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Forrester Research has just published its analysis about Migrating Users From Free To Paid. It finds though that 'Two of three online users say that the content they get for free is good enough.'
In a free story in the July 3 Nature, George Szpiro tells the tale of Thomas Hales and his attempt to prove Kepler's sphere-packing conjecture. Hales' proof uses an exhaustive computer exploration of 5,000 packing arrangements and 100,000 inequalities. After four years of review at Annals of Mathematics, the referees ran out of energy and gave up. They believe the proof is correct but have been unable to finish the job of making sure. The editor will publish Hales' paper next year, but with a note explaining that the proof has not yet been completely verified. (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.) (PS: Would Hales have had better luck if he'd distributed a preprint in an open-access repository like arXiv? The same thought must have occurred to Hales, but late in the game, for he deposited his paper in arXiv on May 1.)
The June issue of Upgrade is devoted to Open Knowledge. The guest editors are Philippe Aigrain and Jesús M. González-Barahona. All the articles are good, but here are the ones most relevant to open access.
The Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter has been dormant since September 2002, but I'm happy to announce that it has resumed regular publication. It has a new name, the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, and a new publisher, SPARC. I just mailed the first issue under the new name. Among other things, it covers Martin Sabo's Public Access to Science Act, the threat to open access from spam remedies, and some detail on what made the revival of the newsletter possible. If you're not a subscriber, subscribe by sending any message to SPARC-OANewsfirstname.lastname@example.org. The associated discussion list is now called the SPARC Open Access Forum. To subscribe to it, send any message to SPARC-OAForumemail@example.com. For more details, see my home page for the newsletter and forum. It's good to be back.
More on the Sabo bill....Grant Gross tells the story in the July 2 InfoWorld. Excerpt: "Scientific research paid for by the U.S. government would be required to be given free to the public, under a bill introduced in Congress last week. Representative Martin Olav Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat, said he introduced the Public Access to Science Act (PASA) of 2003 because U.S. residents shouldn’t have to pay twice -- once with tax dollars and a second time with subscription fees to scientific journals -- for research that improve their health or save their lives."
More on the Veeck case....The Supreme Court has refused to hear SBCCI's appeal from the Fifth Circuit decision letting Veeck post a copyrighted statute (yes, a copyrighted statute) to his web site. The Fifth Circuit compromise is that when such a statute is treated as the law of the land, then it may be distributed freely as if it were in the public domain like other statutes. But when the same text is treated as a model code written and copyrighted by a private trade organization, then distribution without permission is forbidden as infringement. Because the rule is not the same in every circuit, the Supreme Court may accept the question one day for definitive resolution.
Neil McLean and Clifford Lynch, Interoperability between Information and Learning Environments – Bridging the Gaps. A joint white paper from the IMS Global Learning Consortium and CNI. Excerpt: "The primary purpose of this paper is to explore potential interactions between information environments and learning environments, with emphasis on work that needs to be done involving standards, architectural modelling or interfaces in order to permit these two worlds to co-exist and evolve more productively....The discussion will build on the technical challenges identified in the 2001 IMS White Paper on Digital Repositories."
From a David Wiley post to Slashdot: "After five years of pioneering the application of open source principles to stuff other than software, OpenContent is closing down. Project Lead David Wiley provides a rationale for the closing on the website, as well as a brief overview of the projects' successes. Wiley has joined Creative Commons as Project Lead for Educational Licensing." (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.)
More on the Farhad Manjoo piece in Salon, The free research movement....I was wrong. The full-text is freely accessible online. Just click on the "Free Day Pass" ad in the upper right corner and wait a second. (Today the ACLU is the sponsor of the free day pass, but this will change.) Thanks to Carol Hutchins for reminding me of how Salon uses ads to support free online text. Excerpt from the rest of the article: "PLoS's philosophy, several supporters say, closely mirrors that of the open-source software world -- but if it succeeds, its fruits could conceivably be greater than simply producing a more stable operating system. It could lead, the people at PLoS say, to a revolution in science."
Farhad Manjoo, The free research movement, Salon, July 1, 2003. On the Sabo bill and the Public Library of Science. Unfortunately, only the first four paragraphs are freely available online, and I'm not a subscriber. Excerpt from the free snippets, describing a phone interview with Berkeley biologist and PLoS co-founder Mike Eisen: "'It's ridiculous,' Eisen said in this [baseball announcer's] voice during a recent phone interview from Washington. 'All these things we're so used to doing with information on the Internet, we're preventing clever entrepreneurial people from doing with works of science. The idea that a narrow profit motive would prevent the dissemination of this information -- it's insane!' Eisen was in Washington to lend his support to a congressional effort he believes will make scientific publishing less insane and less ridiculous. Most scientific journals -- such as Science, Nature or the New England Journal of Medicine -- require researchers to turn over all rights to the reports selected for publication; the publications then charge institutions and individuals subscription fees to view these reports, a model that Eisen believes inhibits scientific progress. The approach is especially galling, Eisen says, when you consider that a great deal of the money that funds the research published in these journals comes from the federal government. The public is paying for science that it never gets to see, he says."
Michelle Romero, Open Access and the Case for Public Good: The Scientists' Perspective, Online, July/August 2003. A good summary of the positions taken, and issues discussed, at the International Symposium on Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science (Paris, March 10-11). Excerpt: "Researchers just want to do science. Publishers and industrial enterprises want to make money from their products. Everyone wants to see lab results translate into goods that will improve lives in both rich and poor countries. But can science find the means to thrive in a free-flowing digital information environment and still serve all its masters? Menon concluded the symposium, saying, 'Governments are impacted by the lobbies of commercial interests. Science is more diffused and doesn't lobby, per se, for its own interests. But governments will need to be made to understand, or science's case will be left behind.'" (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)
Vol. 2, no. 2 of Henry Gladney's Digital Document Quarterly is now online. Opening line: "Colleagues and I believe we now know a good solution for every technical challenge of long-term digital preservation, at least in principle."
In today's issue of The Scientist, Helen Gavaghan reports on both the JISC deal with BioMed Central and the Sabo Public Access to Science Act. The common thread is the government support for open access. She also weaves in the June 20 Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, which is supported by both public and private funding agencies. Quoting Jill Taylor-Roe, head of liaison and academic services at University of Newcastle upon Tyne: "These are exciting times."
More on the Sabo bill....I just posted a draft version of the bill to the FOS Forum. Unfortunately, I still haven't seen the official version either at Sabo's home page or at THOMAS. (The version I posted to the FOS Forum was properly formatted when I mailed it. Topica garbled it a little, but it's still readable.)
Elspeth Hyams reports on several recent UK meetings on open access and asks:
'What does it mean when the symbolic head of the academic and research world’s bęte noire commercial publisher, owner of the copyright in 25 per cent of all high-quality scientific content, says: ‘I am not against open access’?'