Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The $1 million Access to Learning Award for 2002 from the Gates Foundation went to BiblioRed, a network of public libraries providing free content, services, and connectivity to low-income citizens of Bogotá, Colombia. Quoting Margarita Peña, Secretary of Education for the District of Bogotá: "In one year, we have improved the lives of more than three million children and adults by offering new educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities. BibloRed's vision is clear: to foster peace in a more equitable society by creating access for all." For details, see the Gates Foundation press release, Alice Bishop's story in CLIR Issues, or coverage in the Spanish-language press.

Abby Smith, The Future of Shared Repositories, CLIR Issues, November-December, 2002. Excerpt: "To help librarians, faculty members, and funding agencies consider the promises of collaborating on repositories in today's new hybrid information landscape, CLIR has commissioned the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) to conduct a survey of current and planned shared repositories. The repositories will range from institutions that serve mainly as secondary storage to those that house collections of archival status under optimal conditions."

Berkeley mathematician Jim Pitman has written a comprehensive proposal for open access to mathematical knowledge. His summary: "This is a proposal to construct a new means of organizing, communicating and archiving mathematical knowledge, by a faithful representation of that knowledge in cyberspace. The purpose is first of all to provide a peer-reviewed survey of all of mathematics, professionally organized, fully searchable, navigable and retrievable, continuously archived and updated, and available free online to anyone with Internet access, in perpetutity. This is to be achieved by creation of an electronic journal, The Mathematics Survey (or MathSurvey for short), which would be a multi-layered network of richly interlinked electronic survey journals, one in each branch of mathematics."

Pitman and others are already taking steps to realize the proposal and create the distributed network of cooperating journals. If you are a mathematician and would like to participate or simply make a public endorsement, then you can add your name to Pitman's page of supporters.

Also see Pitman's draft article, The Digital Revolution in Scholarly Communication and his list of free online mathematics journals.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Jerome McGann, Literary Scholarship in the Digital Future, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 13, 2002. Only accessible to paying subscribers. McGann starts with a forecast: "In the next 50 years, the entirety of our inherited archive of cultural works will have to be re-edited within a network of digital storage, access, and dissemination." But then he asks who will do this editing. He worries that recent trends in the academic study of literature have elevated theory and interpretation over editing. "Electronic scholarship and editing necessarily draw their primary models from longstanding philological practices in language study, textual scholarship, and bibliography. As we know, those three core disciplines preserve but a ghostly presence in most of our Ph.D. programs." He also worries that those ignorant of print culture and its traditions will not fully understand the task of editing, and vice versa, that those limited to print culture will overlook precious and unprecedented opportunities to make digital archives into "dynamic interpretive environment[s]".

Educause has started offering open-access editions of its priced, printed books. See for example the Educause Pocket Guide to U.S. Higher Education 2002, and Richard Katz, Web Portals and Higher Education. For more, see its Information Resources Library.

In the December 12 Finacial Times, Lawrence Lessig praises an unlikely coalition of public and private organizations for petitioning the FCC to preserve the internet's end-to-end architecture so that it remains a neutral platform for ideas and innovation.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The Free Expression Project has released its guide to the copyright wars, "The Progress of Science and the Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom. The primary author is Marjorie Heins. From the executive summary: "But the tension between strong copyright control and free expression today cannot be ignored....We hope the report will provide a useful guide to the issues while underscoring the vital link between free expression and core elements of the copyright system, such as fair use and the public domain."

Charles W. Bailey, Jr. has released version 46 of his Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography.

More on the USA Patriot Act....How strongly do librarians oppose the provisions in the act that allow the FBI to seize borrowing records and keep the seizure a secret? They are willing to destroy the records first. Librarians at a national teleconference "offered one consistent piece of advice: the fewer records that were kept, the less information the government could see. Even necessary records should be promptly destroyed after use." (Thanks to LawMeme.)

The December issue of DigiCULT is now online. The theme for this issue is "digital asset management systems (DAMS) for the cultural and scientific heritage sector".

In the December 10 issue of Writ, Julie Hilden argues for a federal statute to protect internet linking from liability. If you think that immunity for linkers is desirable but unnecessary, then you should pay special attention to Hilden's argument that immunity is necessary. The law on liability for linkers is ambiguous, and liability is growing.

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Carnevale reports that someone exploited an open proxy server on an unidentified university network and tried to download all the issues of all the scholarly journals in the JSTOR database. The attempt was detected after less than 5% (about 50,000 articles) had been downloaded. Since December 9, the incident has been the subject of a thread on the LibLicense list, launched by Kevin Guthrie, President of JSTOR. (PS: This is not what we mean by free online scholarship.)

Tim O'Reilly, Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution, O'Reilly Network, December 11, 2002. Thoughts from a creative book publisher in P2P networks, piracy, and the business models of publishers. Most is not relevant to FOS, but here are two bits that are. "Lesson 1: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy." FOS translation: Scientists and scholars write for impact, not money. "Lesson 5: File sharing networks don't threaten book, music, or film publishing. They threaten existing publishers." FOS equivalent: Open-access distribution doesn't threaten science and scholarship. It only threatens publishers that can't compete with it." (PS: The second of these is not a strict translation because O'Reilly's version refers to unauthorized copying and open-access distribution never requires unauthorized copying. Scientific journal literature has this intrinsic advantage over music and movies for the purpose of free online access: its creators consent to publish it without payment. See Lesson 1: they write for impact, not money.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

More on the Elcomsoft case....The testimony is over and the two sides are wrangling with Judge Whyte about the jury instructions. Whyte did not allow Elcomsoft to introduce evidence that its program allowed blind consumers to make their Adobe ebooks readable by text-to-speech software, or evidence on how any kind of consumer actually used the program. Arguments that Elcomsoft's program is protected by fair use, or that the relevant portions of the DMCA violate the First Amendment, will have to wait for an appeal. Even though the prosecutors dropped charges against Dmitry Sklyarov in exchange for his testimony, in the end they did not call him as a witness, but used a taped deposition instead. The defense called him as a witness, and asked about his purposes in creating the program. (The DMCA requires wilfulness.) Also see coverage here and here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

The U.S. government has launched, a portal to the federally-funded, open-access scientific data and literature from 10 federal agencies. It arose from an April 2001 workshop on Strengthening the Public Information Infrastructure for Science. For more information, see the press release or FAQ.

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that setting internet filters to their most restrictive levels can "block access to a substantial amount of health information, with only a minimal increase in blocked pornographic content." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Monday, December 09, 2002

In the December Information Today, Richard Poynder interviews Mark McCabe on problems in the STM journal publishing industry. Quoting McCabe: "Let's be clear: We are talking about a true market failure. This is a market in which the creation of the information that publishers sell in their journals is not typically funded by them but by subsidies from someone else—be it governments, research foundations, or whatever. The publishers get that information for free and then rely on scholars to provide refereeing services, essentially for free. In the digital environment, the only thing publishers need to provide is the infrastructure for providing the material online, a few account managers, and advertising. They make a relatively small investment and then (rationally) charge a high price for the end product."

Poynder asked what governments should do. McCabe's reply: "Well, antitrust enforcement alone is not going to fix this market. However, given that governments fund much of this research in the first place—and then pay the publishers to get it back in journal form—I think organizations like the National Science Foundation ought to invest some of their funds in a new journal initiative. This could be designed to provide money for people to start dozens, if not hundreds, of competitive nonprofit journals....Like SPARC, but on a much larger scale. The savings could be tremendous. Billions of dollars are spent on these journals, most of which is going into shareholders' pockets. While this is a good thing for the shareholders, it is a bad thing for society because there is no reason why research—whether it is funded by European or American governments—should not be at the fingertips of every individual who has access to the Internet. Bear in mind also that in this market—unlike most markets—the nonprofit sector does a better job than commercial publishers in almost all dimensions of performance."

ARL has created a new web site, Issues in Scholarly Communication: Open Access. The site contains a useful guide, Framing the Issue: Open Access, which is influenced by the BOAI FAQ. The site also has a list of ways in which interested scholars can help the cause, and links to the most important sites devoted to open-access issues.

More on the DeCSS case....The Jon Johansen trial began today in Norway. Johansen faces prison time for writing a program to bypass copy protection on DVDs and using it on a DVD that he had bought and paid for.

More on the GPO....In the December 9 Information Today, Miriam Drake reviews the controversy and its background. She is clearer than other sources I've seen that Congress has ordered all federal agencies to use the GPO (and its open-access policies). The Executive Branch has told the agencies it need not comply with the Congressional directive. The good news is that Congress is fighting for open access. The bad news is that the Executive Branch is winning. The consequences? "[C]ompetition will be reduced, government printing and distribution will cost more, the depository library program and information users will suffer, and access to government information funded by the taxpayers will be limited."

Manfredi La Manna and Jean Young, The ELectronic Society for Social Scientists: from journals as documents to journals as knowledge exchanges, Interlending and Document Supply, 30, 4 (2002) pp. 178-182. Only this abstract is free online: "The ELectronic Society for Social Scientists (ELSSS) envisages a new concept of scholarly and scientific journal: conceived and managed by academics themselves; aimed at providing direct competition to high-priced commercial publications; based on a business model whereby subscription revenues cover the non-trivial cost of peer-review; designed to maximise research productivity; intended as a platform for scientific and scholarly debate. The ELSSS model conceives the peer-reviewed published article not at the final stage of the scholarly communication chain, but as an intermediate step, to be followed by Web-based interaction among self-selected networks of interested researchers. The paper suggests that the very concepts of "lending" and "document" need redefining in the case of the forthcoming generation academic-led journals."

Mike McGrath, Interlending and document supply: a review of recent literature, Interlending and Document Supply, 30, 4 (2002) pp. 203-209. Only this abstract is free online: "The Budapest Open Access Initiative has sparked a new round of papers and news items on open access initiatives. Their growth approaches critical mass and all players, including paid for document delivery agents, need to look to their laurels. Copyright remains an old perennial, but more so at present with the implementation date for the new EU directive approaching. Heads must come out of the sand at last if libraries are to apply the new rules efficiently. Other issues that are prominent in the literature this quarter will come as no surprise to readers - electronic journals and site licensing, resource sharing and full text retrospective conversion. At last there is more and better systematic attention being paid to the end user and ILDS will reflect and develop this welcome move."

The presentations from the XML as a Preservation Strategy (Urbino, October 9-11, 2002) are now online.

The presentations from the OAIS Training Seminar (Copenhagen, November 28-29, 2002) are now online.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

The last we heard from François Schiettecatte, he was thinking of pulling the plug on my.OAI, his powerful cross-archive search engine for OAI-compliant archives. But he now announces the good news that my.OAI is alive and well, and will be maintained "for the foreseeable future". He's even added three new data sources, Project Euclid, MIT Theses, and the University of Michigan Library Digital Library Production Service.

If the link to Willinsky's full-text in the previous posting ever dies, then try this full-text preprint. (Thanks to Gerry Mckiernan.)

Here's the full-text of John Willinsky's article from the previous posting. (Thanks to Jason Bobe.)

Now I can see how Willinsky uses the open-access movement to argue his thesis. After mentioning the PLoS, PMC, OAI, BOAI, OKI, and PKP, he makes this point: "This emerging commitment among scholars to make the knowledge they create freely available is at the heart of my own call to the readers and editors of this journal to consider how turning educational research into a more accessible public resource can further the connection between democracy and education. While offering open access to all forms of scholarly research is certainly a global boon to students and faculty and to curious minds everywhere, it has a special political significance for the social sciences, as this work bears directly on social policies, programs, and practices. If open access to research in the life sciences can create a more democratic and educational dynamic in doctor-patient relationships, then, as I have argued elsewhere (Willinsky, 2000a), it is worth exploring across the social sciences. Here I am specifically asking researchers in the field of education to consider how greater public access to educational research is consistent with our understanding of what we do to foster education and further democratic participation, just as it speaks to the love of learning and pursuit of knowledge that has driven so many of us in this line of work."

John Willinsky, Democracy and Education: The Missing Link May Be Ours, Harvard Educational Review, 72, 3 (Fall 2002), pp. 367-392. Only this abstract is free online: "In this article, John Willinsky calls on educational researchers to consider participating in scholarly publishing experiments that leverage information technologies. Willinsky argues that publishing systems that provide greater public access to educational research are likely to help us to better understand and extend Dewey's democratic theory of education while promoting a more deliberative democratic state. Through this appeal, researchers can expand education's role within democracy by increasing the impact educational research has on practice and by providing an alternative perspective to the media's coverage of educational issues. The author challenges researchers to participate in this democratic experiment by thinking of their work as a way to expand global opportunities for edification and deliberation within the public sphere of this information economy." In the body of the article, Willinsky discusses the open access movement explicitly, including the BOAI and arXiv. (Thanks to Gerry Mckiernan.)

Phil Surguy, Soul searching over peer review, National Post, December 2, 2003. A survey of recent peer-review failures. The stories don't directly implicate FOS issues, though they did elicit this comment on journals and archives from Greg Kuperberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Davis: The Bogdanov affair is "not about research. It's about journals and PhDs, which in mathematics and theoretical physics are an afterthought to research. Moreover, most physicists in this area rarely even read journals, because they are a stale alternative to an on-line database called arXiv. Only promotion committees still care about journals."