Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 31, 2003

The presentations from the ERPANET conference, Archives Online: Moving Archives into the Digital Era (The Hague, April 17, 2003), are now online.

Margaret Jobe, Another Casualty, Library Journal, May 30, 2003. Excerpt: "Last year the government documents community became alarmed by a growing trend on the part of the federal government to suppress access to information in the name of national security. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and other federal agencies removed information deemed 'sensitive' from web sites and, in the case of the USGS, from depository libraries. Many think the Bush administration seems intent on reducing access to information. The most recent casualty in that offensive is PubScience." Includes a useful overview of the Notable Documents List compiled by the ALA's Government Documents Round Table.

Carol Tenopir, Gayle Baker, and William Robinson, The Art of Conjuring E-Content, Library Journal, May 30, 2003. A survey of disappearing, reappearing, and transformation acts over the past 18 months, with a very useful series of 58 profiles of the major academic databases.

Michael Day, Prospects for institutional e-print repositories in the United Kingdom, a paper from the ePrints UK project. Abstract: "This study introduces ePrints UK, a project funded as part of the JISC's Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) Programme. It first introduces the project and the main features of the FAIR programme as it relates to e-print repositories. Then it provides some general information on open-access principles, institutional repositories and the technical developments that have made their development viable. There follows a review of relevant repositories in the UK and an indication of what impact ePrints UK might have in supporting learning, teaching and research. This is followed by a discussion of perceived impediments to the take-up of institutional repositories, including both practical and cultural issues. A final section investigates the development of ongoing evaluation criteria for the project."

Rob Kling died on May 15. Rob was Professor of Information Systems and Science, and Director of Center for Social Informatics, at the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science. In FOS circles, Rob was best known for his advocacy of the Guild model of open-access publishing. His vision for social informatics and open access, and his influence on the next generation of librarians, will be missed.

More on the BertelsmannSpringer-KAP merger....The Information Access Alliance, a consortium of six US library organizations, is urging the Justice Department to block Cinven and Candover's acquisition of BertelsmannSpringer. Quoting the press release: "The Alliance is concerned that this transaction will bring about a reduction in access to critical research information." Quoting James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University: "History shows that when journal publishers merge, consumers suffer. The increased market power resulting from recent mergers has allowed publishers to boost prices. This has led to subscription cancellations, which deprive scientists of access to basic tools they need to conduct research." Quoting David Shulenburger, Provost at the University of Kansas: "The scientific research that journals support and document is a key contributor to the quality of life and economic well-being of our nation. The erosion of access to research not only poses a risk to tomorrow's discoveries, but because the U.S. government spends $100 billion annually on research, it reduces the American taxpayers' return on investment. It is a situation that urgently needs to be addressed." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Friday, May 30, 2003

Version 1.0 of FEDORA (Flexible Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture) is now available for downloading. FEDORA is an OAI-compliant, open-source foundation for interoperable, web-based digital libraries and institutional repositories. It was developed by the University of Virginia and Cornell University with a grant from the Mellon Foundation. Quoting the web site: "The version 1.0 of the software is aimed at providing a repository that can handle one million objects efficiently using only open source software. Later versions of the software will add important functionality, such as policy enforcement, versioning of objects and performance enhancement to support very large repositories." For more on 1.0, see the article by Thornton Staples, Ross Wayland, and Sandra Payette in the April 2003 issue of D-Lib Magazine. (Thanks to Ken Herold.)

More on the threat to ERIC....In a May 28 story for the Associated Press, Steve Giegerich describes the Department of Education's plans to downsize ERIC and the response from educators (here and here) trying to preserve its current strengths. (Thanks to LIS News.)

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Today is the official launch of the commons-blog, from the Information Commons Project (ICP) of the American Library Association. According to Frederick Emrich, the blog's editor, it will "advance the Information Commons Project's goals of promoting public access to ideas and of advocating a vibrant information commons." (PS full disclosure: I'm on the ICP advisory board.)

JISC has just released a draft report, Requirements and Feasibility Study on Preservation of E-Prints. Excerpt: "Perhaps unusually in the rapidly evolving scholarly digital world, there is an opportunity to address the preservation of UK e-print collections before the issue becomes urgent. At the present time UK e-print repositories have yet to encounter significant preservation problems, and they hold only a very small proportion of academic research output. However, although the future is uncertain, e-print repositories are more and more likely to become home to significant material that is difficult to obtain elsewhere, material that is simply not held elsewhere. E-Prints can represent the corporate memory of research communities hypothesis, experiment, critique and synthesis. It is difficult to see how this material can be viewed as anything but worthy of long-term preservation. Efforts to preserve this material should begin now." Send any comments by June 30 to James Hamish.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Anne Mahoney has written an article on Stoa, the consortium for open-access publishing in the humanities, The Stoa Consortium and Scholarly Publication. Excerpt: "[M]aterials at the Stoa are freely available to anyone. Newly published projects are announced on the Stoa's front page, and announcements are sent to various mailing lists. Because the Stoa is on the web, moreover, standard search engines (such as Google) index the projects. As a result, these texts reach a wider readership than most scholarly books. Over the past year, the Stoa has served an average of about 5,000 pages per day and has received visitors from over 100 different countries." Her paper will appear in the August 2003 issue of the New England Classical Journal.

DARE Decides

During a meeting in Utrecht held today, the leaders of the Dutch project DARE made two important decisions.

The first is the acceptance of a 'specs' document describing the required functional specifications of an Institutional Repository (IR) for it to be taken up in the nation wide system of IR's that DARE aims to set up. The main requirements are that IR's should be compatible with version 2 of the OAI protocol, that one should include a link to the Royal Library for the eternal preservation of the documents, and that one has to be ready to use metadata that go beyond simple Dublin Core. The details of the required metadata are still under scrutiny. A small project team has been installed to settle this issue.

The second decision was in fact a commitment. All universities agreed to actually have a OAI (or should I say, DARE) compatible repository by the end of this year.

DARE Tender: 7 services

The Dutch project DARE has set an important step forward. This week, it honored 7 (out of 12) project proposals to set up a service for OAI compatible Institutional Repositories. Most of the projects will be carried by university libraries. The proposals were written in an extremely short time. That 12 were submitted is a sign of the determination of the dutch librarians to make electronic publishing a fact.

The projects should all start in the last quarter of this year and finish no later than 4 months after the start. Among the services that will be developed are a national repository for student theses, a tool to publish on line proceedings, and a copyright management system.

DARE's mission is to set up a nation wide system of OAI compatible Institutional Repositories. The challenge faced by the project members was to think of a useful services in the context of the OAI model. The next challenge for those who saw their proposal accepted is to realize their ideas.

Fred Pearce describes the launch of ARKive in the May 23 issue of The Scientist. ARKive is an open-access repository of resources (images, movies, articles, data, lesson plans, games) on the world's most endangered species.

In the May 29 issue of New Delhi's Business Standard, Harinder Sikka analyzes the "pharma impasse" that makes U.S. medicines unaffordable in India. While the problem is mostly due to drug patents, corporate pricing policies, and Indian poverty, Sikka's preferred solution, differential pricing, requires open access: "To make this approach feasible, it is mandatory to share global knowledge, establish partnership between public and private and open access to scientific database."

My first experience with one of BioMed Central's open-access journals has been a favorable one. My commentary (not about FOS) is in the new journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. Some relevant dates: on 10 February 2003, I was invited by the editor to submit a commentary. I submitted one on 18 March. Reviewers' comments were received on 23 April. The revised version was published (as a 'Provisional PDF' version) on 1 May. Proofs of the final version were received on 9 May, and the commentary was published in final form on 19 May. By May 22, it had been indexed (PMID: 12756054) by PubMed. The interval, from the initial invitation to the appearance of a citation in PubMed, was much shorter than I had expected.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Richard Poynder reports on the sale of BertelsmannSpringer to Candover and Cinven (C&C) in the May 27 Information Today. C&C plans to merge the giant publisher with Kluwer Academic Publishers (KAP), which it bought last year, creating the world's second-largest academic publisher, behind Elsevier. Observers expect journal price hikes, the usual result of publisher consolidation. After quoting Mark McCabe and Andrew Odlyzko on the subject, Poynder concludes, "Such views are based on the now widespread conviction that STM publishers have been systematically overcharging customers, leading researchers to respond by adopting alternative publishing models, not least through self-archiving their papers on the Web." He quotes me: "[Publisher price increases] are giving momentum to an alternative publishing paradigm that will undermine them. Scientists are increasingly taking their intellectual property and editorial labor to new 'open access' journals that serve knowledge rather than stockholders." But Simon Leefe of C&C defends the acquisition: "Based on our experience at KAP, which we have owned now for a few months, and from the research we did on Springer, we have no sense that [library] budgets are in decline." (PS: C&C are betting billions that libraries can absorb further price increases and that open access will be insignificant. Either that, or they concede that publishers face a new wave of library cancellations, and a publishing paradigm shift, but simply predict that somehow Springer journals will survive.)