Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 25, 2003

Michael J. Kurtz and seven co-authors, The NASA Astrophysics Data System: Sociology, Bibliometrics, and Impact, preprint of an article submitted to The Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. From the abstract: "The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), along with astronomy's journals and data centers, has developed a distributed on-line digital library which has become the dominant means by which astronomers search, access and read their technical literature. By combining data from the text, citation, and reference databases with data from the ADS readership logs we have been able to create Second Order Bibliometric Operators, a customizable class of collaborative filters which permits substantially improved accuracy in literature queries. Using the ADS usage logs along with membership statistics from the International Astronomical Union and data on the population and gross domestic product (GDP) we develop an accurate model for world-wide basic research where the number of scientists in a country is proportional to the GDP of that country, and the amount of basic research done by a country is proportional to the number of scientists in that country times that country's per capita GDP."

In a posting today to the AmSci forum (not yet archived) author Michael Kurtz says that Section 9 of this paper shows that "the entire cost of the journals is tiny compared with the efficiencies gained by having full electronic access to the literature in a discipline. In astronomy, where essentially every professional astronomer has had total electronic access to the entire journal literature for five or six years, the value of that access, in terms of increased efficiencies of research, is about twenty times the total production cost of the core journals."

Germany's DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, German Research Foundation) has launched the e-Publications Project (English translation). The project has two goals: (1) greater consortial bargaining power with journal publishers over prices and terms and (2) progress on open access. It cites MathNet, PhysNet, and GAP as German initiatives worth multiplying, and PubMed Central, eScholarship, and DSpace as American models worth emulating. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Starting with the current issue, the Journal of the Medical Library Association has adopted a new copyright policy. Here's how T. Scott Plutchak describes it in an accompanying editorial:

At their January 2003 meeting, the members of the MLA Board of Directors approved a motion to revise the copyright policy for the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA). As is the case with most scholarly journals, the JMLA routinely required authors to sign a form transferring all rights to the association. Late last summer, that policy was challenged by several MLA members who pointed out that it was somewhat contradictory that at a time when we, as a profession, were urging the scholars that we serve to pay more attention to preserving their own copyrights, we, as a professional society, were still demanding that our own authors give up those rights.

During the fall, then, a new copyright policy was devised that acknowledges that JMLA authors retain the rights to their work. MLA is given the right of first publication and the right to republish the work in whatever fashion the JMLA may be republished in the future (for example, as part of an aggregated database). Individuals wishing to make copies of articles for educational, nonprofit purposes are still entitled to. But the authors are now free to make whatever further use of their work they wish, and, if some other person or entity wants to republish or make some other use of the work in the future, they need to get those permissions directly from the authors.

I am very grateful to the members of the JMLA editorial board, the chair and incoming chair of the publications committee, and MLA headquarters staff who helped craft the new policy. And I am especially grateful to those MLA members who challenged us to put our policy where our principles are. The new policy is posted on MLANET and takes effect with this issue.

Kudos to JMLA for this reform!

Andrew Albanese interviewed me for the July 24 issue of Library Journal Academic Newswire. Excerpt:

LJ: Let's first address the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Is it important to tout the open access issue, as they are doing, to the general public through a public awareness campaign?

PS: If money and energy were very tight, there would be more important audiences to address with this message --for example, researchers, librarians, university administrators, professional societies, publishers, and foundations. But when we can, we should fight on all fronts at once and addressing the general public with this message does matter. First, there are many fairly obvious ways that Congress and federal funding agencies can help the cause of open access. One legitimate way to get their attention is to awaken voters. Second, taxpayers have a proper concern that their money be spent in the public interest. If their money supports research and publications to which they -- and the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and medical researchers working on their behalf-- have no access without a second payment, then they should be told that this happening. In the long run, taxpayer support for corrective measures may matter more than anyone else's. Third, the general public is the ultimate beneficiary of open access. I don't want to go over the top, but open access is not a small matter about the economics of journal publishing. It's about sharing knowledge, and sharing knowledge is one of the conditions of civilization. The general public should definitely be concerned about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Eugenio Pelizzari, Harvesting for Disseminating: Open Archives and Role of Academic Libraries, a preprint of an article to appear in The Acquisitions Librarian. Abstract: "The Scholarly communication system is in a critical stage, due to a number of factors. The Open Access movement is perhaps the most interesting response that the scientific community has tried to give to this problem. The paper examines strengths and weaknesses of the Open Access strategy in general and, more specifically, of the Open Archives Initiative, discussing experiences, criticisms and barriers. All authors that have faced the problems of implementing an OAI compliant e-print server agree that technical and practical problems are not the most difficult to overcome and that the real problem is the change in cultural attitude required. In this scenario the university library is possibly the standard bearer for the advent and implementation of e-prints archives and Open Archives services. To ensure the successful implementation of this service the Library has a number of distinct roles to play."

Lisa Krieger profiles the Public Library of Science in the July 23 Mercury News. Excerpt: "A new kind of science experiment is brewing in San Francisco. This venture, called the Public Library of Science, aims to revolutionize how research findings are made public, making studies easier to find and less expensive to read. Not some late-night scheme of lab geeks, the library is the brainchild of some of the nation's most reputable scientists, funded by a $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Its chairman is Dr. Harold Varmus, former chief of the National Institutes of Health. Thirteen Nobel-winning scientists are among its board members and supporters....The Moore Foundation jumped at the chance to offer its support, excited by the prospect that scientists could use the library to incorporate data from research publications into their own databases, reorganize it and then map connections." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Jean-Claude Guédon, Open Access Archives: from scientific plutocracy to the republic of science, IFLA Journal, 29, 2 (2003) pp. 129-140. Excerpt: "The recent history of science has been characterized not only by a transition from science to ‘Big Science’, to use Derek de Solla Price’s terminology, but also by a deep transformation which, in retrospect, threatens to subvert the original values of modern science. Originally, science appeared as an offspring of the ‘Republic of Letters’, and as such, it belonged to a certain elite: the social structure of Europe in the late Renaissance would have made any other arrangement most unlikely. However, inside the scientific playground, elitism gave way to a peer-to-peer mode of behaviour."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

According to the Latest update from BioMed Central, Potsdam University in Germany will host a mirror archive of all of BioMed Central's open access research articles. This archive will be in addition to those already available via PubMed Central of the US National Library of Medicine and INIST of the CNRS in France.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The journal Physiological Genomics has adopted the Prosser method of offering open access. Quoting its web site: "Starting July 1, 2003, authors can choose to pay a $1500 fee to have their article published online with Open Access from the first date of publication or choose to pay no author fees and leave their article under Subscription Access. Open Access means that those online articles are completely free to any person or any library. All online content associated with the article (text, figures, supplemental material) is freely accessible." (PS: The $1500 fee is evidently based on the PLoS precedent. The Prosser method does not specify the size of the processing fee required to pay for open access dissemination. I'd like to hear about any other journals that adopt the Prosser method, or about the experience of any author who proposes the Prosser method to a journal.)

Paul Uhlir, Draft Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Public Domain Information, UNESCO. Background to this document: "In keeping with 29 C/Resolution 28 of the UNESCO General Conference in 1997, which invited the Director-General to undertake action 'to facilitate access to information in the public domain with the ultimate aim of building up a general electronic repository of all information of a public nature relevant to UNESCO’s fields of competence', the UNESCO Secretariat initiated the present draft guidelines intended to define, and promote understanding and debates on, the meaning of the public domain of information, and to assist Member States to develop policies and strategies in this area, which respond both to national needs and international practices." Comments on this draft should be sent to UNESCO's John Rose at j.rose [at]

The presentations from the Symposium on the Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain (Washington, D.C., September 5-6, 2002) are now online.

The AAU has made public its reservations about the Sabo bill. Excerpt: "AAU strongly supports what we understand to be the objective of this legislation: to enhance public access to the results of federally funded scientific research. However, we believe that the denial of copyright protection for publications resulting from federally funded research, the primary tool contained in the bill, not only is unnecessary for the achievement of this objective but also may prove quite harmful to the nation's research enterprise...."

JISC and OSI are looking for someone to "undertake a survey...of authors of academic journal articles, comparing the experience of authors who publish on 'open access' with those who do not." Proposals are due September 23, 2003.

A German court ruled on Friday that deep links are lawful. The court recognized the value of deep linking to the full and free use of the internet and the fact that newspapers and other content vendors that dislike deep links can take steps to block them.

This fall, Amazon plans to launch a free search engine for non-fiction books. Users could search on any term across the range of books from cooperating publishers. The return list would show which books contained the term, with one sentence of context per hit. Registered users could then request to see several pages of context. The software would strictly limit how much context any single user could see. The plan requires a full-text electronic edition of each book in the index and Amazon is apparently willing to pay for scanning the books that do not already exist in electronic form. While many publishers are cautiously consenting to the plan, a representative of the Authors Guild asserts that authors will deserve compensation for giving readers this peek at their work.