication

Heather Morrison, Scholarly Publishing: High Quality at Low Cost, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, February 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

Advances in computing technology - hardware, software, and connectivity, combined with the age-old tradition of voluntary contributions to scholarship, mean that it is now possible to produce high quality peer reviewed journal articles at low cost....

A research community can now easily start up their own journal, using computers and internet connectivity readily available at their university, or homes. No extra capacity is really needed....Free, open source software is available, such as Open Journal Systems....

If researchers prefer not to do the technical work and hosting themselves, there are quality, low-cost options. For example, SFU Library provides hosting and support at rates ranging from a high of $750 Cdn per year for a single journal to a low of $600 Cdn per journal per year for 10 or more journals. See the Software@SFU Prices from the SFU Library Support Services webpage. The non-profit Scholarly Exchange provides the first year of hosting and support free, with future years at a cost of US $750 per year, and provides a range of additional support services, including arranging for revenue-generating advertising for journals.

Before exploring these options, researchers might want to check with their library, as many libraries are now providing or exploring support for the publishing of their faculty.
Once the hardware and software is set up, the most essential work to ensure quality scholarship is basically free. The articles themselves are free, and scholarly peer-reviewers provide their services on a voluntary basis. Editors, especially for smaller journals, are often volunteers as well....

Journal merger with a no-fee OA section on physics letters

Gerardus 't Hooft, Editorial, Foundations of Physics, January 2007.  Excerpt:

The former letters publication, Foundation of Physics Letters, now merges with Foundations of Physics. Short papers that demand a rapid publication process will be included in the special section “Letters to the Editor” (and will be available as open access papers, without open access fee).

PS:  Foundations of Physics is published by Springer.