Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, May 16, 2003

Bridget Meaney, Online journals make access easier, but often at a price, Medicine on the Net, May 16, 2003. A survey of the troubled journal industry from the standpoint of librarians. Meaney has collected some wonderful quotations from angry librarians who have had to respond to skyrocketing prices by canceling subscriptions. The solution? Variations on the theme of open access: government-funded, for-profit, non-profit, embargoed, and hybrid.

Johan Bollen and three co-authors, Usage Analysis for the Identification of Research Trends in Digital Libraries, D-Lib Magazine, May 2003. Abstract: "The analysis of user logs from large-scale digital libraries offers new opportunities to assess research trends in an institution's user communities. We describe the application of a methodology to derive weighted journal relationship networks from reader logs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Research Library during 1998 and 2001. A journal impact metric is defined that derives journal impact from the structural features of the generated journal relationship networks, much in the same manner Google's PageRank evaluates the impact of web pages for a given subject on the basis of its context of hyperlinks to other pages. A comparison of this reader impact metric to the ISI Impact Factor values for the same journals in 1998 and 2001 allows us to detect and interpret community-specific research trends where the LANL community deviates from more general trends as indicated by changes in the Institute for Scientific Indexing (ISI) Impact Factors during those same years. Such analysis yields information to aid digital library managers to improve the evaluation of not only which parts of the collection are most highly valued by their local community, but it also detects research trends in user communities as they evolve over time."

Carol Tenopir and five co-authors, Patterns of Journal Use by Scientists through Three Evolutionary Phases, D-Lib Magazine, May 2003. Abstract: "Access to electronic journals and articles has involved three system phases: an early phase following introduction of electronic journals; an evolving phase in which a majority of scientific journals are available in electronic format, new features are added to some journals, and some individual articles are made available through preprint archives, author web sites, etc; and an advanced phase in which searching capabilities, advanced features, and individual articles are integrated in a complete system along with full text of core journals available back to their origin. This article provides some evidence of how scientists' information seeking and reading patterns are affected by using journals in these three system phases. Readership surveys of scientists shed some light on how the three phases affected use, usefulness and value of articles read; where articles are obtained; the format of articles read; how they were found; and the age of articles read."

Excerpt from the conclusion: "The evolution of systems may result in increase article use since the average amount of reading by scientists surveyed increases through the evolutionary phases. Usefulness of the information read and indicators of the value of articles read are relatively stable across the phases, indicating that information content may not change significantly. However, overall usefulness and value to scientists may be increasing since more articles are read as the systems evolve."

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Journal of Lipid Research has just created a free online archive of its entire run, back to October 1, 1959. This is an exemplary step.

Open Education interviewed Lawrence Lessig in its May 1 issue. Here's an excerpt that transfers to the open-access movement: "It just takes telling the story over and over again, until people listen and get it. I donít find many people who listen to what we have to say, and then afterwards say 'yeah, well, it doesnít seem to be important'."

More on the Stanford digitizing robot....Stanford has issued a report (May 7) on its use of the robot and its wider digitization plans. (Thanks to LibLicense.)

John Ewing, Predicting the Future of Scholarly Publishing, Mathematical Intelligencer, Spring 2003. The online version of the article is not freely available through the journal, but is available at Ewing's web site (Version 2.5, December 9, 2002). This is an update to Ewing's skeptical views about FOS. Thanks to John Dupuis for the lead. Ewing thinks that the open access revolution is possible, but that the evidence doesn't support the confidence of its proponents. In general he's persuaded that FOS will drive out the independent journals with the thinnest profit margins, leaving the giant commercial publishers to dominate the field more than today.

When Ewing published a version of this argument in the 10/12/01 Chronicle of Higher Education, I responded with a letter to the editor (published 11/16/01). His latest version of the argument, 2.5, doesn't reply to my counter-arguments. (Unfortunately, these last two links only work for Chronicle subscribers. You can find a free version of my response in FOSN for 10/12/01.) The latest version of Ewing's argument puts the accent on the distinction between hope and prediction. Here's a brief response limited to that point. FOS proponents aren't merely hoping or predicting. The future of scholarly communication is within the control of scholars. If we make the right choices, there's a fairly short and direct path from here to FOS. We're advocating that scholars and their institutions make these choices. We're trying to engineer a good future, not just argue that it's good or predict its arrival independently of the choices we make.

Ohio State University requires dissertations to be deposited in an open-access ETD archive. Quoting William Clark, associate dean of the grad school: "Our requirement is that a dissertation shall be a contribution to knowledge, so there is an implication that it shall be available to the community at large." However, grad students are resisting the requirement on the ground that book publishers are less willing to accept online dissertations. Both concerns are legitimate, even if not equal in weight. (Revenue from scholarly monographs is so rare that the larger audience and impact from open access outweigh it. The greater prestige of book publication must be traded off against higher access barriers. Many book publishers will accept online dissertations.) However, the waters are muddied by a bogus copyright issue (the university can require open access as a graduation requirement even without demanding the copyright) and plagiarism issue (a risk with any kind of publication, probably lower with open-access sources). For more details, see Scott Carlson's story in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, not accessible to non-subscribers.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Stanford has acquired a Swiss-built robot that digitizes more than 1,000 book or newspaper pages per hour. The bottleneck for human scanning operations is page turning, which the robot handles with speed and delicacy. Michael Keller, head of the Stanford libraries, wouldn't disclose the price of the robot, but did say that it becomes cost effective for any project aiming to digitize more than 5.5 million pages. Technologies like this will start to open up the treasure house of the public domain. Quoting a story in today's NY Times (free registration required): "Mr. Keller said the library increased the circulation of its collection by 50 percent when it computerized its card catalog. Digitizing out-of-print books could likewise make them available to a much wider audience, he said. The payoff for building such a digital collection, he added, is vastly improved availability of a huge store of knowledge and information for teaching, learning and research."

Today is the official launch of the Lund Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Users may browse for journals by discipline or search by journal name. This fall they will be able to search full-text at the article level. The DOAJ database supports metadata records for library catalogs, and even makes its own metadata OAI-compliant, which should further enhance the visibility of these OA journals. The launch edition covers about 350 journals, but it welcomes suggestions for other journals to include. The DOAJ is supported by the Lund University Libraries, the Open Society Institute, and SPARC.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Susan Mayor reports in the April 19 BMJ that libraries are thinking about open access as an alternative to skyrocketing journal prices. Quoting Robert Michaelson, head librarian of the Mudd Library for Science and Engineering at Northwestern University: "Elsevier is obviously trying to make a profit, but it is difficult to understand the enormous difference in the cost of some of their journals compared to similar journals published by learned societies." Mayor paraphrasing Jan Velterop, publisher of BioMed Central: Journal "monopolies could be broken by open access publishing, in which academic institutions pay for publication of their researchers' papers at input, and papers are then made available for free on the internet." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)