Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 08, 2003

In the March 2003 issue of its newsletter, the American Studies Association includes an editorial, Intellectual Freedom in a Time of War, enumerating four specific threats to intellectual freedom since September 11, three from the federal government and one from university administrators and private organizations. Excerpt: "Access to documents also helps citizens make informed decisions about current policy and keeps government accountable....It is imperative today that scholars and journalists in all fields have the widest possible access to information generated by our own government....The ability of librarians to do their work is threatened by federal agencies that demand they turn over patron records. The rights of library users and book buyers are at risk when federal agencies can request these records, and our right to privacy-even to our own thoughts-is at risk when the government can monitor what we read. We urge the repeal of [the USA Patriot Act], which threatens to erode the foundation of intellectual freedom."

More on the two new business guides to open-access journals from the Budapest Open Access Initiative....The guides are now using machine- and human-readable licenses from the Creative Commons that permit the downloading and redistribution of unaltered, properly attributed copies.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Brewster Kahle's November 20 lecture at the Library of Congress, Public Access to Digital Materials, is now available as an 86-minute cybercast (RealPlayer format).

The Review of Economic Theory (RET) will be the first journal launched by the Electronic Society for Social Scientists (ELSSS), a non-profit organization devoted to free and affordable scholarly journals, especially in the field of economics. The RET will let authors retain copyright and be available free of charge to all non-profit institutions in developing countries. The subscription price to the high-income countries will not exceed ELSSS's break-even costs. The journal itself will launch this March. Yesterday SPARC announced its partnership with RET.

The Scottish Archive Network is a free online collection of digital texts from Scotland. It includes the top-level catalogues of 50 important print archives, wills and testaments of Scots who died between1500 and 1875, and other records relevant to Scottish history, including "exhibitions, research tools, bookshop and discussion forum on history and archives". (Thanks to the Scout Report.)

Peter Coffee on copyright in the February 3 issue of eWeek: The current rules of copyright law in the U.S. "are made by the ignorant at the behest of the selfish....Any demand for enforcement of copyright protections is...without foundation unless it offers a convincing connection to the promotion of scientific or artistic progress....The present-day business model of the record companies is a temporary artifact of a transitional stage in a developing technology. Those companies need to find new ways to add value, rather than demanding that legislators help them subtract it at the expense of technical progress and individual rights." (Thanks to C-FIT.)

The UK Office of Fair Trading reported on The Market for Scientific, Technical and Medical Journals in 2002. I don't think the report has been posted to this list before now. It contains some useful facts about the STM market in the UK, and acknowledges the role of alternative models for scholarly publishing.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

The Infography is an open-access bibliography on a growing number of scientific and scholarly topics. To insure quality, the publisher, Fields of Knowledge, invites subject-matter experts to submit citations. If they submit more than six, then they must specify which six are the most important. The result is a manageable and human-filtered alternative to the avalanche of citations produced by search engines. Of course it's also searchable.

(PS: Full disclosure: I'm not a neutral observer. I just completed the Infography section on Free Online Scholarship.)

Derek Slater interviews Jack Valenti in the Harvard Political Review. Highlight: Valenti believes that nobody needs to make back-up of a CD because a CD "never wears out". Hence the fact that U.S. law denies us the right to make back-ups is no problem. Also see Slater's later comments on the positions Valenti took in the interview.

The ARL Collections & Access Issues Task Force presents its report, Collections & Access for the 21st-Century Scholar: Changing Roles of Research Libraries, in the December issue of the ARL Bimonthly Report. Excerpt: "Libraries are...supporting open access projects that experiment with alternatives to the current subscription-based funding model or the current journals-based publishing model for scholarly communication. These approaches are seen as those of a good citizen, especially in an institution whose needs for funding include many urgent priorities in addition to library needs. These libraries are investing in initiatives that may help solve the long-term problem of high prices for journals."

Recall that the Budapest Open Access Initiative released two guides to open-access publishing last week, one on launching new open-access journals and one on converting traditional journals to open access. It has now amended the copyright pages in each guide to make clear that users have permission to copy and redistribute them for non-commercial purposes. See p. 2 of each guide for more details.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Cornell researchers have found that a simple rule in their writing assignments can increase the percentage of online scholarly sources in student bibliographies relative to online drek, and increase the percentage of print sources relative to online sources. The rule is to deduct points for cited online sources whose URLs are broken at the time the paper is graded. The full study is reported in a print-only article: Philip Davis, "Effect of the Web on Undergraduate Citation Behavior: Guiding Student Scholarship in a Networked Age," Portal, 3, 1. (Thanks to LIS News.)

(PS: We know that persistence is not tightly correlated with quality. Otherwise the long-term preservation of digital scholarship would not be a problem. But it's interesting that a loose correlation is enough to let teachers use persistence as a surrogate for quality, or at least to assign persistence and see quality rise. But this is more like "neatness counts" than a reliable test of quality. Davis' conclusion that this sort of rule "ensures that students will identify relevant scholarly literature" seems to overreach. But I've only been able to read the Cornell press release, not the full article.)

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The NSF has released an important new report, Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyber-infrastructure. The report's major recommendation is to create an ambitious Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Program (ACP) with significant annual funding ($1 billion/year) in order "to achieve critical mass and to leverage the coordinated co-investment from other federal agencies, universities, industry, and international sources necessary to empower a revolution. The cost of not acting quickly or at a subcritical level could be high, both in opportunities lost and in increased fragmentation and balkanization of the research communities."

Will this revolution include open access to scientific research literature and data? It's not clear, but here's a clue: "A central goal of ACP is to define and build cyberinfrastructure that...allows applications to interoperate across institutions and disciplines, [and] insures that data and software acquired at great expense are preserved and easily available....The individual disciplines must take the lead in defining specialized software and hardware environments for their fields based on common cyberinfrastructure, but in a way that encourages them to give back results for the general good of the research enterprise." Moreover, about 66% of the requested funds should be devoted to "computational centers, data repositories, digital libraries, networking, and application support".

Also see the NSF press release on the report.

Monday, February 03, 2003

The National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) is now soliciting grant applications. Letters of intent are due by March 12, and full proposals are due by April 21.

Tom Dickinson interviews John Perry Barlow in the February 3 Mother Jones. (Thanks to C-FIT.)

Reinhold Grether has gathered links to over 3,600 open-access articles in the field of Internet Studies. (Thanks to LIS News.)

French open-access journal ALSIC (on language learning and communication and information systems) has been working in collaboration with Inist / CNRS to improve access to its contents. In December 2002, they have begun providing XML metadata for some of the journal's contents. Here's more information on ALSIC's plans for 2003 (in French).

The February 7 Chronicle of Higher Education carries a summary of Tim Berners-Lee's recent presentation at the NSF, arguing that the semantic web will accelerate research by providing a structure for the sharing and processing of scientific data.

In an editorial in the Feb. 1, 2003 issue of BMJ, Richard Smith provides an update about HINARI, the program (see FOS Guide) coordinated by the WHO. The editorial concludes with a comment that an improved information supply is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for creating cultures of reading, questioning, debating, researching, and publishing.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

In the January issue of Searcher, Melissa Barr has a comprehensive review of the state of free online access to statutes and cases in the U.S. While nearly all U.S. states provide these primary sources of law free on state-run web sites, most do not include cases prior to 1995 or so. Moreover, West Publishing (owned by Thomson) and LexisNexis (owned by Reed Elsevier), the two companies that dominate the market for electronic access to primary sources of law, will not sell accounts to public libraries.

Why own a chair when you can license just the minutes of seating time that you need? To achieve this economic efficiency, all we need is a chair with spikes sticking up through the seat which retract when you swipe your credit card. No cheating, now. Covering the spikes with a board is an unlawful circumvention device. For more details see Steve Mann's Seating Made Simple. (Thanks to Politech.)