Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Daniel Zimmel, Wissenschaftliche Informationsversorgung im Umbruch, Stuttgart, October 2002. Sorry for not discovering this sooner. From the English-language abstract: "The image of the library as the primary place for information supply seems to stagger for a fairly long time. With the burden of considerable pricing pressure from commercial publishers, libraries incrementally have to forgo essential literature while weakening their position in the information chain. With the increasing cross-linkage of electronic information resources and an improved acceptance of open formats like XML or the Open Archives Protocol scholarly publishing has unfolded a new dynamics in parallel with the traditional journal system. These new publication models generally rest upon electronic content. A general description of the current serials crisis and an introduction on the fundamentals of the scholarly communication process are given; likewise this paper povides a short exploration into the interrelationship between publisher and library. The second part deals with the most important initiatives about alternative publication schemes. Therein enclosed postulations will be reinforced by mentioning and commenting on chosen implementations. This implies a closer look at the distinct role of the library in an increasing access-based information economy." In Section 5, Zimmer discusses my newsletter and blog, PLoS, SPARC, BOAI, and DINI. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Friday, July 11, 2003

The appropriations bill adopted by the House yesterday (H.R. 2660) contained the following paragraph in the section on the National Library of Medicine: "Restrictions on access to research data. --The Committee is concerned by reports that there has been a significant change in the availability of research data internationally and a dramatic rise in medical research data subscription costs. NLM is encouraged to examine how the consolidation of for-profit biomedical research publishers, with their increased subscription charges, has restricted access to vital research information to not-for-profit libraries. The Committee would like a report by March 1, 2004, about potential remedies to ensure that taxpayer-funded research remains in the public domain and steps that can be taken to alleviate this restrictive trend in information technology."

Frank Tipler, Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy? ISCID Archive, June 30, 2003. A common question, whose importance is not diminished by the fact that more cranks take it seriously than serious scientists. It has an uneasy relationship to open access. On the one hand, BOAI, PLoS, BMC, and other leading open-access initiatives emphatically and unambiguously support peer review. On the other hand, the same organizations endorse open-access archives that accept unrefereed preprints, and these are sometimes seen (not by the same organizations) as liberating ways to escape the ideological filters of a corrupt system of peer review. Frank Tipler takes this view: "The unknown patent office clerk has a problem. For him the physics community has the lanl database [better known as arXiv] which is the modern equivalent of the early 20th century Zeitschrift für Physik. Anyone can place a paper on the lanl database. There is no referee to stand in the author’s way. Of course, a great deal of nonsense is placed on the lanl database, but in my own field of general relativity it seems no worse then the huge amount of nonsense that appears in the leading refereed journals, including Physical Review Letters." But this connection notwithstanding, no one should mistake the open-access movement for a movement to bypass or even reform peer review. It's compatible with the existing system of peer review and with nearly every proposal for reforming peer review. Apart from advocating open access to peer-reviewed journals and unrefereed preprints, the movement is neutral in this debate. (Thanks to LIS News.)

The July 4 issue of was probably its last. was a weekly newsletter on electronic publishing, sponsored by the INFORM project of the EC's IST Programme of FP5. Funding for the INFORM project has come to an end. published for seven years and hopes to maintain its archive of back issues. was a regular source for my blog and newsletter, and I'll miss it. Ogranizations willing to support its continued publication should contact David Hitchcock or Geoffrey Stephenson.

The Grey Literature Network Service, aka GreyNet, has relaunched. Quoting the web site: "GreyNet will again facilitate dialog and communication between persons and organisations in the field of grey literature. GreyNet will further seek to identify and distribute information on and about grey literature in networked environments." GreyNet defines grey literature as "networked information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic or print formats not controlled by commercial publishing." (Thanks to LIS News.)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The EFF and the OPG have just published a report, Internet Blocking in Public Schools: A Study on Internet Access in Educational Institutions. The three major conclusions, from the abstract:
  • The use of Internet blocking software in schools cannot help schools comply with the law because schools do not and cannot set the software to block only the categories required by the law, and because the software is incapable of blocking only the visual depictions required by CIPA. Blocking software overblocks and underblocks, that is, the software blocks access to many web pages protected by the First Amendment and does not block many of the web pages that CIPA would likely prohibit.
  • Blocking software does not protect children from exposure to a large volume of material that is harmful to minors within the legal definitions. Blocking software cannot adapt adequately to local community standards. Most schools already have in place alternatives to Internet blocking software, such as adoption and enforcement of Internet use policies, media literacy education, directed use, and supervised use.
  • Blocking software in schools damages educational opportunities for students, both by blocking access to web pages that are directly related to state-mandated curriculums and by restricting broader inquiries of both students and teachers. Teachers and students 17 years or older (most high school juniors and seniors) should be exempt, yet suffer the consequences of CIPA implementation.

The Google cache provides free access to a huge part of the historical internet, including back issues of newspapers and other periodicals for which publishers would now like to charge access tolls. I first wrote about the potential for copyright conflicts in FOSN for 11/9/01. Now Stefanie Olsen writes that many publishers are awakening to the power of the Google cache to undermine their business models. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan predicts that the permissibility of the Google cache will eventually be tested in court. (PS: When it is, I hope the court understands that the Google crawler politely respects all robot.txt requests to exclude the site. In this sense, all cached sites are consenting or incompetent.)

More on the Michael Held editorial against the Sabo bill....The senior editors of the Public Library of Science --Philip Bernstein, Barbara Cohen, Hemai Parthasarathy, Mark Patterson, and Vivian Siegel-- have written a response and posted it to the SSP list. Excerpt: "Where we disagree with Mr. Held is that, in our view, this concerted effort by funding agencies, a diverse group of publishers, librarians, and different governments to provide free and unrestricted access to the biomedical literature is a highly responsible act that reflects the common interests of the public and the scientific research community. Cooperation will be necessary for this new publishing model to succeed. We hope to work with other responsible publishers -- such as the Rockefeller University Press -- scientific societies, public advocacy groups, funding agencies, and the public to find ways in which we can make open access an immediate success. We appreciate the thoughtfulness and concerns expressed by Michael Held and look forward to the opportunity of working together to overcome potential barriers to the goals that we share."

ALPSP has just published a report by John and Laura Cox, Scholarly Publishing Practice: The ALPSP report on academic journal publishers’ policies and practices in online publishing. Only the executive summary is free online. The report is based on a survevy of 275 journal publishers, which included members and non-members of ALPSP. While these are not open-access journals, many of the survey questions raised open-access issues, such as free access to back issues, free access to developing countries, and policies requiring authors to transfer copyright. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

More on the public letter to WIPO on open access and related issues....WIPO has accepted the letter's suggestion to host a meeting in 2004 to discuss economic sectors where intellectual property rules tend to thwart rather than stimulate innovation. The statement was published in the July 10 issue of Nature (accessible only to subscribers). Quoting WIPO Assistant Director General and Legal Counsel Francis Gurry: "The use of open and collaborative development models for research and innovation is a very important and interesting development, especially in areas where technology approaches the domain of basic science and scientific discovery. The Director General of WIPO looks forward with enthusiam to taking up the invitation to organise a conference to explore the scope and application of these models as vehicles for encouraging innovation." (PS: Again, we owe many thanks to Jamie Love of the CPT for drafting the letter, recruiting the signatories, and laying the groundwork for this encouraging response from WIPO.)

More on PLoS and the Sabo bill....Kevin Diaz tells the basic story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. This is one of the first news stories showing the bill's backers trying to limit its application to publications, perhaps to avoid a conflict with Bayh-Dole over patentable discoveries. Quoting Mike Eisen of Berkeley and PLoS: "We're not saying companies can't patent their intellectual property. We're just talking about free access to the words they put on paper." (PS: I argued for this limitation in SOAN for 7/4/03.) Another Eisen quotation: "It's a bill about taxpayer rights." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

SPARC Europe, Liber, SCONUL, and CURL have sent a letter to the European Commission objecting to the imminent merger of BertelsmannSpringer and Kluwer Academic Publishers. David Prosser sent a copy to all members of SPARC Europe with his own letter urging members to write to the EC themselves.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

In May, the Information Access Alliance publicized its complaint to the Justice Department about the merger of BertelsmannSpringer and Kluwer Academic Publishers. But at the time, IAA didn't have its own web site. Now it does. The site is still minimalist, and you'll have to read one of its press releases to learn that IAA is a coalition of six major library associations: the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and SPARC.

I've written a Draft Model Open-Access Policy for Foundation Research Grants that I just put online. For several months it has circulated among friends and colleagues for comment and now seems ripe. If anyone can persuade a public or private funding agency to adopt it or anything like it, please try. If anyone can use any of its language or ideas for another purpose, please feel free. It remains open to comment and further revision.

Announcement from the July 7 BioMed Central Update: "BioMed Central's open access research is the perfect raw material for data mining research, since it is freely redistributable and consists of highly structured XML. To make life easier for data mining researchers, we have made the entirety of BioMed Central's open access research article corpus (2400+ articles) available for download via ftp as a single ZIP file. This file is updated with newly published articles every night. For details on downloading the BioMed Central corpus, and further information about using it for data mining research, see our data mining information page."

More on the Sabo bill....Michael Held has an editorial on the bill in the July 3 issue of The Journal of Cell Biology. Excerpt: "The mission of [Rockefeller University Press, publisher of the JCB] includes the dissemination of scientific information to as broad an audience as possible as quickly as possible, so I am certainly not opposed to much of what the PLoS advocates. We at RUP welcome another player in the publishing field, and wish them well in their mission of providing free content by relying on upfront fees and charitable contributions. However, to attempt to legislate the demise of the time-honored subscription-based business model, prior to proving that another model works, does not seem wise....Those of us in the nonprofit sector are the natural allies of 'open access.' This is especially true for the large cadre of scientists who have for years donated extraordinary amounts of their expertise, time, and dedication to advancing the essential cause of free and open scientific communication, and done so long before PLoS appeared on the scene. The current effort, instigated by a small group and funded privately, is already having the effect of splitting the community. Their actions, embodied by the Sabo legislation, would appear to have a self-interested purpose of increasing the success of their own philosophy and business model, to the possible detriment of all others. There are many other options to be explored, and indeed that already exist, to ensure 'open access.'"

Monday, July 07, 2003

More on the Sabo bill....Miriam Drake reports on the bill in the July 7 Information Today. She does a good job quoting from older articles and public statements to recap some of the major arguments for and against open access. Her conclusion: "History reveals that easy access to information makes a difference. Open and free access to basic knowledge results in the creation of useful knowledge that contributes to international health and wealth. New models of communication will require collaboration among universities, publishers, professional societies, and government. While Congress is not likely to see the value of open access and sharing, many feel that the concept will succeed because the time is right."

A group of activists for an information commons and open access have sent a public letter to Dr. Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO, asking WIPO to convene a meeting on "open and collaborative projects to create public goods". The appendix to the letter lists seven areas where innovation can occur without intellectual property protection or even where IP protection hampers innovation. The sixth area on the list is "Open Academic and Scientific Journals". Here's the full text of the letter, minus signatures and appendix:
Dear Dr. Idris: In recent years there has been an explosion of open and collaborative projects to create public goods. These projects are extremely important, and they raise profound questions regarding appropriate intellectual property policies. They also provide evidence that one can achieve a high level of innovation in some areas of the modern economy without intellectual property protection, and indeed excessive, unbalanced, or poorly designed intellectual property protections may be counter-productive. We ask that the World Intellectual Property Organization convene a meeting in calendar year 2004 to examine these new open collaborative development models, and to discuss their relevance for public policy.

We all have Jamie Love to thank for drafting the letter, collecting the signatures, and laying the groundwork for its reception at WIPO. Jamie is the Director of the Consumer Project on Technology. (Disclosure: I am a signatory.)

I just corrected a harmful and embarrassing mistake on the SPARC page for the Open Access Newsletter and Forum and my own page of the same information. On each page, I correctly listed the email address for posting messages to the SPARC Open Access Forum. But the mailto: link for that email address was for unsubscribing from the list. I thank Seth Johnson for pointing this out.

The new issue of Library Hi Tech is devoted to the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting. The guest editor Timothy W. Cole. Only abstracts are free online. Here's the TOC.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Hugo Alrøe, a scientist at the Danish Research Centre for Organic Farming and administrator of the open-access Organic Eprints Archive, also maintains a web page listing the policies of various scientific publishers on allowing authors to self-archive their articles. He knows that the RoMEO Project is already collecting this information and has a large headstart. The difference seems to be that the Project RoMEO listings are based on published policies and copyright transfer agreements while his own are based on specific replies to a letter of inquiry.

More recent coverage of the Sabo bill.

The June 25 issue of the Environment News Service reports on the open-access literature provided by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) of the US Department of Energy (DOE). This takes the form of an open-access repository for gray literature, one for preprints, one for journal articles, and a new cross-archive search engine for the many DOE and OSTI collections.