Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, December 06, 2002

More on the death of PubScience....George S. Porter reflects on what we've lost in today's LIS News. "[T]he demise of PubScience constitutes a true loss for independent researchers, public libraries, K-12, community colleges, 4-year colleges, and others who do not have the wherewithal to provide unlimited access to Compendex, INSPEC, and other major subject databases. PubScience was a free utility, unbiased by marketing motives, to help bridge that gap."

The November issue of College and Research Libraries is now online. Here are the FOS-related articles. Only abstracts are free online.
  • Philip M. Davis, "Patterns in Electronic Journal Usage: Challenging the Composition of Geographic Consortia"
  • Wonsik Shim and Charles R. McClure, "Improving Database Vendors' Usage Statistics Reporting through Collaboration between Libraries and Vendors"
  • Martin J. Brennan and three co-authors, "A Snapshot of Early Adopters of E-journals: Challenges to the Library"
  • Juris Dilevko and Esther Atkinson, "Evaluating Academic Journals without Impact Factors for Collection Management Decisions"

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Maintaining the Permanent Availability of the Digital Records of Science, a statement by the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), November 2002. Excerpt: "A comprehensive scientific digital archive is likely to be a complex network resulting from discipline-specific, institutional, national and international initiatives. Further work is required to define archiving policies, to be clear about where responsibilities lie and to ensure that a properly supported, funded and sustainable infrastructure is put in place which can stand the test of time. The issue of digital archiving is at root a matter of scientific and public policy which should be of concern to all scientists, especially those in a position to influence scientific and government policies."

Academic Publishing in the Digital Realm: An Interview with Clifford Lynch, Syllabus Magazine, December 1, 2002. Excerpt: "Ultimately the key players here are going to be the authors and the readers. We tend to forget sometimes, for example, in our frustration with the economics of the scholarly publication system as it stands today, that the system belongs to and serves the authors and readers. Everybody else is just there to help. The creativity and the requirements of the authors and the reception from the readers will drive developments. Having said that, I think that there is a lot that other people or groups can do to accelerate and help the process along. [For example], librarians and information technologists at our universities, working together, can provide more hospitable platforms for new works of digital authorship —by creating institutional repositories and addressing the digital preservation and stewardship issues around making sure this content makes it into the future."

The ALA has a web page summarizing the key provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002 (adopted unanimously on November 15, 2002, and expected to be signed by President Bush). Two FOS-centric highlights: Section 205 requires federal courts to provide free online access to their judgments, dockets, rules, and standing orders, unless this would compromise privacy. Section 206 requires federal agencies "to the extent practicable" to provide free online access to all the information they are required to publish in the Federal Register.

Census Finder is a directory of free online census data. (Thanks to LII Week.)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Alf Eaton has created an alternative interface to PubMed with some very powerful features, such as a search bookmarklet for your browser, automated email of search results, RSS feed updates for searches, export of abstracts to bibliographic software, a graphic view of the appearance of search terms over time, and several that I don't understand well enough to describe. While you're there, check out his CiteSeer Relator and Google Relator. (Thanks to Library Techlog.)

BioMed Central (BMC) deposits all the research articles from its open-access journals in PubMed Central. Today it announced that it will also deposit them in a new archive it is creating with France's Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and Institut de l'Information Scientifique et Technique du CNRS (INIST). For more details, see the BMC-CNRS-INIST press release.

More on free access to government information....In the December 4 issue of ALAWON, the ALA urges subscribers to send comments to the General Services Administration on the proposed amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that will allow agencies to outsource their printing and bypass the GPO and its open-access policies. Send email comments to with "FAR Case 2002-011" in the subject line and body of the email. Comments are due by December 13.

The first page of the Morgan Stanley Equity Reseach report, Scientific Publishing: Knowledge is Power, has been summarized online by the UKSG Serials eNews. "Among the many useful statistics, one that jumped off the page for this reader was the fact that since 1986 the average price of a journal has risen by 215% while the number of journals purchased has fallen by only 5.1%."

Jane Richardson, "Here Comes the Knowledge Bank," The Australian, December 4, 2002. (Available online only to paying subscribers.) Excerpt: "A quiet revolution is under way in scholarly communication....But overall, the academic author is the least aware of the challenges and opportunities in the quiet revolution that is changing scholarly communication, says Colin Steele. The Australian National University's director of scholarly information strategies told a conference in Taiwan that the revolution would affect the lives of authors, publishers, librarians, researchers and teachers. The crucial issue would be new forms of creation, distribution and access to knowledge, including the balance between commercial and free information."

In the January 2003 MIT Technology Review, Sally Atwood reviews DSpace. Quoting MacKenzie Smith, DSpace project manager: "If you look at the landscape of digital repositories, there seem to be two types. One concerns library holdings that happen to be in digital format. The other is a preprint archive that is tailored to scholarly papers in a discipline and is a vehicle for getting them out quickly. They are not concerned with long-term preservation.” (PS: Typically, the second sort of archive contains both preprints and postprints and is vitally concerned with long-term preservation.)

Atwood: "Even in this era of digital media, the vast majority of scholarly material at most universities goes unshared. But once DSpace is up and running, it will serve as a portal not only to MIT research, but also to research at partnering institutions. To test this possibility, MIT has entered into a federation with five other research institutions—Columbia University, Ohio State University, and the universities of Washington, Toronto, and Rochester—which will become the early adopters from outside the Institute. More than 30 other institutions have lined up to install DSpace on their campuses once the system proves itself. The implications for such collaborations are mind-boggling. Researchers who want to stay current with their colleagues’ work will no longer have to wait for conferences or journal publications. Discussions of new ideas can flow unimpeded." (PS: Yes, but it is open access that produces these mind-boggling advantages. DSpace is one of many infrastructures for open access.)

DSpace project members, SPARC, and other open-access advocates "hope that changes will come to the traditional publishing system as digital archives proliferate. 'We don’t think of repositories replacing journals,' says Rick Johnson, enterprise director of [SPARC]. 'In the near term, they are complements.' But there is no doubt they would compete as well. Copyright agreements offered by journals will have to change, allowing faculty to retain the right to archive their papers in institutional repositories." (Thanks to LIS News.)

Federal depository libraries are full of documents and empty of patrons as patrons seek and find the same content online. On the one hand, free online access is more democratic, says Yvonne Chen, director of the Redwood City Public Library. And searches can be faster and more precise. But on the other hand, rapid pinpointing of desired information prevents many users from reading contextual clues and outright disclaimers necessary for the proper interpretation of discovered information. Quoting George Carlson, director of government documents at the Santa Clara University library: "If people are helping themselves to this stuff online, I don't know if they are getting what they really are after, or whether they are willing to just take what's there.'' (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on Chinese internet censorship....Seth Finkelstein has published a report, Searching Through the Great Firewall of China, to help Chinese users bypass government filters on some search engines. (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on the Elcomsoft case....In today's, Shannon Lafferty has a more detailed account of the first day of the trial.

The Zittrain-Edelman study of Chinese internet censorship ended last month. Its results have been published on the study's web site and summarized in today's New York Times and Associated Press. Quoting Jonathan Zittrain in the NYTimes: "If the purpose of such filtering is to influence what the average Chinese Internet user sees, success could be within grasp." The Chinese justify their nationwide filtering program as a way to block pornography. But the Chinese filters block access to only 15% of the most popular porn sites (compared to Saudia Arabia's 86%). Instead, the Chinese filters primarily target sites on politics, news, and higher education.

More on the Elcomsoft case....The prosecutor told the jury that Elcomsoft sells a "burglar tool". Elcomsoft told the jury that its software for bypassing copy protection on Adobe ebooks only worked on legitimately purchased copies and was intended to let purchasers make personal back-up copies in fair use.

(PS: If fair-use rights still exist, and if the substantial non-infringing use of this software is obvious, then it seems that the prosecutor has no choice but to argue that substantial non-infringing use is no longer the right legal test. Can a court take this route without endangering the tape recorder and VCR, or for that matter, the personal computer and printing press? Last May, in an earlier version of the same case, Judge Ronald Whyte ruled that fair use is "still permitted" even though copy protection makes it impossible and tools for circumventing copy protection are illegal. See FOSN for 5/15/02.)

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

According to the latest update from BioMed Central, a new open access journal, The Journal of Carcinogenesis, has been launched. It accepts papers in many areas of carcinogenesis.

More on the Elcomsoft case....Now that the jury has been chosen, opening arguments should begin today.

More on the France-Yahoo case....A U.S. court is worried by Yahoo's attempt to avoid jurisdiction in the French case against it for violating French law on hate-speech. Until now, U.S. courts have said that France cannot limit the free-speech rights of Americans. But now Judge Warren Ferguson, of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is thinking, "All the French court's saying is, 'Whatever you do, don't impact France.' See? That's called homeland security."

I'm sorry to say that I predicted that U.S. courts would make this turn. From FOSN for 11/16/01: "U.S. courts don't want France limiting the speech of Americans. But IP-tracking software gives us a way to avoid that result; and when that result can be avoided, U.S. courts might well recognize the sovereign right of France to control what French citizens can do in France, and ask Americans to respect that sovereign right." From FOSN for 2/14/02: We should worry about countries in which "deference to the sovereignty of other nations is a stronger policy than the freedom to put content on the internet that might offend others." Also see FOSN for 11/9/01, 1/23/02.

Why does this matter for FOS? If France can block Yahoo auctions from selling offensive artifacts to French citizens, then China can block U.S. history journals from distributing histories of the Tienanman Square massacre to Chinese citizens, and the latest country seized by fundamentalists could block U.S. science journals from defending Darwinism.

Monday, December 02, 2002

More on the Veeck case....Steven Wu summarizes the case and asks some follow-up questions about it in today's LawMeme.

Following up....Richard Poynder's article on Emerald in the November Information Today has elicited a lengthy letter to the editor from Emerald. To clarify its position, Emerald has also posted the entire email interview to its web site. Poynder welcomes the move.

What's happening with digital art these days? See Carly Berwick, Net Gains, ARTnews Online, December 2002. Excerpt: "Jon Ippolito, an associate curator at the Guggenheim, thinks all art should be free. To that end, he founded a program this September at the University of Maine in Orono called 'Still Water,' the first project of which is the Open Art Network. This would establish and promote standards for 'open architecture,' as he puts it, among media artists who want others to be able to access their art —or even copy it— at no cost. 'The fundamental premise of the Open Art Network is that it’s based in community,' he notes. 'It comes from artists, and it works with artists.'" (Thanks to Lawrence Lessig's blog.)

The current poll at Information Today asks this question: "PubSCIENCE has been closed and, due to pressure from the commercial sector, other government databases may follow. Should the federal government continue to provide databases to the public? Please comment." (PS: When I checked just now, the voting was 93% yes, 7% no.)

Opposition to the USA Patriot Act is growing among libraries and booksellers, according to Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Association Foundation for Free Expression. Vermont librarians and booksellers have written an open letter to their Congressional delegation, asking it to repeal Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to conduct secret seizures of library and bookstore records. Quoting the open letter: "These provisions of the USA Patriot Act do not protect us from terrorism. Rather, they cast a wide net of suspicion and surveillance over the community of readers, researchers, and information-seekers. They are dangerous steps toward the erosion of our most fundamental civil liberties." (Thanks to LIS News.)

In the December 6 Chronicle of Higher Education, Florence Olsen reviews the state of MIT's OpenCourseWare project, which aims to put all MIT courses online without charge to users. MIT faculty retain copyright to their coursework but license MIT to distribute it online. Course materials written by others have not been as easy to work with. "Collecting permissions, paying royalties, and finding other materials to substitute for copyrighted materials have turned out to be much bigger jobs than expected."

Quoting Roy Rosenzweig, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, on GMU's similar project to put course materials for 100,000 courses online: "We should be in the business of having people steal our stuff, because we're trying to foster innovation, exchange, communication, and dialogue."

Academic institutions in the UK now have free online access to CaseTrack, the leading source of full-text judicial opinions in the UK. The new accessibility is due to a deal struck between Context Limited, an electronic publisher, and WordWave, producer of CaseTrack.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

OCLC Systems and Services is calling for papers on XML for ejournals for its vol. 19, no. 4 issue. The submission deadline is May 1, 2003. (Thanks to EuroCRIS News.)

Peter Murray-Rust and Henry S. Rzepa, STMML: A Markup Language for Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishing, Data Science Journal, 1, 2 (August 2002), pp. 1-65. Abstract: "STMML is an XML-based markup language covering many generic aspects of scientific information. It has been developed as a re-usable core for more specific markup languages. It supports data structures, data types, metadata, scientific units and some basic components of scientific narrative. The central means of adding semantic information is through dictionaries. The specification is through an XML Schema which can be used to validate STMML documents or fragments. Many examples of the language are given."