Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fair use for Joyce scholars

Fair use has prevailed in James Joyce scholarship.  From the Stanford Law School press release:

Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project announced today that Stanford University Acting Professor of English Carol Shloss won the right to publish her scholarship on the literary work of James Joyce online and in print....

Relying on many primary sources, Shloss’s work focuses on the life of Lucia Joyce: her unacknowledged artistic talent, her tragic life spent mostly in mental institutions, and the unrecognized influence she exerted over her father’s work. Upon learning of Shloss’s scholarship, the Joyce Estate —controlled by Joyce’s grandson Stephen James Joyce— denied her permission to quote from any of the materials the Joyce Estate controlled and repeatedly threatened Shloss with a copyright infringement suit.

The Fair Use Project and Cyberlaw Clinic filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shloss in June 2006, asking a federal court to find that she has the right to use quotations from published and unpublished material relating to James and Lucia Joyce on a scholarly website....

“The Joyce Estate has been extremely aggressive in enforcing copyrights and has threatened scholars with lawsuits even though their work qualifies under the ‘fair use’ doctrine of copyright law,” explained Anthony Falzone, who is the executive director of the Fair Use Project....“Our client got exactly what she asked for in her complaint, and more.”

“I am extraordinarily happy that Stanford's Fair Use Project has enabled an academic to do her work," said Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law professor and director of the Stanford Center for Information and Society (CIS). "But this is just the first of a series of cases that will be necessary to establish the reality of creative freedom that the ‘fair use’ doctrine is intended to protect in theory. We will continue to defend academics threatened by overly aggressive copyright holders, as well as other creators for whom the intended protections of ‘fair use’ do not work in practice...."

Carol Shloss is expected to make her website live in the coming days [here].

Another new, free journal quality measurement

The Center for Journal Ranking was launched in January 2007.  From the site:

Welcome to Red Jasper’s Center for Journal Ranking (CJR). The center provides a brand new paradigm to ranking more than 7,000 journals from all disciplines....

[T]he approaches available [to appraise the quality of journals] have either been by route of using the Science Citation Index (SCI) - where citations, as a broad form of influence, are often used in these efforts - or via subjective means such as surveys.

The work that the center does extends current works in several important dimensions, and proposes two new indicators relevant to journal quality by considering both the journal influence index and the paper influence index.

More importantly, we believe that there is no perfect model that will fit all needs. We understand the magnitude of universal access and broad based consultation with all academicians. As such the CJR is established to allow all users to validate various scenarios and parameters to rank journals. We will use the CJR as a platform for broad based consultation to continually refine the journal ranking paradigm....

From Nicole Martin's article in the April 2007 issue of EContent:

[T]he Center for Journal Ranking (CJR) [was] launched in January by Andrew Lim, associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and founder of Red Jasper, a high-tech start up, specializing in applying logistics to business, transportation, and supply chain management....

[T]he Center has adapted the PageRank methodology (made famous by Google) to rank thousands of journals "in a multitude of disciplines." While Google uses PageRank to rate a page by how often it is requested, CJR extends its capabilities by using complex algorithms to differentiate between the quality or significance of the citing source.

CJR proposes two new indicators to augment the PageRanking protocol: the Journal Influence Index and the Paper Influence Index, measures that are then compared with rankings derived from expert surveys....

Registration to CJR and access to their rankings for over 7,000 journals is free. "It's too early to ponder a business model," says Lim....

NIH Director believes an OA mandate is now necessary

Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, told the Senate last week that the NIH public access policy should be strengthened from a request to a requirement.  He was testifying before the committee responsible for funding the agency.  Quoting the Alliance for Taxpayer Access:

During testimony before the Senate Labor/HHS Subcommittee on Appropriations, NIH Director Zerhouni responded to a series of questions on the need for public access to NIH-funded research results. The questions were made by Subcommittee Chair Senator Harkin (D-IA). Dr. Zerhouni reiterated the need for publicly funded research to be made available to advance the conduct of science, and strongly asserted that the NIH the voluntary policy was not working. He made clear that the policy should be made mandatory. A video of Dr. Zerhouni's testimony is available through the Committee Web site. (Note that the link launches a Real Media file. The relevant discussion begins at 1:20.)

Comment.  This is big.  Nearly a year ago, in April 2006, Dr. Zerhouni told the same committee that "it seems the voluntary policy is just not enough".  Now his position is considerably stronger.  As I transcribe the video, he said:  "We need to make [public access] a condition of federal fund granting....A mandatory policy seems to be the one that will be necessary for us to achieve our goals."

Remember that in July 2004, Congress asked for a mandate and the NIH chose to adopt a request instead.  Also remember that the policy is merely an in-house agency rule that the NIH can adopt or modify without a Congressional directive. 

Dr. Zerhouni:  Now that you have decided that a mandate is necessary, I hope you will exercise your authority as Director to adopt it.  The decision will bring large and lasting benefits to researchers in medicine and related fields, medical patients, practicing physicians, taxpayers, and the agency itself.

More on green and gold OA

Stevan Harnad, Clarifying the Logic of Open Choice: I (of 2), Open Access Archivangelism, March 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Below is a posting, with permission, of an offline exchange with Jan Velterop, of Springer Open Choice....(The title "Clarifying the Logic of Open Choice" is mine, not Jan's.)

Jan argues that paying for Open Choice Gold OA at this time, while subscriptions are still paying all the costs of publishing, would not be double-paying for OA.

I argue that it would be.

Jan argues that mandating Green OA will destroy journals and peer review.

I argue that it will provide OA -- and that if it ever does cause subscription cancellation, then that will be the time to convert to Gold OA, paying the institutional Gold OA publishing costs out of the institutional subscription cancellation savings themselves, rather than pre-emptively double-paying, as we would be doing if we did it now, while subscriptions are still paying all the costs of publishing....

The rise of OA journals

Alex Koohang and Keith Harman, The Academic Open Access E-Journal: Platform and Portal, Informing Science Journal, 9 (2006).   (Thanks to Abdullah.)

Abstract:   This paper demonstrates that advanced technologies and the increasing acceptance of academic open access e-journals offer an opportunity to reconsider their form and function as a medium to enhance scholarly communication. The academic open access e-journal is envisioned as a platform and a portal within the context of an open source community including a format and functions that enable it to achieve that objective. A working model for academic open access ejournals is presented. This model is intended for open source communities involved in designing, developing, and/or improving open access academic e-journals.

From the body of the paper:

History indicates that scholars will seek alternative methods of communication and alternative organizational structures when they perceive that existing media and existing structures no longer provide the support scholars need to most effectively engage in scientific inquiry and to communicate their findings. Pedersen (1996, pp. 470- 474) for example recounts that during the 16th and 17th centuries many of Europe’s most gifted scientists made an exodus from the universities to the first institutes for scientific research. Similarly, Ruegg (1992, pp. 465-467) argues that book-publishing and foundations became the “ally” of humanism and augmented its initial wide-scale diffusion throughout Europe during the late 15th Century.  The academic open access e-journal is yet another manifestation of that historic process....

OA for UFO docs

The French government is providing OA to its UFO investigations.  Apparently it's the first government to do so.  From yesterday's AP story:

France's space agency is opening up its secret “X-Files'' – three decades of research into UFO sightings, including police reports, witness sketches and maps that scientists used to search for logical explanations behind mysterious phenomena in the skies.

The first batch of archives went up on the agency's Web site Thursday, and the pages have had so much traffic that the site has been tough to access since.

Only about 9 percent of France's UFO cases have ever been fully explained, the group says, while experts have found likely reasons for another 33 percent of cases.

The agency, known by its French initials CNES, said it went public with the documents to draw the scientific community's attention to unexplained cases – and because their secrecy generated buzz, with many people suspicious that officials were hiding something....

“The public sector needs an official group that can take these phenomena into account and, in most cases, respond to public observations,'' said [Jacques Patenet, the director of the agency's UFO unit]. “The great danger would be to leave the field open to sects and charlatans.''

The archive contains about 100,000 documents from those cases – including expert reports, drawings by witnesses and some audio and video files....

Update (8/27/07). Exopolitics Toronto is urging the Canadian government to follow suit.

Elsevier and the arms business

Until now, I haven't blogged any of the controversy surrounding Reed Elsevier's involvement in the worldwide arms trade.  Because it has no OA connection, I've regarded it as off-topic for this blog.  But now the editors of The Lancet (an Elsevier journal) have created an OA connection. 

In the March 24 issueThe Lancet published seven letters to the editor, all condemning Elsevier for its arms business.  (Thanks to idiolect.)  In their reply, the Lancet editors make this argument:

The Lancet reaffirms its view that arms exhibitions have no legitimate place within the portfolio of a company whose core business concerns are health and science. This part of Reed Elsevier’s operation should be divested as soon as possible....Reed Elsevier is not a monolithic structure....On the question of arms exhibitions, we have found that a growing number of our Elsevier colleagues, who have long standing relationships with scientific societies and authors, are questioning Reed Elsevier’s decision to continue in this business. At a time of fierce debate over author-pays open access journals and open archiving, Reed Elsevier, many of them say, needs to be making strong alliances, not creating new enemies....

Comment.  I strongly support the editors' position and applaud their courage in criticizing the parent company.  They are on solid ground when they argue that "the arms trade [is] incompatible with the professional values of a health-science publisher —promoting health and wellbeing, reducing death and disability, respecting human rights, and showing concern for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society."  But when they add the OA connection, I must say that their argument becomes uncharacteristically vague.  Does it mean that Elsevier's arms business would be fine if the company hadn't already created so many enemies by lobbying against national OA policies?  Or that lobbying against OA would be fine if the company weren't adding new enemies by selling arms?  Either way, it leaves the unfortunate suggestion that the company has enough moral or political capital to do either one but not both.

Friday, March 23, 2007

How do digital-age scientists find and retrieve info?

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is undertaking a Survey of Information Habits and Preferences of Millennial Scientists.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.) 

Abstract:   This study will determine how the next generation of scientists, frequently referred to as the Millennial Generation, will seek scientific information in their research. This generation was born between 1982 and 2000. Having grown up with information technology, general studies show this population has technological preferences for receiving and integrating content, and this study is to learn if this extends to the scientific content among young scientists. It will identify most useful (and most desired) devices and formats, so that the Information Services Division can plan to serve the next generation of scientists. The findings will impact how digital scientific content is harvested, identified using metadata, stored, accessed, and disseminated. The project will identify young scientists' preferences for content format and ease of assimilation into current processes. Specifically the project aims to learn: (1) Which library resources and information services are most valuable and why, and (2) what scientific library resources do not exist that could, or are not yet robust enough to be valuable. Further the study aims to learn: (3) In what specific ways are commercial Internet tools both successful and unsuccessful in helping find answers, (4) which platforms and devices are most helpful and why, and (5) which technologies help support collaboration with peers. The project plans to use Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) students who work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology every summer as the test population. The survey is voluntary, and all information gathered will be carefully safeguarded.

NIST is collecting public comments on the project until May 21, 2007.

Profile of John Willinsky and the Public Knowledge Project

Bruce Byfield, Open access and open source intersect in Public Knowledge Project, IT Manager's Journal, March 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is a hybrid of two philosophical trends in technology: the well-known free and open source software movement, and the open access movement, whose goal is to provide free online access to scholarly research. By combining advocacy with the software tools needed to accomplish its aims, in nine years the project has grown to become a significant force in academic online publishing.

PKP was founded in 1998 by John Willinsky, a professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia....[T]the project arose directly out of two of Willinsky's research interests. The first was his interest in post-colonialism, the study of developing nations since the end of the European empires. Having just published a post-colonial study entitled Learning to divide the world: Education at Empire's end, Willinsky says, "It was very much a question of what I could do...."  In other words, how could he enable researchers in developing nations to participate more readily in academic discourse?

Willinsky's second interest was in improving access to research to the general public. Through experiments done in collaboration with The Vancouver Sun and the British Columbia Teachers' Federation, Willinsky concluded that "only a limited sample of research could be provided. Otherwise, [teachers] needed access to a university library. I was frustrated by my inability to share research."

From these interests, PKP was born. During the first two years of the project, these original motivations were supplemented by the rise of the open access movement. As Alec Smecher, a full-time developer with PKP, says, "The open access movement is trying to free up control of journals so that it's not in the hands of a few publishers." The movement also shares Willinsky's concerns with rising periodical costs and access to knowledge in developing nations....

Originally hosted in the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Education, the project is now a joint effort of the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The project is active in the African Journals Online program, and last month it received a $5.8 million Canadian grant from the Canadian Foundation of Innovation....

Like most open source projects, PKP keeps no formal record of users. However, Smecher estimates that Open Journal Systems alone has more than a thousand installations worldwide....

The project's forum is increasingly active with all levels of users, and all translations for Open Journal Systems except the French one have been contributed by volunteers....

"We didn't revolutionize the entire world of scholarly publishing in nine years," [Willinsky] says. "But, on the other hand, the success of the software exceeded any expectation I had. And the pleasure of helping new journals start, not just in developing countries, but among editors who have been fired because of editorial interference, and new groups that wouldn't have been able to organize earlier -- these kinds of questions of academic freedom and editorial independence have been achievements we hadn't expected." ...

Walt Crawford on recent rhetoric for and against OA

The April issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online.  This issue features a long article on Open Access and Rhetorical Excess.  He focuses primarily on Eric Dezenhall's suggestion to the AAP that "public access equals government censorship", Richard Smith's analogy between conventional publishing and slavery, and the public response to them both.  But in the process he also discusses the Brussels Declaration, the latest objections to FRPAA from the DC Principles coalition, and the AAUP statement on OA.  Most of the statements back and forth were blogged here, but Walt's essay is a good way to see the highlights drawn together in one place. 

Profile of E-LIS

Zeno Tajoli, A World-Wide repository: the technical challenge of E-LIS, a presentation at Open Repositories 2007 (San Antonio, January 23-26, 2007). 

Abstract:   E-LIS is the largest world-wide [OA] disciplinary repository for Library and Information Science. It stores and delivers metadata and digital papers in different Unicode scripts (Latin, Chinese, Greek and others). Contributions come from more than 80 countries in all continents. At present it contains around 4,500 full-text documents. The presentation describes the technical improvements implemented in order to manage linguistic differences in uploading, searching and disseminating contents, and to help the editors share their review tasks according to their country. We conclude with an analysis of the beta version of EPrints 3 against some problems that are still open.

Tighter restrictions on CRS reports

I've often written about the valuable, publicly-funded, non-classified but non-OA reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).  Now the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News reports that CRS has imposed even tighter access restrictions on the reports.  Excerpt:

In what is being characterized by subordinates as an act of "managerial dementia," the Director of the Congressional Research Service this week prohibited all public distribution of CRS products without prior approval from senior agency officials.

"I have concluded that prior approval should now be required at the division or office level before products are distributed to members of the public," wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mullohan in a memo to all CRS staff (pdf). "This policy is effective immediately."  [March 20, 2007]

While CRS has long refused (with Congressional concurrence) to make its electronic database of reports available to the public online, it has still been possible for members of the press, other researchers, and other government officials to request specific reports from the congressional support agency.

But now, "to avoid inconsistencies and to increase accountability, CRS policy requires prior approval at the division level before products can be disseminated to non-congressionals," Director Mullohan wrote.

The new policy demonstrates that "this is an organization in freefall," according to one CRS analyst. "We are now indeed working for Captain Queeg."

"We're all sort of shaking," another CRS staffer told Secrecy News. "I can't do my work."

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't talk to someone in another agency, another organization, or someone else outside of Congress and we share information," the staffer said. "Now I can't do that?" ...

[Mullohan's memo] was also reported by Elizabeth Williamson in the Washington Post today.

None of the CRS personnel contacted by Secrecy News was able to explain exactly what prompted CRS Director Mulhollan to issue the policy memorandum this week.

While other parts of government strive to eliminate unnecessary obstacles to information sharing, the new CRS policy may be seen as an experiment in what happens when barriers to information sharing are arbitrarily increased. It probably won't be good....

Major upgrade to eigenfactor

Eigenfactor is a free tool from Carl Bergstrom and Ted Bergstrom for "evaluating the influence of scholarly periodicals and for mapping the structure of academic research."  It aims to surpass the Impact Factor in accuracy and to remain free of charge for the scholarly community. 

The last time I blogged it (January 2007), only a preview version was online that indexed only 1,800 journals, all in the social sciences.  Now --though it is still in beta-- it indexes all the 7,000+ journals listed in Thompson's Journal Citation Reports (JCR), including those in the natural sciences.  It also indexes 110,000+ reference sources not listed in JCR, including reference books, newspapers, trade magazines, and software packages.  Check it out.

Nature on OA data for published articles

Attila Csordás, Nature Publishing Editor on the idea of a public scientific multimedia site, PIMM, March 22, 2007.  Csordás conducted an email interview with Maxine Clarke on Nature's data sharing policy.  Clarke is the Publishing Executive Editor at Nature.  Excerpt (quoting Clarke):

If there were to be a multimedia [open-access] database, accepted by the community, we’d be happy to consider making deposition [of multimedia data] mandatory. Our principle is that data described in our papers are freely available, so if there were a community-approved public multimedia site, which included annotation and curation, we’d be happy to consider making it a condition of publication for movies etc to be deposited in it. It would need to be publisher-independent to work, so that authors could upload multimedia data wherever they’d published their paper.

The main point for us at Nature is that as a publisher we have to be confident that material published off our website is properly curated, archived and preserved. For example, when we introduced the microarray deposition policy we ensured that there was full community support for the two databases (in one of which, authors’ choice, we require deposition) before implementing the policy. So for this video idea to work, the “database” concerned would need to be publicly accessible (not commercial), curated, annotated etc....

Supplementary Information [SI] on the Nature website is free, though you have to register....

At Nature (and the Nature journals), we make authors deposit data (eg sequences, structures, microarrays) when there is a public database (annotated and curated) available, and the accession number is provided in the paper.

Our current policies are [here]....

Update. PZ Myers at Pharyngula builds on this post, and Attila's previous post, and thinks about places to deposit OA supplemental info. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) He mentions Google Base as one possibility and his readers mention others in their comments --eventually getting around to OA, OAI-compliant repositories.

Video of the Free Our Data meeting

A webcast of the Free Our Data meeting (Manchester, March 15, 2007) is now online.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Agency-level OA data policies coming to the US federal government

Declan Butler, Agencies join forces to share data, Nature, March 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

The US government is considering a massive plan to store almost all scientific data generated by federal agencies in publicly accessible digital repositories. The aim is for the kind of data access and sharing currently enjoyed by genome researchers via GenBank, or astronomers via the National Virtual Observatory, but for the whole of US science.

Scientists would then be able to access data from any federal agency and integrate it into their studies. For example, a researcher browsing an online journal article on the spread of a disease could not only pull up the underlying data, but mesh them with information from databases on agricultural land use, weather and genetic sequences.

Nature has learned that a draft strategic plan will be drawn up by next autumn by a new Interagency Working Group on Digital Data (IWGDD). It represents 22 agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, and other government branches including the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The group’s first step is to set up a robust public infrastructure so all researchers have a permanent home for their data....

The group then aims to help scientific communities create standards to let databases in one field talk to others in different disciplines....

Many researchers are reluctant to share their raw data in
the first place. The IWGDD is considering making submission of well-documented data sets to archives a requirement of getting a grant.

Christopher Greer, senior adviser for digital data at the NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure [PS: and co-chair of the new IWGDD], says that if and when all federally supported science data are accessible, he hopes that publishers and computing companies will add on more sophisticated information services. This would give researchers unprecedented ability to test their ideas....


  • There are three things to note about this ambitious plan.  First, it's about data, not peer-reviewed articles.  Second, it arises from the agencies themselves, not Congress.  Third, with or without mandates, it's going to happen.  Very exciting. 
  • Thanks to the National Science and Technology Council, whose Committee on Science created the IWGDD late last year.  (The IWGDD doesn't yet have a web site, but I'll blog the URL as soon as it gets one.)

Another way to remove access barriers

Andrew Mytelka, Dutch Scientist to Receive $200,000 Prize From Southern Cal, Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, March 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

The University of Southern California has awarded the 2007 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement to Gatze Lettinga, a Dutch scientist who invented an anaerobic wastewater treatment in the 1970s and who, by choosing not to patent his work, has strived to make it available all over the world. The technology is now used in three-quarters of the world’s anaerobic systems for treating industrial and residential wastewater....

PS:  Unlike Lettinga, scholars who provide OA to their peer-reviewed journal articles give up no actual or potential revenue.  The reason, of course, is that scholarly journals don't buy articles from authors and don't pay royalties.  Lettinga is heroic, but we should all be glad that OA doesn't require heroism.

Compare and contrast, Wikipedia and Citizendium

Larry Sanger, We aren't Wikipedia, Citizendium blog, March 21, 2007.  Sanger --the co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of Citizendium-- lists 10 ways in which the two OA encyclopedias are similar and 11 ways in which they differ.

Beyond OA for reading to OA for processing

Tim O'Reilly, How Google Books is Changing Academic History, O'Reilly Radar, March 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Peter Brantley writes in email: "a Berkeley grad student disses the experience of the Berkeley library system and lauds Google." ...

It's important to remember, though, that finding and reading out of print books is just the beginning of the benefits of digitization. (That's why it's important for at least the out-of-copyright books to be available in more open formats.) Last year, Gregory Crane asked "What Can You Do With a Million Books?," and pointed out that things get most interesting when you can compute against this corpus of books. Computing doesn't just mean measuring or counting (though those things may also be useful). It may mean reshaping in creative, unexpected ways.

At O'Reilly, we've done things like create automated content statistics, extracted just the examples so they could be used for code search -- both by us, and by other code search engines. We're all just taking baby steps, though.

The clearest example I've yet seen of the possibilities of using digital technology to breathe new life into old material remains David Rumsey's work with maps. Once he'd digitized his collection of 30,000 old maps, he was able to do things like georectify them, mapping them to a consistent size and coordinate space so that maps from different eras could be overlaid on each other, creating timelines showing the evolution of cities and landscapes. This is an awesome demonstration of why access to otherwise unavailable materials (the creative commons Lessig talks about) leads to the creation of new value.

Bringing this thought round full circle, academic historians have long been immersed in this kind of creative re-use, but as Jo Guldi wrote in the blog post that I quoted from above, their work is being turbocharged by online access and book search.

A year of the Free Our Data campaign

Charles Arthur and Michael Cross, A few victories, but the battle goes on, The Guardian, March 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Just over a year ago, Guardian Technology launched its Free Our Data campaign. Its aim can be described as "to make data collected and held as part of the business of civil government available in as unrefined a form as possible, for viewing, publishing and commercial reuse, without licensing conditions and at the marginal cost of dissemination, so long as that data does not compromise citizens' privacy or national security". The campaign has caught the imagination of a number of readers, businesses and advisers frustrated with complex and obscure licensing, and copyright systems and keen to make effective use of data that the government is ill-equipped to do.

A year later, what has been achieved? There have been a couple of modest victories, indicating that the ice might be beginning to thaw within government - and that the attitude to public data prevalent in the US (where it is taken as read that data whose collection is funded by taxpayers should be available to them for free) is beginning to prevail.

Much, of course, remains to be done....

U of Hull investigates user needs for its IR

Richard Green and Chris Awre, The RepoMMan User Needs Analysis, March 2007.  I'd post an excerpt, but the authors have blocked cut and paste copying from the PDF.  (Why?) 

From the press release (thanks to Charles Bailey):

The RepoMMan Project at the University of Hull is pleased to announce the availability of its final User Needs Analysis report. The document covers the repository needs of users in the research, learning & teaching, and administration areas. Whilst based primarily on needs expressed in interviews at the University of Hull the document is potentially of wider applicability, drawing from an on-line survey of researchers elsewhere and a survey of the L&T community undertaken by the CD-LOR Project.

More on OA via Flickr

Richard Baer, Flickr as source of OA material, OA Librarian, March 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

When I saw the link to this in, it struck me that this is OA on the real cheap.

The link describes what the author calls the weirdest book in the world, the CODEX SERAPHINIANUS....

[P]utting an entire book online [in Flickr] for semi-free has never occurred to me....I say semi-free because flickr only shows the medium size in the open display. When I login to my Pro account, I can view all sizes including the original at 2400 pixels largest dimension....

PS:  For an earlier example, see the 1997 Army manual on conduct in battle posted to Flickr by Daniel Cornwall (blogged here July 28, 2006).

More on peer-reviewed OA videos

Attila Csordás, Let’s make ’supplementary’ peer-review scientific videos free and youtubish! PIMM, March 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

If you are working in a field, like cell and molecular biology, you are probably a heavyweight user of various imaging methods like laser scanning confocal microscopy, deconvolution microscopy or just lean on normal fluorescence microscopy. Increasingly you are involved in the making of gigabyte sized time lapse videos on living cells or 3D imaging visualizations made by special software, illustrating the biological phenomenon, pattern or effect you are publishing an article on. So scientific videos are more and more important part of scientific arguments in the life sciences.

But these videos can only be published online, under the humiliating title “supplementary information” .... Examples of 3D visualizations are Wang et al.: Endothelial cells derived from human embryonic stem cells form durable blood vessels in vivo in Nature Biotechnology..., and Zhu et al.: Spatiotemporal control of spindle midzone formation by PRC1 in human cells, PNAS....

So here I'd like to suggest for researchers who are making videos and upload it, the powerful editors of peer-review journals, coders, geeks in the uprising web video market to meditate on the possibility of liberating the so called supplementary science videos of peer-review articles and give some light to them by making them freely available and distributable on the web! What about a strict, searchable scientific video sharing site?

Points of persuasion:

1. the web is the natural home of multimedia files of scientific studies, not the published journal articles, so why not make available them in an open access style?

2. there must be some working creative commons like license construction referring to just multimedia parts of the supporting information section, not the whole article, which is good for the Publishing Groups, does not hurt their interests, but does enormous good for individual researchers, searching information outside their academic institutions for the public (if you heard of any type of license like this, please inform me, I am ignorant in this respect)

3. videos, 3D animations are convincing, sometimes crucial forces of scientific arguments in life sciences, so what about a free abstract+supporting information construction?

4. from a presentation point of view, videos are really spectacular and the liberation of science videos can do much for popularizing science worldwebwide

5. imagine a youtube-like video site collecting these videos and make them available for every web user

6. timing: the current web is dominantly about videos and video sharing

What I have in mind here, is a JoVE like website, serving as an ideal host of peer-review scientific videos, animations, audios….

The closest relative is BioMed Search, a Google-like Biomedical Image Search Engine which is currently unavailable due to some problems.

PS:  For background, see my blog post and comment (November 2006) on the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

Profile of Anita Coleman and dLIST

Global Thinker, Library Journal, March 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

Library educator Anita Coleman says her interest in open access “evolved out of something librarians and all researchers have in common: a desire to make a difference.” That's why she created dLIST, the digital Library of Information Science and Technology. Nominator Kristin Eschenfelder, a professor at the University of Wisconsin SLIS, describes dLIST as a “cross-institutional open access digital archive for the information sciences, including archives and records management, LIS, information systems, museum informatics, and other critical information structures.”

An expert on knowledge structures and scholarly communication, Coleman wanted to “raise the status of research done in our field” and give it global visibility that isn't possible when researchers in different branches of information science speak only to one another in closed access, high-priced journals.

With nothing but enthusiasm, and a $5000 grant for a server, Coleman began the project in 2002. She's maintained it on a shoestring by enlisting graduate students and an ever-widening circle of volunteers. Speaking at conferences, writing articles, and sending endless emails, she's encouraged people to contribute to dLIST by self-archiving their work on the web and by serving as its subject editors. Over time, she's increased the scope of the project to include not only journal articles but also conference presentations, technical reports, and classic LIS books and papers.

Coleman has always wanted to leave the planet better than she found it. She's already done so.

PS:  This is much-deserved recognition.  I can add that Anita has agreed to let authors of articles about OA self-archive them in dLIST, regardless of their institutional or disciplinary affiliation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Open API from OpenDOAR

OpenDOAR has opened up its API for experiments, mash-ups, and creative new services.  (Thanks to Peter Millington.)  From the site:

We have developed a machine-to-machine interface that lets applications run a wide variety of queries against the OpenDOAR Database and return the results as XML data. You can choose to retrieve just repository titles & URLs (suitable for OAI-PMH harvesting), or all the available OpenDOAR data, or intermediate levels of detail. You can then incorporate the output into your own applications and 'mash-ups'.

The API is due to be released as an officially supported service at the beginning of April 2007. Until then, it is undergoing trials, and we invite interested parties to participate in the testing and provide feedback. If you are interested taking part, please contact Peter Millington for the draft documentation. This will be added to the OpenDOAR website when the API is officially released.

SHERPA may introduce some small changes between now and the official launch (e.g. adding copyright and licensing statements to the XML output) but doesn't expect any large changes.

One example from SHERPA itself is this XML list of all the repositories listed in OpenDOAR.  Another example is this XML list of data about Caltech's Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory repository.  The most exciting example to date is the mash-up of OpenDOAR and Google Maps from Repository66.

Should OA repositories protect authors' moral rights?

Kasia Kurek, Peter A.Th.M. Geurts, and Hans E. Roosendaal, The split between availability and selection Business models for scientific information, and the scientific process?  Information Services and Use, 26, 4 (2006).

Abstract:   The Berlin declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities has resulted in a strong impetus in the discussion on business models, and in particular the model of open access. A business model is defined as just the organisation of property. Consequently, business models for scientific information are discussed on the premise that any such business model should primarily produce added value for the scientific process next to commercial value for the research institution or intermediary acting as publisher. Furthermore, any business model should be sustainable. Scientific information is thus considered an integral part of the scientific process. It is not an end product but an intermediary product subject to scientific scrutiny. The final goal is to integrate the information into the scientific process. To this end, scientific information should be widely available for selection by the user as common property.

Two basic business models emerge: one with the focus on added value as selection by the user known as the 'subscription model'; and another one with the focus on wide availability known as the 'open access' model.

Both in the subscription model as in the open access model it is the scientific community that invests. In the subscription model scientific information is more considered as external to the scientific process in a consumer type model, while in the open access model scientific information is more seen as internal, as necessary acquisition costs for the scientific process. In the subscription model there is less incentive for broad availability of information whereas in the open access model there is less incentive to develop and maintain added value services to facilitate the selection by the reader. The organisation of property is a condition sine qua non. Although common property, the information is owned by the author claiming this property by the act of publication. Core to this claim of property is peer review being therefore core to any business model. The author is interested in protecting his moral rights against plagiarism; the publisher is interested in protecting the added value against commercial abuse. It is suggested that open access repositories could boost if repository management would guarantee protection of the moral rights of the author. In this way, the protection to the two main infringements could be split over different stakeholders. This would also allow separating the responsibility for availability coupled with peer review as a basic service from added value services coupled to selection at an optional charge.

In the end, any business model has to fulfill the basic idea that scientific information is not there just for the record as a commodity, but is there to be used in research and teaching: scientific information has no value in itself.

PS:  OA is a kind of access, not a kind of business model.  There are many business models compatible with OA.  I believe the authors could say all they wanted to say about OA if they considered it an access model rather than a business model.

Minutes of EC expert group discussing OA

Summary Minutes of the 2nd meeting of the High Level Expert Group on Digital Libraries 17 October 2006, European Commission.  While the meeting took place in October 2006, the summary minutes were only released on March 19, 2007. 

I'm quoting the entirety of Section 3, Digital Libraries of Scientific and Scholarly Information – State of the discussion in the Scientific Information subgroup (pp. 5-6):

The Commissioner [Viviane Reding] explained that scientific and scholarly information, including research data, have many special features which deserve special consideration in the context of the i2010 Digital Libraries initiative. We are dealing with masses of born digital material (research articles, data) of a different nature to cultural content and facing different problems. The Commission is preparing a Communication on Scientific Information in the Digital Age [PS: this document was released on February 15, 2007] which should announce a number of actions, and aim at feeding and organising a discussion with the other European Institutions, Member States and stakeholders. The High Level Group could make a valuable contribution in this area, identifying practical and agreed solutions between stakeholders to maximise the benefits of information technologies for the enhanced access to and easier use of scientific knowledge. For this reason, a second subgroup on Scientific Information started work last September. The Commissioner welcomed Mr Jerry Cowhig, Chair of STM, the Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, invited as an ad hoc expert for the discussion of scientific information issues.

Prof. N. Kroo indicated that it is widely felt among scientists that the current functioning of the scientific publishing system should be modified in order to improve access to research results. The scientific system normally pays for producing the research results, for the peer reviews and for buying journals through the libraries' budgets (triple funding argument). The current system is suboptimal due to high prices of publications. Although Europe is a major producer of scientific articles, a disproportionate percentage of the gatekeepers (those deciding what will be published) comes from the USA. A "moratorium (embargo) period" ranging from 3 to 12 months depending on the subject area should be introduced for publicly funded research results. After this period, the articles should be made available in open repositories. The final goal is to make the system more effective (cheaper and faster), while keeping the experience and good work of publishers. Members States and research funding organisations should work to bring forward new open access policies to the current publications system.

Mr J. Cowhig indicated that the publishers' goal is to make research results as widely available as possible. There is, hence, no conflict of interest with the scientific community. He highlighted the contribution of scientific publishers to the production of scientific information, in particular the management of the peer-review system, marketing and dissemination costs. STM studies estimate these costs at 4000€ per article on average. This work has to be carried out within sustainable business models. Prices are not high, also considering the fact that publishers are often ready to offer advantageous deals for large organisations, national licensing schemes or to take into account special needs (e.g. developing countries). The viability of alternative models (such as the "author pays" model) is questionable, while institutional open repositories would be acceptable to publishers only in the case the deposit of papers is made in the original form produced by the authors, not in the form published by journals. The latter would disrupt the current properly working subscription business model. The same effect would be caused by the introduction of short "embargo periods".

The discussion also touched on digital preservation of scientific information and accessibility of research data. Progress on these two topics promises to be easier and faster than on "open access", given the absence of substantial points of disagreement.

Finally, it has been suggested that special attention should be devoted to humanities and social sciences' material. This type of scholarly information has certain peculiarities, such as a stronger multilingual element and a higher stability in terms of duration of scientific relevance of articles for state-of-the-art research. Nevertheless there is a certain risk that this type of information is neglected.

The Commissioner took note positively of possible consensus emerging between stakeholders in the areas of digital preservation and research data. On the other hand the issue of publication of scientific articles remains controversial and the different positions quite polarised. She encouraged the subgroup to work towards identifying possible points of agreement and invited it to present a report for the third High Level Group's meeting.


  1. Note that the "invited ad hoc expert for the discussion of scientific information issues" was the chairman of a publisher trade association opposed to OA.  Where was the invited ad hoc expert speaking for researchers or the invited ad hoc experts speaking for universities, libraries, medical patients, R&D-based industries, and taxpayers?
  2. Note the expert's testimony: 
    • "[T]he publishers' goal is to make research results as widely available as possible...."  But OA is the way to make research results as widely available as possible.  The publishers he represents may want to maximize availability for paying customers, and steadily increase the number of paying customers.  But make no mistake:  they are limiting access, or creating artificial scarcity, in order to support their business models.
    • The average peer-reviewed article costs 4,000€ (PS: at today's exchange rate, $5,300).  The literature is full of different estimates, and those from disinterested parties (non-publishers) are all lower.  For example, Carol Tenopir and Donald King estimate the range is $110 - $800 (Nature, October 18, 2001).
    • "Prices are not high...."  Thank goodness Norbert Kroo was in the room to contradict this.  After the University of California canceled too many high-priced titles, and studied the system of subscription-based journals, the Chair of the UC Academic Senate and the head librarians of all eleven UC campuses concluded that the "economics of scholarly journal publishing are incontrovertibly unsustainable."

Presentations from the EC's February meeting on OA

The presentations from the EC-hosted meeting, Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area - Access, Dissemination, and Preservation in the Digital Age (Brussels, February 15-16, 2007), are now online.  (Thanks to Alma Swan.)

Access and copyright

Mary Wong, Copyright and Access to Knowledge, a public talk at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, March 20, 2007.  It's now available in a 63-minute podcast.  From the Berkman Center blurb:

Mary Wong of Franklin Pierce Law Center joins Berkman Center guests, fellows, and staff to discuss the growing discourse around such topics as “the commons,” “free culture,” and “open content.” ...

Professor Wong addresses the extent to which these terms are rhetoric or signals of change; how “openness” can be stunted by lack of clarity in copyright standards; and what the future may hold in light of technological advancements.

More on OA from the AGRIS Network

Imma Subirats, Irene Onyancha, Gauri Salokhe, and Johannes Keizer, Towards an architecture for open archive networks in Agricultural Sciences and Technology.  No date or citation, but announced  yesterday on the Agriscontent blog.  Apparently a preprint.  All the authors work for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Abstract:   The AGRIS Network is an international initiative based on a collaborative network of institutions, whose aim is to build a common and freely accessible information system for science and technology in agriculture and related subjects. The paper illustrates how the Open Access (OA) and the Open Archive Initiative (OAI) models can be used within the AGRIS Network as a means of solving the problems of information dissemination and exchange of agricultural research outputs. The AGRIS OA model promotes the availability of online content, such as that of grey literature which is not available through commercial distribution channels but significantly contributes to agricultural research and development. The lack of adequate information exchange possibilities between researchers in agricultural sciences and technology represents a significant weakness limiting the ability of researches to properly help address the issues of agricultural development. The OA model also promotes disseminating international, national and regional research output in a way that is highly visible thus removing the restrictions placed by the traditional scientific diffusion arising from print media. This paper presents the possibility to address the accessibility, availability and interoperability issues of exchanging agricultural research output. The paper also presents the needs for standards such as AGRIS Application Profile (AGRIS AP), an exchange standard and controlled vocabularies or subject-specific Knowledge Organization Systems (KOS) as means of assuring quality of the shared information.

Organizing downloaded articles

Jonathan Gitlin, Minireview: Papers for OS X, Ars Technica, March 18, 2007.  (Thanks to Richard Akerman.)  Excerpt:

...[The] move to electronic copies has brought with it some challenges of its own. The biggest headache has to be what to do with them all once they're downloaded.  I've seen various approaches, from naming each file with the first two authors and the date and simply dumping them all in a central folder all the way to the other end of the spectrum, which involves simply forgetting where you saved it and downloading it all over again each time you want to read it....

[Desktop searching helped but] didn't solve the organization problem or having multiple copies of the same PDF.  What we really needed was obvious —iTunes, but for research papers....

How great would it be if there was an app like iTunes, but for papers?  The answer is "insanely great!"

That app is called Papers....

[O]nce Papers knows the address for a given journal, it will fetch the 50 most recent papers published therein, which makes staying abreast like child's play....

Other developers have had similar ideas in the past—iPapers being one, and Yep being another—but none of them in my experience have been as well-rounded or complete....

Comment.  Of course full OA solves the problem even better --you only have to run searches or, having run them, organize bookmarks or links rather than articles.  But for offline use of OA articles, and emailed copies of non-OA articles, apps like this one will be very useful.  So far, however, it's limited to Mac users and papers listed in PubMed.

Open courseware for corporate training courses

Novell has launched Novell Open Courseware, apparently the first open courseware from a for-profit company for its corporate training courses.  (Thanks to David Wiley.)

South African gold

Eve Gray, The State of the Nation 3: Journal publishing in South Africa - the green or gold route in the country of gold? Gray Area, March 19, 2007.

Quite a spat has broken out in open Access circles about whether it would be better to take the 'green route' to open access mandating open repositories, or more effective to go for the 'gold route' of developing open access journals....

The debate made me step back and rethink my approach....The 'green' route seems to have become the accepted orthodoxy as was evidenced n the Bangalore workshop late last year, which produced the Bangalore Open Access Policy for Developing Nations. This makes sense, as it is quick and easy way of providing access to scholarship published in international journals that is otherwise often inaccessible in its country of origin. This means a win-win for the universities that push for publication in accredited journals for the sake of personal and institutional prestige. I have noted that there is also a considerable emphasis among the funding agencies on the need for repositories as the first and best way of providing access to developing country research.

However...when it comes to the very particular case of Africa, should we not make the growth of open access journals our first priority? In a perverse way, Africa's potential to leap the technology divide and adopt more radical transformational of scholarly dissemination could be helped by its very low profile in the existing publishing systems....This is due to the fact that Africa has a very limited investment in the traditional print-based scholarly publication system and this frees policy-makers to engage with new trends in ways that their more privileged counterparts min the North may be constrained from doing.

The recent lobbying efforts of the large journal publishers against open access policy initiatives in the USA, UK and Europe are evidence of the conservative power of entrenched commercial interests....The vested interests that are at stake are substantial....As a result, the conventional wisdom in open access circles seems to be that the most reliable way to create access to research knowledge, in the first instance, is to mandate deposit in open access repositories....

I would suggest that this is not necessarily the case in Africa...

As an ex-university press publisher, I am only too aware of the resistance of USA and UK libraries to taking publications from African publishers. This leads me to wonder if the creation of repositories alone is going to be enough to drive greater recognition of African scholarship. The HSRC Press, with its open access monograph publication programme, has demonstrated the importance of aggressive marketing to get local and international attention. In other words, publishing activities are needed....

The [South African] Academy of Science Report endorses open access journal publication (Recommendation no. 6) as the way forward and the Department of Science and Technology appears to endorse this recommendation....

Bearing in mind that South Africa has only 23 journals listed in the ISI indexes(most African countries have none and Kenya and Ethiopia have one each), it becomes clear that the African continent as a whole is hardly at all invested in the global scholarly publishing system....Africa has real potential to leapfrog technological gaps using the 'gold' route – in fact this might be an imperative rather than an option....

[O]ne also needs to bear in mind the scale of things one is talking about. If South Africa were to adopt a policy to deposit pre-or post-prints of all journal articles published in foreign journals in the ISI indexes, this would represent, at current publication rates, around 3,500 articles a year - hardly an insurmountable task. So perhaps we could be greedy and go for both the green and gold routes for journal articles.

PS:  This is Part 3 of Eve's analysis of the state of research dissemination in South Africa.  Also see Parts 1 and 2.

Accessing journal content through a virtual network drive

Leigh Dodds, Academic Journals as a Virtual File System, All my eye, March 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

I've been taking a look at WebDAV recently as a means for enhancing some of our content management features.

WebDAV is an extension to HTTP that provides facilities for distributed authoring and versioning of documents. The protocol is natively supported on both the Windows and Mac desktops thereby allowing direct access, publishing and authoring of content held in remote repositories in a seamless way. To the end user the repository looks exactly like a network drive and they can use normal file management options to manage documents.

After reading a blog posting from Jon Udell yesterday and in particular the notion of WebDAV proxies and virtual documents, I got to wondering about where else WebDAV could be applied.

Central to WebDAV is the a notion of a hierarchy of documents, each of which can have its own metadata. Sounds very much like the typical browse path for academic journals to me: titles, issues, articles.

So what if we were to expose journals as a "virtual file system" using WebDAV? A user could then integrate a journal (or collection of journals) directly into their file-system. Accessing content would be as simple as browsing through directories (i.e. an issue) to find the relevant content (e.g. a PDF file, HTML file, etc).

Obviously access control is an issue here. Arbitrary users wouldn't be edit documents, so the file system would be read-only. And, apart from Open Access titles, not everyone would necessarily be authorized to access the full-text of all content within a journal. But that's OK too; a WebDAV server doesn't have to expose a real file-system. What's exposed can be a virtual collection of content and that content can be limited to just those journals, issues, and articles to which the user has access....

It seems to me that this could be a pretty powerful technique. It would provide a simple, familiar metaphor for accessing journal content. And users wouldn't need to accumulate and organize local copies of PDFs (and they do!). Instead they would be able to mount the content from any networked computer....

The idea speaks directly to a wider debate about how academic publishers could or should disseminate content in the future. Assuming the correct access controls are in place and the content metadata is easily and widely available, do publishers really need to more than expose their content in these kinds of ways?  Instead leaving end users and intermediaries to add value?

Publisher keeps DRM, loses MIT

MIT Faculty and Libraries Refuse DRM; SAE Digital Library Canceled, MIT Libraries News, March 16, 2007.  Excerpt:

The MIT Libraries have canceled access to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ web-based database of technical papers, rejecting the SAE’s requirement that MIT accept the imposition of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

SAE’s DRM technology severely limits use of SAE papers and imposes unnecessary burdens on readers. With this technology, users must download a DRM plugin, Adobe’s “FileOpen,” in order to read SAE papers. This plugin limits use to on-screen viewing and making a single printed copy, and does not work on Linux or Unix platforms.

“It’s a step backwards,” says Professor Wai Cheng, SAE fellow and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, who feels strongly enough about the implications of DRM that he has asked to be added to the agenda of the upcoming SAE Publication Board meeting in April, when he will address this topic....

[T]he MIT Libraries consulted with other faculty members who publish or use SAE content. The responses were uniformly against accepting DRM, even if it meant losing ready access to SAE papers. When informed that the SAE feels the need to impose DRM to protect their intellectual property, Professor John Heywood, the Director of MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab, who publishes his own work with the SAE, responded with a question: “Their intellectual property?” ...

Echoing Professor Heywood, Alan Epstein, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, believes that “If SAE limits exposure to their material and makes it difficult for people to get it, faculty will choose to publish elsewhere.” ...

At a time when technology makes it possible to share research more quickly and broadly than ever before, and when innovative automotive research is a matter of global concern, SAE is limiting access to the research that has been entrusted to the society....[T]he SAE also prevents information about its papers from being found through any channel other than the ones they control.

What does this mean? In contrast to information about research published by other engineering societies, which can be found in databases such as Google, ISI’s Web of Science, or the Compendex engineering database, information about SAE papers is only made available through SAE’s proprietary database. Such policies severely limit access to information about SAE papers, and are out of step with market norms....

Beginning in April, 2007, the Libraries will make available either a printed or web-based index of SAE papers....The Libraries are working to ensure that this system will be in place in time to avoid major disruption to MIT users when the SAE Digital Library access ends March 31....

When the SAE informed the Libraries that they remain unwilling to accept any access to the Digital Library other than through the DRM plugin, the Libraries reluctantly chose this alternative path....

Comment.  A required plug-in and no free circulation of metadata?  It looks like SAE is more interested in keeping its papers secret than in disseminating them.  That is its prerogative, of course, and now its circle of readers has narrowed even further.  MIT made the right decision, and so would any other libraries that followed suit.  Authors who want their work to be read, applied, built upon, and cited should think hard before publishing in SAE journals.

Update. There's now a Slashdot thread on MIT's decision.

Update. Here's a good comment by John Blossom at Shore Communications:

This does not bode well for scholarly publishers who may be planning to use DRM controls as a way of managing electronic access. As generally implemented DRM controls make it difficult, if not impossible, to use premium content for collaboration, a key factor for research and engineering....Instead [of] insisting on reinforcing a print model that is increasingly incompatible with the productivity requirements of scientific and academic audiences scholarly publishers need to focus on how best to facilitate knowledge transfer. DRM does nothing to help facilitate knowledge transfer whatsoever. Hopefully the SAE and other societies and associations can work with their memberships to come up with more productive models for licensing content.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

OLCOS report on OA courseware and research

The EU-funded OLCOS (Open eLearning Content Observatory Services) has released a major report, Open Educational Practices and Resources:  OLCOS Roadmap 2012, January 2007.  (Thanks to Ignasi Labastida i Juan.) 

From the splash page:

The report is based on [our] own research work, expert workshops and other consultations with many international projects that promote the creation, sharing and re-use of Open Educational Resources (OER)....

The report covers the following areas:

  • Policies, institutional frameworks and business models;
  • Open Access and open content repositories;
  • Laboratories of open educational practices and resources.

For each of these areas, drivers/enablers and inhibitors of OER and open educational practices are identified and described in detail....

In the full report, see esp. Chapter 5.3 ("Open Access and open content repositories" pp. 72-86) and Chapter 6.2 (the roadmap brief on the same topic, pp. 112-113), which both cover OA to research as well as OA to courseware.

From the full report:

[p. 23] OLCOS’ approach is different in that it does not primarily emphasise open educational resources but open educational practices, which, however, can benefit much from open access to resources such as content and tools....

[pp. 25-26] Arguably, the key problem of current open access educational repositories may be that, despite their philosophy of sharing, they see teachers and learners as consumers of content who primarily want to download useful material. A better approach would be to support communities of interest around certain subjects (for example, in history or biology) by providing, alongside the content, mechanisms for adding comments on how best to use some content, for documenting one’s own project results, creating links to related content, and discussing new issues in certain subject areas....

[p. 57] There is an established understanding that easy access to educational resources is required to promote lifelong learning by active learners of all ages. Also the role of such access in reducing social inequalities, fostering social inclusion of migrants, and supporting education in developing countries is often acknowledged....

[p. 68] Confronted with the current strong move towards Open Access strategies, most publishers seem to take a defensive position....Publishers see established commercial models being endangered...and are urging governments
to maintain fair competition and avoid unbalanced allocation of funding....A frequent suggestion also is to explore new business models based on public–private partnerships; however, it remains unclear what this could mean beyond governments funding licensing of their content....

[p. 69] Even regarding the more advanced STM (Science, Technology, Medicine) publishing domain there is growing dissatisfaction among market observers with the lack of innovativeness of publishers....

[p. 81] Reviews of content recruitment strategies [at institutional repositories] confirm that voluntary policies are not efficient in filling up self-archiving repositories of universities and other larger academic institutions. Researchers from the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), which supports institutional repository projects of CARL members, conclude: “Certainly the most effective strategy for content recruitment is to implement an institutional policy requiring the archiving of research publications into IRs....Such a mandatory policy is infinitely preferable to voluntary compliance (provided that the library is prepared to take on the duties required) because of course it solves the riddle of successful content recruitment.” ... Also, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have learned that their voluntary public access policy has not produced the expected result....

OLCOS welcomes feedback on the report.

Thomson buys publicly-funded OA database

Thomson Scientific has bought Unleashed Informatics.  The purchase includes BIND (Biomolecular Interaction Network Database), a formerly OA database.  (Thanks to John Wilbanks.)  From today's press release:

The Thomson Corporation today announced that its Scientific business unit has acquired privately-held Unleashed Informatics Ltd, a life sciences data management company. Unleashed Informatics is the market leader in bioinformatics data and owns the largest repository of value-added bioinformatics records — a highly significant area for target-based drug discovery....

Unleashed Informatics is highly regarded for its subscription-based stable of public and proprietary biological databases, including:

  • BIND (Biomolecular Interaction Network Database) containing 200,000 biomolecular interactions
  • SMID (Small Molecule Interaction Database) containing over 23 million experimentally observed small molecule interactions
  • BOND (Biomolecular Object Network Database) data warehouse that combines access to BIND and SMID data with publicly-accessible databases, plus similarity search algorithms

Over 11,000 researchers in more than 3,000 organizations worldwide rely on content, tools and analytics from Unleashed Informatics to advance their life sciences investigations. Thomson will continue to make complimentary versions of BOND and BIND available to Unleashed Open Access registrants....

Comment.  BIND was originally developed by Blueprint, a non-profit organization funded by IBM and a handful of Canadian medical institutes, including the U of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.  Significant funding came from Canadian taxpayers, for example CDN $29 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and perhaps more from Genome Canada.  Bind was OA.  In December 2005, Blueprint sold BIND to Unleashed Informatics, which maintained an OA edition and introduced a priced edition.  Now Thomson has bought Unleashed Informatics.  Thomson promises to "continue to make complimentary versions of BOND and BIND available to Unleashed Open Access registrants" but doesn't say whether it will accept new registrants. 

Three more CERN experiments endorse gold OA

Two more CERN experiments have endorsed the Statement on Open Access Publishing first promulgated by CERN's ATLAS experiment on February 23, 2007.  The statement itself is short:

We...strongly encourage the usage of electronic publishing methods for [this experiment's] publications and support the principles of Open Access Publishing, which includes granting free access of our [our] publications to all. Furthermore, we encourage all [our] members to publish papers in easily accessible journals, following the principles of the Open Access Paradigm.

Here are the two new experiments to endorse it:

  • ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment
  • TOTEM (Total Cross Section, Elastic Scattering and Diffraction Dissociation at the LHC)

A third experiment has agreed to endorse gold OA in some form but is still working out the exact language:

  • LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment)

(Thanks to Jens Vigen at CERN.)

Comment.  Recall that CERN's CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment endorsed the ATLAS OA statement earlier this month.  Hence, that makes four CERN experiments endorsing the ATLAS statement and five endorsing some form of gold OA.

Note, as I pointed out when the ATLAS board first issued its statement:

Some groups use the term "open access publishing" as a synonym for "open access".  But in this case...the authors are using the term carefully to refer to OA journals or gold OA.  CERN already has a green OA mandate, and the ATLAS experimenters know that it applies to them.  In this statement, they are going beyond it to show their support for gold OA.

11 articles on OA in the Open Source Jahrbuch 2007

The Open Source Jahrbuch 2007 is now online.  The full-text is available for downloading.  See the full table of contents (158 articles), the 15 articles in English, or the 11 articles on open access.

Nature Biotech recommends OA data

Democratizing proteomics data, Nature Biotechnology, March 2007.  An editorial.  (Thanks to Francis Ouellette.)  Excerpt:

Beginning this month, Nature Biotechnology is recommending that raw data from proteomics and molecular-interaction experiments be deposited in a public database before manuscript submission.

The lack of raw data sets associated with proteomics and molecular-interaction papers is a long-standing and pernicious problem. It not only stymies the exchange, comparison and reanalysis of experimental results, but also inhibits the development of new algorithms and statistics that could improve the confidence in data and conclusions. In addition, it undermines the ability of referees to fully evaluate the quality of data supporting a manuscript's conclusions, sometimes forcing them to assess results simply on 'good faith'. Contrast this with the situation in genome research and structural biology, where there is an abundance of public data sets from DNA microarrays, genome sequencing and X-ray crystallography studies, and it is not difficult to understand why progress in proteomics has lagged....

[P]erhaps the single most important roadblock has been the chronic lack of public repositories for proteomics and molecular-interaction data.

This has begun to change, however, with the advent of the International Molecular Exchange (IMEx) consortium and databases such as the European Bioinformatics Institute's PRIDE and IntAct, the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology's PeptideAtlas, the University of Michigan's Tranche and the Rockefeller/University of British Columbia's GPMDB. For the moment we prefer PRIDE and IMEx databases (IntAct, DIP, MINT) because they not only are true databases with complex interfaces and accession numbers, but also offer a mechanism for referees to anonymously review submitted data sets.

Our goal in encouraging data submission to public repositories is to enhance the utility, reproducibility and dissemination of the research published in our pages. It is worth reiterating that publication of a paper includes an obligation on the part of authors to make sufficient data publicly available for an experiment to be reproduced. Public accessibility of results is also consistent with the missions of funding agencies.

Although our new policy on data deposition is a recommendation rather than a requirement, we strongly urge authors to comply for the reasons enumerated above. We intend to monitor the results of this initiative with a view to assessing the future feasibility of requiring data deposition as a condition of publication.

Comment.  This is a good policy.  I'd only note that the same arguments for OA to datasets apply just as strongly to peer-reviewed articles interpreting or analyzing datasets.  OA to articles would "enhance the utility, reproducibility and dissemination of the research published in [a journal's] pages...."

OA research letters from Hindawi

Hindawi Publishing has launched a "Research Letters" series of OA journals.  From its announcement:

Hindawi is pleased to announce the launch of a new "Research Letters" series of journals, which will be published using an open access publication model. The new series will be devoted to publishing short, high-quality manuscripts in broad fields of science. Manuscripts published in these journals shall generally be four pages or less in their final published form.

The series will start with the following titles:

  • Research Letters in Biochemistry
  • Research Letters in Chemical Engineering
  • Research Letters in Communications
  • Research Letters in Ecology
  • Research Letters in Electronics
  • Research Letters in Inorganic Chemistry
  • Research Letters in Materials Science
  • Research Letters in Nanotechnology
  • Research Letters in Organic Chemistry
  • Research Letters in Physical Chemistry
  • Research Letters in Physics
  • Research Letters in Signal Processing

Further titles will be announced in the next few months. All journals will be funded with "Article Processing Charges" of Euros 400 per accepted manuscript. Accepted manuscripts shall be published using the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

"The editorial workflow of this series of journals will emphasize the high-quality and fast turn-around requirements," says Mohamed Hamdy, Hindawi's Editorial Manager....

PS:  A dozen new OA journals in one announcement.  This is a sign of momentum.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Summary version of November 2006 report on self-archiving and journal cancellations

The Publishing Research Consortium has released a condensed version of its November 2006 study, Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition?  From today's announcement:

This paper...looks at librarian purchasing preferences, and concludes that mandating self-archiving within six months or less of publication will undermine the subscription-based peer review journal. 

Comment.  Here's what I said about the full-length study last November:

This is a study of librarians' hypothetical preferences, not actual cancellation decisions or even librarian preferences as modulated by consultation with faculty.  In short, it's not hard evidence that [high-volume OA archiving] will increase cancellations.  Less hypothetical studies, like Mark Ware's March 2006 study for ALPSP, show that high journal prices far surpass OA archiving as a cause of journal cancellations, and hence that publishers have to get their own house in order before they object to actions by researchers, libraries, and funding agencies to solve the problem that publishers are aggravating.  (My usual disclaimer applies:  high-volume OA archiving might really increase cancellations, but there's no hard evidence yet that it will, and abundant evidence to the contrary in physics; and even if OA archiving does increase cancellations, it is still justified.) 

For a large number of comments on the study's methodological flaws, with replies by the authors (Chris Beckett and Simon Inger), see Steve Hitchcock's compendium from December 2006.

Second thoughts on the Google Library project

On March 4, Peter Brantley wrote a blog post arguing that the University of California made a mistake to join the Google Library project.  On March 9, he wrote a second post to clarify the first.  (Thanks to ACRLblog.)  Brantley is the director of strategic technology for academic information systems in the UC's Office of the President.

From the March 4 post:

Can we say it was a mistake? 
For it was a mistake.

The goal is undeniably grand, and good. 
The means have left much to be desired. 

We poisoned our hand before we played it.  We were approached singly, charmed in confidence, the stranger was beguiling, and we embraced.  For the love of selfish confidence, we spoke neither our fortune nor our misgivings with our neighbors or our friends....

Can we say it?  The deals are not fair.  We were taken advantage of.  We are asked to be grateful for something wondrous where we could have achieved more for ourselves and demanded more from others.  We let this happen and we should not have.   Now we must count on the beneficence of others. We need speak of the bitterness, laugh at our own stupidity, and move forward. 

Let us re-write the rules for the future....

From the March 9 post:

...[L]et me be clearer on a few points:

1.  I think Google is a company to be admired.  For whatever weaknesses they possess, they have a grand vision and have superbly executed it, even at some risk to themselves (and it embodies both commercial and non-commercial vision)....

2.  I believe the Google Books effort is, in its broadest conception, a wonderful thing, and I support it wholeheartedly....

3.  My primary intent in the post is to suggest disappointment with libraries (not with Google).  I felt that there was much to be gained -- and I still feel very strongly so -- from union, collaboration, and sharing among libraries of the immense issues raised by this effort....

Certainly early on in Google-Library negotiations, there was intense uncertainty and a complex and not yet settled swirling miasma of speculation about the actions of search engines, libraries, publishers, authors, the law, and opinion.  It is perhaps unfair for me to criticize deeply some of the decisions made then.  But nonetheless, the overall mantra: Libraries must collaborate amongst themselves - is a paramount one for me....   

Simply put: I wish (in hindsight) that libraries - both in the library program and without - had seized more initiative and not only recognized the earth-shaking change afoot, but grappled hard to be a fundamental and defining part of that conversation, by engaging directly with publishers (who should often be seen as intellectual compatriots and commercial partners, not adversaries), and by opening up discussion for ourselves and our publics on critical issues of rights, privacy, and the nature of scholarship....

5. I conclude by urging libraries: let us engage deeply in these issues, not only amongst ourselves, and search engines, but with publishers and authors.  Let us break open this dialogue to better understand among the cacophony of voices all of the richness of our different perspectives, and struggle through the differences more openly and straightforwardly.  Only through this is any emergent consensus possible.  The alternative is that new understandings will be imposed on us.  Let us instead build the house we shall live in, together.

Lobbying help from R&D industries

Stevan Harnad, Forging An OA Alliance With R&D Industries and Mobilizing University Mandates, Open Access Archivangelism, March 18, 2007.  Excerpt:

...The "OA movement" is really just a loose federation of mostly academics. It is not skilled or experienced in the area of political lobbying, alas. Some sectors (SPARC US and Europe, perhaps) might be in a position to become more sophisticated in lobbying, but the individual OA activists, being employed academics -- researchers first and activists only second -- are not.

The lobbying wings of industries are paid professionals. We have none of those. There is a hope, though, namely, a strategic alliance (perhaps mediated by EURAB) between the academic-researcher OA activists and the vast R&D industry that applies the fruits of research. The R&D industries are far bigger than the publishing industry. They need to be explicitly mobilized to our side (because they too have a strong interest in open access to research, not for themselves directly [which they can easily afford to pay] but for all researchers worldwide [who cannot]: It is researcher-to-researcher access and collaborative/cumulative research progress that supplies R&D industries with the research findings for their R&D applications....

OA is (fortunately) not doomed to wait for legislation, and for lobbying and convincing legislators, in order to prevail. Let us not forget for a minute that if researchers themselves had any sense, we would already have 100% OA, for we would simply self-archive spontaneously....

So lobbying becomes the name of the game, for the legislative route.

But there is a parallel route, and it has already been engaged in the UK (first) and to an extent also in Europe and Australia: This is the research funding councils (RCUK, ERC, ARC), who can...with a Green OA mandate even if the legislators are deadlocked....

There was already a logical gap in 2002, between researchers (34,000) signing the PLoS petition to publishers, demanding OA, yet not moving their fingers to deposit their own papers. There is now a second logical gap in research funders and institutions signing the EU and US petitions to legislators to mandate Green OA globally, while they do not go ahead individually and mandate OA locally, for their own funding body or their own university! ...

Bypassing censorship filters to do research

Sam Kean, Computer scientists use social networking to help foreign scholars bypass their governments' Web filters, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

...In the Western world, it is usually the criminal, the paranoid, or the very private who conceal tracks on the Internet. In countries with Web censorship, scholars must circumvent government filters just to write papers on human rights or study HIV transmission. Officials at the [University of Toronto's] Citizen Lab say 40 countries use some sort of Internet filtering, and without Tor, Psiphon, or other similar programs, many foreign academics might as well unplug their computers....

Iranian search engines reject the word "women," for example. The rationale? As Mr. Mirmirani writes in an e-mail message from Iran, the government claims 90 percent of people who search for "women" seek pornography, which is illegal.

For the same puritanical reasons, Iran outlaws searches for some seemingly unexceptionable terms. "Meat," Mr. [Jadi] Mirmirani writes, "could be used as a rude word for 'pretty woman' in Farsi." Therefore, searches on Muslim dietary restrictions are blocked. Referring to government officials, he says, "You can see how an ill mind assumes everybody's mind is also ill." ...

Open knowledge presentations

The presentations from Open Knowledge 1.0 (London, March 17, 2007) are now online.

Update.  Glyn Moody has blogged some notes on the presentations.

Update. Also see blog notes by Chris Corbin and Jessica Clark.

Putting OA repositories on the map

Tim Brody has done a mash-up of ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) and Google Earth.  The result lets you see the worldwide distribution, and precise locations, of OA repositories.  For details, see his blog post.

Update. has a similar mash-up based on OpenDOAR rather than ROAR. The two projects are connected and roughly simultaneous; for details, see this and this.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

EU Grand Prize for book-scanning machine

The ScanRobot from Treventus Mechatronics won one of the EU's three Grand Prizes for Information and Communication Technology for 2007.  The ScanRobot is a book-scanning machine that will digitize an average book in six minutes. 

Student resolution for FRPAA coming to Emory U

Students at Emory University are submitting a resolution in support of FRPAA to the Student Government Association for approval.  The language is based on the resolution approved by the University of Florida Student Senate in June 2006.

Update. Also see Stevan Harnad's comment urging students to lobby (as well) for OA mandates at their own institutions.

IRs should host full texts, not just abstracts and links

Jennifer De Beer, what an IR shouldn't be..., jenniferdebeer, March 18, 2007.  Excerpt: institutional repository (IR) should NOT be a glorified...bibliographic/abstract index! ...when i hop along to any one of the e-prints- or dspace-based collections, i...EXPECT scholarly works there to be available fulltext, and openly so. this is my understanding of the use of these brands.

my little rant is due to my minutes-ago experience of browsing a collection..., only to find that what was listed in the law collection of the IR were merely mostly abstracts linked to alternative locations (toll-gated journal publication sites) reasons were given on the IR page for their not simply providing the fulltext in situ....

universities and research institutes: you shouldn't get to call your collection an e-prints or dspace collection if all you´re doing is providing a service which is in effect an online catalogue with links to a closed-access collection. for sure, this "catalogue" gives exposure to the authors' works somehow (via this online abstract) and yet, let's face it, you can't pretend that it's open access. this kind of misuse dilutes the notion of open access and distorts the originally intended uses of the e-prints and dspace softwares.

Gavin Yamey on OA

Gavin Yamey, Opening Up to Open Access: What Can Other Disciplines Learn from the Sciences?  A public talk at Harvard University, March 14, 2007.  A 77 minute podcast is now available for downloading.  Also check out the separate Q&A session. Yamey is a physician, Senior Editor of PLoS Medicine, and Consulting Editor of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

CC Learn is hiring a director

Creative Commons is launching a new division called CC Learn (no web site yet), devoted to Open Educational Resources.  It's now looking for an Executive Director.  For anyone working in open education, this would be a great job.  Spread the word.