Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 18, 2003

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill to create an Office of Global Internet Freedom, whose mission is to develop technologies to help net users around the world bypass national web filters and other forms of censorware. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) and would give the Office $16 million to cover its first two years of operation. (PS: Does John Ashcroft know about this? No joke, this bill is good news and good in part because of its inconsistency with CIPA and the Patriot Act.) More coverage.

In his July 15 column for Library Journal, Roy Tennant defends the ALA resolution protesting the Patriot Act and argues that patriotism as if our constitution matters will lead libraries to destroy borrowing records before turning them over to the FBI. Excerpt: "This July 4th, did you think about what it is about America that makes you a patriot? If you're like me, it is that in this country you can say what you think, vote for whom you want, and read whatever you please. All without the government looking over your shoulder—at least until now." (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on the fate of ERIC....In the July 17 Chronicle of Higher Education, Brock Read reports that a group of faculty at Syracuse University is fighting to preserve AskERIC, a search engine for ERIC that lost its federal funding in the ERIC reorganization. (The story is only accessible to subscribers.) Excerpt: "But professors at the Information Institute of Syracuse, the location of ERIC's Clearinghouse on Information & Technology, think the AskERIC site is worth continuing, and are preparing to manage it as a branch of the university. Since the Syracuse staff already oversees the site's day-to-day operation, the change will involve only seeking money from the university and from outside sources, rather than depending on the Education Department for funds."

Nico Dauphiné, Mary Anderson Ochs, and Nicole K. Joos, Bringing scientific literature to the developing world: The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL), Online Information Review, 2003, pp. 51-54. Abstract: "The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL) is an indexed library of key agricultural, environmental and related science periodicals created to help institutions in developing countries significantly expand their journal collections despite the prohibitive cost of journal subscriptions. TEEAL currently contains nine years of subscriptions (1993-2001) to over 140 scientific journals with 1.7 million pages of articles on 381 CD-ROMs. TEEAL is distributed at a low cost to 109 low and lower-middle income countries around the world. Today, 66 institutions in 34 countries use TEEAL, and many others are negotiating its acquisition. This paper discusses the creation and development of TEEAL and its future direction in the context of working towards universal access to scientific information."

Yesterday, Dr. Ian Gibson, Member of Parliament for Norwich North, submitted the following question to Dr. John Reid, the new UK Secretary of State for Health (scroll about 4/5 down the page):
"310.  Dr Ian Gibson (Norwich North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what plans he has to ensure that all public funded research is recorded and made freely available to (a) patients, (b) health professionals, (c) the public and (d) members of the scientific community. (127870)"

If this were a bill, it would be the Sabo bill of the UK. But it's just a question. The Secretary's answer might be, "We have no plans." But it's a sign that in the UK, as in the US, the call for open access to government-funded research is moving from the academy to the legislature, where it can become law. Secretary Reid is expected to answer Gibson's question by September 8. (Thanks to Jan Velterop.)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee voted to restore limits on how many TV stations a single company can own in one market, a result favored by a wide coalition of Americans and opposed by the media giants. Here's William Safire's take on why both parties rose up to oppose Bush's FCC and the well-funded networks: "Take the force of right-wingers upholding community standards who are determined to defend local control of the public airwaves; combine that with the force of lefties eager to maintain diversity of opinion in local media; add in the independent voters' mistrust of media manipulation; then let all these people have access to their representatives by e-mail and fax, and voilà! Congress awakens to slap down the power grab." More coverage.

More on Alf Eaton's Perl script for reference linking the BMC XML files....I just asked him whether he'd share his Perl script with others who might want to use it on other collections or adapt it to other metadata schemes. His reply: "Absolutely - the Perl script that adds citation data to HubMed is easy to adapt to any XML file or database that includes the PubMed ID numbers of cited articles. Anyone can send me their data files, or I'd be happy to work with publishers to get their citation data added to HubMed, if they'd prefer to run the script at their end."

The presentations from the conference, Preserving the Web (Kerkira, May 22-24, 2003), are now online.

In March, the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information Services (NIWI) released an anthology, Promise and Practice in Data Sharing, available both as a printed book and as free online full-text. This is the second volume in the NIWI series on The Public Domain of Digital Research Data, edited by Paul Wouters and Peter Schröder. The new volume contains four essays:
  • Peter Schröder, Digital research data as the floating capital of the Global Science System
  • Paul Wouters and Colin Reddy, Big science data policies
  • Kathleen Casey, Issues of electronic data access in biodiversity
  • Ann Beaulieu, Research woes and new data flows

The first volume in the series, Policies on Digital Research Data: An International Survey, came out in 2002. (Thanks to Shelflife.)

Remember that BioMed Central now offers its entire corpus of articles free for downloading in one large zipped file. It didn't take Alf Eaton long put this gift to good use. Let me quote his words from his blog:
[All the BMC articles are XML files], which means that all the sections are marked up and machine-readable, including the author names, titles, PubMed ID numbers and bibliographies. Running a small Perl script through these files, sending Trackbacks from one article to another, lets HubMed now display the full list of references for each article - in both directions.

In other words, anyone looking at an article (such as this one) cited by an open-access paper, can click on the 'References' link, then follow the 'Cited By' link to the citing paper (this one). Which will, of course, increase the visibility of the open-access paper (which is also free for anyone to read). From here you'll also see a further 40 outward reference links, each of which can be followed in the same way.

This is a great resource, previously only partially available through a costly subscription (and gnarly interface) to ISI's Web of Knowledge, and a lead which I hope commercial, paid-access publishers will begin to follow as soon as possible.

This is a break-through development. To keep costs down and subsidies small, open-access proponents only ask authors and journals to provide open access to the "essential" full-text. If enhancements to the basic text are expensive, then the provider could well charge for them in order to recoup expenses. Until now, reference linking was an "inessential" that seemed too expensive to provide for open-access texts. BMC's willingness to provide free XML files as data, and Alf Eaton's programming skill, have changed this and put reference linking within the reach of open-access journals and archives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

More on CIPA....I used to think that libraries that relinquished federal funds in order to escape the CIPA filtering requirements were engaged in heroic self-sacrifice. However, the AP reported yesterday that for some libraries, the costs of installing filters exceeds the funding they receive from the federal government. For these lucky libraries, freedom and funding lie on the same path. Check to see whether your library is equally lucky. (Thanks to LIS News.)

Alan Crawford and Mona McAlinden, Libraries warn of digital dark ages as key websites lost, London Sunday Herald, July 13, 2003. Excerpt: "The 21st century will be seen as a cultural dark age unless urgent action is taken to preserve Britain's electronically published heritage for future generations, Britain's national libraries have warned." (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on the Sabo bill....In the July 16 issue of The Scientist, Catherine Zandonella summarizes some objections to the Public Access to Science Act.

The NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics has released a special report, The Implications of Information Technology for Scientific Journal Publishing: A Literature Review, NSF 03-323, June 2003. You'd guess from the title, and the fact that that its scope is the literature since 1994, that this report covers the important literature on open access. Not so. It gives prominent coverage to the SuperJournal Project, which ended five years ago, and touches on the OAI as a recent development. More direct discussion of open access is limited to these two paragraphs:

The themes raised by Rowland, Kling, and McKim are echoed throughout the literature. Descriptions of commercial projects, consortial efforts, and proposals outlining various publishing models and strategies are described in Berry (2000); Birman (2000); Creth (1997); Luther (1997); Peek, Pomerantz, and Paling (1998); and Rowland (1999). There are also proposals that consider various noncommercial alternatives involving free e-journals, preprint archives in lieu of and in parallel with juried publication, self-publication through individual websites, and publication by universities and libraries (see, e.g., Okerson 1996). Self-organizing approaches have been discussed by, among others, Harnad (1996); Odlyzko (1996a); Smith (1999); Stodolsky (1995); and Varian (1998). As Smith (1999) and Varian (1998) point out, in addition to mechanisms for quality control, there is a need for stable archiving of the record. Finally, Hitchcock, Carr, and Hall (1998a) offer four specific steps toward "optimum e-journals": nonexclusive papers, archives and gateway services, open systems, and links.

Of all of these proposals, Varian's (1998) is probably the most carefully developed, taking into account potential cost savings from reengineering the process as well as using threaded discussions[22] as a means of reader-based evaluation. In addition, he considers the savings in terms of library shelf space, monitoring for use of journal acquisition as well as promotion and tenure review, search, and access to related and supporting material. He also considers the implications of the "network externality effect" (when the value of a good—in this case, a journal—depends on how many other people use it).

(Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Open Society Institute (OSI) has just released revised and updated versions of its two business planning guides for open-access journals. One guide is for launching new open-access journals (also in PDF), and the other is for converting conventional journals to open access (also in PDF). At the same time, OSI has produced a companion volume, Model Business Plan: A Supplemental Guide for Open Access Journal Developers & Publishers (also in PDF), which helps open-access journals develop a sustainable business plan. All three guides were written by Raym Crow and Howard Goldstein of the SPARC Consulting Group. Quoting SPARC's Rick Johnson from the press release: "These Guides answer a tremendous need in the scholarly community."

Jill O'Neill used to write an excellent blog for the NFAIS called Noteworthy. But it was offline for a while and has now returned under the new name, Information Community News. Welcome back, Jill! (PS: The URL is new too, so change your bookmarks.)

David Malakoff and Daniel Bachtold, Who Owns, Who Pays? U.K., U.S. Offer Answers for Journals, Science, July 4, 2003. A short overview of the JISC-BMC deal and the Sabo bill. Unfortunately, not even an abstract is free online. Excerpt: "Government officials on both sides of the Atlantic are stoking the debate over free access to electronic scientific journals. In the United Kingdom, a government body announced last month that it will pay the publication costs of any British university researcher who submits a paper to open-access journals published by BioMed Central, a London-based company. And last week a member of the U.S. Congress introduced a bill aimed at preventing private publishers from monopolizing information by denying copyright protection to work produced with "substantial" government funding. Some open-access advocates welcome both moves as a means to improve the flow of scholarly information. But others doubt that the U.S. copyright proposal would enhance access--adding that it could harm researchers' ability to control use of their own work and profit from inventions."

David Seaman, Deep Sharing: A Case for The Federated Digital Library, EduCause Review, July/August 2003. Excerpt: "Libraries are collaborative by nature --we freely share expertise, staff, ideas, and information about holdings for our collective good. Shared cataloging is a striking example: a cataloguer in one library creates a record about a book to share in a central database rather than in his or her local system, and all others who contribute to the collaborative can download that bibliographic record into their local systems rather than re-creating it at innumerable institutions. Librarians are talking about extending such interdependence and 'deep sharing' to digital content by creating a Distributed Online Digital Library (DODL), which would depart from the status quo in terms of function, service, reuse of content, and library interdependency."

PsyDok is a new, searchable open-access archive of literature in psychology. Its coverage ranges from articles and preprints to magazine stories and gray literature. It is explicit in wanting to follow the principles of the BOAI. The site is in German. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Monday, July 14, 2003

In the July 12 Washington Post, Bill Broadway has a good story on the Octavo high-res digital edition of the Gutenberg Bible. Octavo has an interesting way to provide free online access and still recoup its considerable costs: it has a free edition of the full-text on its web site (660 images), and sells an enhanced edition on CDs. The $65 CD edition supports magnification of up to 200% for every image, while a $1500 CD edition supports 500% magnification. This would be an elegant solution except that the free online edition offers only thumbnails and enlargments that are roughly 12% of lifesize, far too small to read.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, the California Supreme Court recently handed down its opinion in Intel v. Hamidi. Earlier coverage can be found here and here. I was one of the attorneys representing Ken Hamidi in the case and Peter asked me to write a brief post explaining how it relates to the Open Access issues that are the subject of this blog. I should note that Ken was also supported by a large number of prominent amicus parties, including a group of prominent Internet law professors, the ACLU, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, the AFL-CIO, the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The primary question in the case was whether electronic contact on the Internet could be prohibited under the laws of trespass, if the electronic contact in question caused no damage or impairment to the computer system contacted. The California Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision and sided with Hamidi, finding that in the absence of damage, mere electronic contact did not give rise to a lawsuit for trespass. One of the primary arguments of Hamidi and his supporters was that a contrary ruling would have had profound adverse effects for the future of the free flow of information on the Internet. On the Internet, most people generally assume that one need not ask for or receive advance permission to click on a hyperlink or send an email to someone. This kind of freedom to link, visit, and communicate with others, of course, plays a foundational role in the development of Internet-based open access content libraries and systems.

There is a lot more to the case and the Supreme Court's 78-page opinion than can be summarized in a brief blog entry. If anyone is interested in further reading on the topic and the history of cybertrespass generally, I highly recommend this piece by Dan Burk, which deals in detail with the doctrinal aspects of the trespass issue, and this article by my friend Dan Hunter, which deals with the difficulty of meshing our cognitive constructs of "cyberspace" with legal regimes founded on real space architectures. Both articles address the Hamidi case in detail, and were cited by the Supreme Court.

Today BioMed Central launched Open Access Now, a newsletter to appear twice a month on open-access publishing. Open Access Now is edited by Jonathan B Weitzman and will feature interviews with important players in the open-access movement and news from our own Open Access News blog. The inaugural issue interviews Gerry Rubin of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a moving force behind the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing. A print edition of the newsletter will be distributed with The Scientist. BMC invites comments and feedback on its new venture at openaccess [at] Welcome Open Access Now!

On July 10 the ICSU released its Agenda for Action: Science in the Information Society. This is a set of documents outlining a vision for science in the age of the internet. The ICSU will encourage national governments from around the world to endorse the agenda at the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society. Quoting the press release: "Universal access to scientific knowledge, decision making and governance, policy issues for scientific information and improving education and training are the four key themes, which were chosen by the scientific community in developing its agenda for action. The science perspectives in relation to each of these themes is summarised in a series of four published brochures, which are available in English, French and Spanish. For each theme, the key principles, the challenges, the actions required, as well as examples of best practice, are highlighted....A very strong message to governments is the need to strengthen the public domain for scientific data and information and ensure equitable access to this. As Professor Jane Lubchenco – ICSU President - states: 'Scientific knowledge carries enormous potential for helping the world address the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the use of Information and Communication Technologies opens up unprecedented opportunities to accelerate this process.'"

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The University of Potsdam is creating an open-access archive to mirror the entire corpus of BioMed Central articles. The mirror will not only improve access to the articles but (LOCKSS-like) improve its prospects for long-term preservation. This is the third mirror of the BMC corpus, after PubMed Central and the CNRS. BMC increases the LOCKSS effect even further with its new program allowing any user in the world to download a zipped copy of the entire corpus for the purpose of data mining.

The SSP list has a good discussion thread on the Sabo bill. Unfortunately, either the SSP list has no online archive or I can't find it. So it may be that the only way to follow this thread is to subscribe.

The LibLicense list currently has several good discussion threads on open access: one on open access and membership costs (dues to professional societies), one on paying for open access, one on monopolies in scholarly publishing, and several on the Sabo bill.

The July 11 issue of Library Journal has a short piece on the Lofgren bill. Excerpt: "The plan would work on two fronts: if copyright owners do not pay the fee [$1 after 50 years and every 10 years thereafter up to a maximum of the author's life plus 70 years], the work enters the public domain, meaning that libraries and others would be free to make the work available in digital editions. If the copyright owner does pay the fee, the information is on file, thus making the permissions process more easily managed. This is especially important to librarians. Experts estimate that after 50 years from the time of publication, 98 percent of copyrighted materials are no longer providing any economic benefit to copyright holders. At the press conference to introduce the bill, Lofgren specifically acknowledged the support of the library community." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Michael Day, Prospects for institutional e-print repositories in the United Kingdom, The ePrints UK Project, no. 1, v. 1.0 (May 28, 2003). The first of four studies on the development of eprint archives in the UK. Michael Day welcomes comments at . 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."

One of the new internet regulations in Saudi Arabia: "Users must be guided to use the Internet in a positive manner that is consistent with Islamic teachings and government laws. They should avoid anything that infringes on the regulations for public Internet usage which include: Material that violates Islamic Shariah in principle or in fact as well as anything that abuses the sacredness of Islam and its teachings; material used to exchange information, either sending or receiving, that contradicts Islam or Saudi government laws; material that runs counter to public security; material that propagates destructive ideas or the spread of anything that might be a danger to public order or that might lead to disunity among citizens; material that advocates crime, calls for it or stimulates it in any way as well as anything that advocates an assault or attack on others in any form and material that involves the exploitation of individuals."