Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Saturday, March 15, 2003

The NHS National Core Content Group announced this week that they have signed a contract with BioMed Central for Institutional Membership for the whole of NHS England. The membership will start from April of this year, and is a first step in the NHS's commitment to ensure the widest possible dissemination of the research it funds.

The NHS is also hosting a Forum on Open Access in Medical Research Publishing at the British Library in London on Monday April 14th 2003.

Speaking at the event will be:

  • Ian Henderson - Change Manager at the British Library
  • David Prosser - Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Europe
  • Fiona Godlee - Publishing Director, Clinical Evidence, British Medical Association
  • Jan Velterop - Publisher, BioMed Central Ltd

The University of Loughborough Copyright and Licensing for Digital Preservation Project is conducting questionnaires for publishers, authors, and libraries in order "to investigate whether copyright legislation and licensed access to digital content threaten the ability of libraries to provide long-term access to that content and to suggest ways in which the problems can be overcome." The site gives no due date for responses.

In LawMeme, James Grimmelmann summarizes the presentations at last week's DRM Conference in Berkeley. Here's his summary of Hal Abelson's presentation on the author-rights policies of major scientific journals. "In general, authors sign over copyright to the journal for 'limited-time forever;' the journals give back some rights out of their magnanimity. For example, CS journals give authors the right to post their papers on their personal web sites. But CS journals are generous: Chemists can send copies to 'not more than 50' colleagues; the New England Journal of Medicine gives nothing back to the authors. As Abelson puts it, 'This is the world that the Statute of Anne ushered out.' Itís a world of private stationers, cartels that control publishing. Copyright was supposed to prevent publishing monopolies by giving control back to authors; DRMís enormous network effects may very well recreate such monopolies." (Thanks to The Filter.)

More on the Balance Act....Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who introduced the bill, has now posted a section-by-section analysis of the bill to her web site. (Thanks to The Filter.)

This morning the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology sponsored a symposium, Copyright and Fair Use: Present and Future Prospects, with a keynote by Rep. Rick Boucher and panelists Robert Holleyman (President & CEO of the Business Software Alliance), Dan Gillmor (Technology Columnist, San Jose Mercury News), Siva Vaidhyanathan (NYU Professor), Gigi Sohn (President and Co-Founder of Public Knowledge), and Alec French (Minority Counsel, House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property). There was a live webcast, which may become a recorded webcast for those of us who missed the event.

The Librarians' Index to the Internet has created page of resources on the USA Patriot Act, especially in connection with library patron privacy and the freedom of information.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Clifford Lynch, Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age, ARL Bimonthly Report 226, February 2003. Excerpt: "[I]nstitutional repositories can facilitate greatly enhanced access to traditional scholarly content by empowering faculty to effectively use the new dissemination capabilities offered by the network. This is also occurring on a disciplinary basis through the development of e-print and preprint servers, at least in some disciplines. In cases where the disciplinary practice is ready, institutional repositories can feed disciplinary repositories directly. In cases where the disciplinary culture is more conservative, where scholarly societies or key journals choose to hold back change, institutional repositories can help individual faculty take the lead in initiating shifts in disciplinary practice."

Just announced, and calling for papers - the fifth international congress on peer review and biomedical publication. The congress will take place in September 2005, in Chicago, Illinois. Themes include
  • Economics of peer review and scientific publication
  • Evaluations of the quality of print and online information
  • Methods for improving the quality, efficiency, and equitable distribution of biomedical information
  • Interactive digital systems and other new technologies that affect the dissemination of biomedical information
  • The future of scientific publication

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Stevan Harnad, Self-Archive Unto Others as Ye Would Have them Self-Archive Unto You. A short version of Harnad's self-archiving thesis with clear illustrations by Tim Brody. The essay appeared in yesterday's issue of the Australian Higher Education Supplement, but, ironically, not among the articles freely available online. This copy is at Harnad's web site. (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The April issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. Walt has a good review of library-related blogs, a lengthy and detailed survey of opinion on the CIPA case,

Information Today has an interview with Pieter Bolman, Elsevier executive and former CEO of such prestigious names in scholarly publishing as Pergamon and Academic Press, on the merits of alternative scholarly communications models.

More on Germany's copyright levy on hardware....Sam Vaknin, Analysis: Germany's copyright levy, United Press International, March 12. While outlining the developments that led to the German levy, Vaknin surveys the array of similar laws throughout Europe. Unlike other reporters on this story, Vaknin finally asks whether the levy on hardware, designed to repay copyright holders for unauthorized copying, will come with universal permission to copy. (He asks the question by quoting my FOS News entry on this issue from last Saturday.) Let's hope the high profile of this UPI story elicits some helpful answers. Vaknin closes with a rare reflection on the copyright wars that applies as much to scholarly publishing as it does to entertainment. "[T]he disintermediation brought on by digital technologies threatens to link author and public directly, cutting out traditional content brokers such as record companies or publishers. This is the crux of the battle royal. Middlemen are attempting -- in vain -- to sustain their dying and increasingly parasitic industries and refusing to adapt and re-invent themselves. Everyone else watches in amazement and dismay the consequences of this grand folly: innovation is thwarted, consumers penalized, access to works of art, literature and research constrained."

DiVA, the open-access archive of theses and dissertations from five Swedish universities, now supports version 2.0 of the OAI metadata harvesting protocol.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

More on open access to scientific data....Let's go beyond open access for computers to open access for cell phones. That was the inspiration that seized BjŲrn Ursing, a genomics researcher at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute. He has now created WiGID (Wireless Genome Information Database), a database providing open --and wireless-- access to the genome sequences of all 117 sequenced organisms. As new organisms are sequenced, WiGID will incorporate their data as well. Mauno Vihinen of the University of Tampere, Finland, has taken the idea a step further with BioWAP, a wireless gateway to more traditional open-access databases. (PS: It feels good to be able to say "more traditional open-access databases".) (Thanks to Dov Henis.)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has re-introduced her fair-use bill, which is now called the Balance Act. It would allow consumers to make copies of lawfully obtained digital content for their personal use, a right that consumers have long had for analog content. Last year the bill died in committee. The purpose of the Balance Act is to restore fair-use rights repealed by the DMCA and in that sense to restore balance to U.S. copyright law. Jack Valenti, chairman of the MPAA, complains that Lofgren's bill "puts a dagger in the heart of the DMCA." If the essence of the DMCA is an imbalance favoring publishers, then of course Valenti is exactly right, even if he has mistaken a description for an objection. More coverage.

CONSER is conducting a survey on electronic serials holdings. "The purpose of this survey is to investigate how libraries manage their electronic serials holdings data, and how they view the potential need for holdings and pattern data for electronic serials." Responses are due by March 28.

Monday, March 10, 2003

More on open-access to scientific data....Peg Brinckley, Free access costs money, The Scientist, February 21, 2003. A recent NAS report, Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Biological Life Sciences, concluded that scientists who publish research papers ought to provide open access to the underlying data. Brinckley reports that most biologists seem to agree with the conclusion, but that there are two obstacles to implementing the NAS recommendation: "convincing funding sources that they should help pay the freight for sharing huge loads of microarray data is not so easy" and "the technology is a work in progress".

Anne H. Margulies, Open Access to World-Class Knowledge, Syllabus Magazine, March 1, 2003. On the MIT OpenCourseWare project.

More on the problem of excessive accessibility....In February, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that Docusearch.com could be held liable for any "foreseeable harm" caused by its disclosure of personal information to paying customers. Last year Liam Youens paid Docusearch $45 to dig up the social security number of his ex-girlfriend. He used the information to find her current place of employment, where he killed her and then killed himself. Docusearch admits to using a technique it calls "pretexting" (which the rest of us call lying), in which it phones various people, pretending to be friends, relatives, or others with a legitimate need for information. Docusearch claims that pretexting is routinely used by police and is lawful. The New Hampshire verdict will be used in an ongoing federal suit by the victim's mother against Docusearch. (PS: This is a disturbing case. I'm still wondering about the question I asked when I first wrote about this case in FOSN for 1/8/02: What if Youens got the social security number from Google? If general search engines can be held liable for disclosing information to stalkers or terrorists, then that's the end of general search engines.)

Sunday, March 09, 2003

I was reminded, today, that we have a distinct viewpoint proferred by scientists regarding copyright and how it is handled in the academic world. J.Q. Johnson, Academic Coordinator at the University of Oregon, states the issue thusly: "It is instructive in understanding the academic process to observe that there are two competing sets of laws. One is copyright, the law of the nationstate. A very different body of common law is the set of rules governing academic integrity and plagiarism. This alternative set of rules is often confused with copyright, but is really quite distinct, and grows from a different social contract. It features, for instance, free copying in most circumstances, but only with adequate attribution and citation. To a large extent we can see efforts like arXiv or institutional repositories as attempts by academia to reassert its own preferred body of law in the face of encroachments by you lawyers and commercial publishers." I like that, "academic integrity and plagiarism", as opposed to copyright. . . .

More on open access to scientific data....Christine Soares, Building an EvoBank, The Scientist, February 24, 2003. Soares reports on the response to Bernard Wood's proposal that paleoanthropologists create an open-access archive of their data on unique and far-flung physical specimens. Wood is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Origins in the Department of Anthropology at George Washington University and Adjunct Senior Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History. Quoting Wood: "We should all be wanting to democratize science. We should be making science, or the opportunity to do science, as widely available as possible." Quoting Phil Walker, incoming president of the American Association for Physical Anthropology: "The more access people have, the healthier the field will be. It just doesn't make sense to work partially in the dark, trying to figure out these very complex issues." Quoting Mark Weiss, one of the NSF program directors for physical anthropology and archeology who is planning a large autumn meeting on Wood's proposal: "It's nothing new, but with electronic access, it's becoming much more feasible to provide much more broad access." Gerhard Weber of the University of Vienna goes further and proposes that providing open access to one's data should be a condition of publication in the field's major journals. (Thanks to Dov Henis.)

A "rough transcript" of Richard Stallman's keynote address at the ongoing South by Southwest conference is now online, Copyright vs. Community in the Age of the Computer Networks. (Thanks to Media Diet via C-FIT.)