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If you missed Harold Varmus on the Charlie Rose show Thursday (8/7/03) talking about open access to medical research, you can order a tape of the show. However, it will cost you $29.95, plus $5.00 for shipping, and half the tape will be devoted to the California governor's race.
The NSF recently hosted a workshop on Post Digital Library Futures or what some participants called "Ubiquitous Knowledge Environments" (Chatham, Massachusetts, June 15-17, 2003). The proceedings are not yet online, but each participant was asked to write a background paper, and the collection of background papers is now online. (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.)
Philipp Grätzel has has a strongly worded but obscurely argued rejection of PLoS and the Sabo bill in today's Ärzte Zeitung (in German). The gist of the criticism is that PLoS is carrying on a "vendetta" against high-ranking scientists because --here the argument is difficult to discern-- it supports not only journals but also legislation. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)
Harold Varmus was on the Charlie Rose show last night talking about open access to medical research. I swear that when I visited the site yesterday, it didn't say when he'd be on. So I missed it. If you saw it, please post your thoughts to our forum. If you're like me, at least there will be a tape available soon.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, The anarchy and oligarchy of science, Part 3 in a 5-part series for Open Democracy on The new information ecosystem: cultures of anarchy and closure. Siva depicts science from the angle of copyright and patent law. Here's how he introduces the open-access movement: "The absurd copyright economy forces scientists to assign all rights to a major commercial journal publisher for no remuneration, then buy back the work through monopolistic subscriptions. As a result, many scientists are forming free and open collaborations to distribute peer-reviewed scientific literature outside the traditional commercial journal system."
Oxford University Press has announced that one of its high-impact journals is making an experimental conversion to open access. Excerpt from today's press release: "Oxford University Press (OUP) is initiating an Open Access experiment with one of its flagship journals, Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), recently listed by ISI as one of the top ten 'hottest' journals of the decade in biology and biochemistry. This initiative is in response to calls from the academic community to make research freely available online without the barrier of a subscription to access. NAR will adopt an author-funded publishing model for a key section of the journal (the annual Database Issue published in January 2004), with these papers being freely available online from the moment they are published. If successful, the rest of the journal would gradually move to an open access model over a transitional period of 4-5 years, at which point all research published in NAR would be funded in such a way." Kudos to OUP for this trying this experiment!
Today's New York Times has an editorial supporting open access and the Public Library of Science (free registration required). Excerpt: "Several years ago Dr. Varmus's group [PLoS] issued an open letter, signed by some 30,000 colleagues, calling on the publishers of scientific journals to make their archived research articles freely available online. Most journals declined, so they would not undercut the profitable business of selling expensive subscriptions to libraries. But there is a basic inequity when much of the research has been financed by public money."
Ross Anderson of the UK Foundation for Information Policy Research has written an analysis of the EU's draft copyright directive. He concludes that it would harm the communications industry, universities, libraries, the disabled, free software, free trade within Europe, competition, liberty, privacy, and culture.
ARL and SPARC have issued a public statement supporting open access to federally funded research. Excerpts:
Theresa Graham, Electronic access to and the preservation of heritage materials, The Electronic Library, 21, 3 (2003) pp. 223-226. Only this abstract is free online: "This paper gives a brief introduction to the Heritage Collection at Auckland City Libraries in New Zealand and notes the significant public support and commitment given to the preservation of heritage material. What, as an institution of cultural identity, Auckland City Libraries are doing to ensure the ongoing preservation of and improved access to original heritage resources which are of national significance is outlined and some current and future projects are described."
Carol Hughes, eScholarship at the University of California: sustainable innovation for open access, a presentation at the ongoing IFLA General Conference in Berlin. Abstract: "This presentation describes the history of the University of California eScholarship program, a joint effort of the University of California Libraries in collaboration with the California Digital Library. It discusses the context that gave rise to the creation of the eScholarship repository, the logistical issues involved in setting up a multi-campus persistent repository for scholarly output, and future issues to be addressed in developing experimental reconfigurations of the components of scholarly communication in collaboration with communities of scholars." (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)
Lincoln Caplan, Censoring Science, LegalAffairs, July/August 2003. Excerpt: "The Bush Administration is treating American universities as if they can't be trusted to make their own judgments about restricting sensitive information, but the responsibility of balancing security and openness isn't a new one for academics. Ever since the Manhattan Project, centers of research have been required to weigh the interests of science and of national security cautiously and work with the government to guard both. Before September 11, the government had respected the vigilance of universities by establishing what scientists call 'high walls' around only 'narrow areas' of research. Since then, the Administration has recalibrated the balance between security and liberty in this country, shifting the fulcrum in favor of security. But the lesson of SARS is that global security depends on allowing scientists to benefit from a free flow of ideas and from the easy cooperation of experts from home and abroad. After all, had the Chinese government not restricted the free flow of information within its borders, SARS might have been contained long before it became a global problem. Keeping secrets shouldn't be contagious."
Jonathan Zittrain, The Copyright Cage, LegalAffairs, July/August 2003. A judicious look at copyright extremism and thoughts on how to remedy it. Excerpt: "It's time for us to wise up and to redraw copyright's boundaries so that the law and reasonable public expectations fall into better alignment with one another. To be sure, this may require more, rather than less, subtlety. We should treat protections for computer software in a different way than music, for example, and lengthy copyright terms should be available only to those who bother to check in with the Copyright Office every few years. But we do ourselves a disservice by fixating on current income structures and not thinking about future possibilities premised on amazing technological advances, especially when the rights at issue concern the flows of ideas, something fundamental to free societies."
Jeff Chester and Steven Rosenfeld, Stealing The Internet, TomPaine.com, August 4, 2003. A dark vision of diminishing freedom of the internet. But the authors are not paranoids. Chester is the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy and Rosenfeld is an editor and producer for TomPaine.com. Excerpt: "The Internet's early promise as a medium where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged and the public interest can be served is increasingly being relegated to history's dustbin. Today, the part of the Net that is public and accessible is shrinking, while the part of the Net tied to round-the-clock billing is poised to grow exponentially." (Thanks to LIS News.)
Gene J. Koprowski, The Future of Human Knowledge: The Semantic Web, TechNews World, July 28, 2003. Excerpt: "Some serious computer scientists, although cautious about the promise of the Semantic Web, are ultimately optimistic that it will be everything developers are hoping for -- an online source for all of the knowledge humanity has created in science, business and the arts."
David Prosser just sent me the text of his article from the July issue of Serials (see previous entry). Here's the abstract, which the journal does not make accessible to non-subscribers: "The basic model for scholarly communication in science and technology has remained unchanged for over three hundred years, with the journal playing the central role. However, over the past thirty years there has been growing concern as journal prices have increased faster than library budgets and fewer and fewer readers have had access to the journals they need, leading to the well-documented 'serials crises'. The widespread introduction of the internet in the 1990s has resulted in some improvements in communication, with readers being able to access papers at their desks rather than having to visit the library. Also, with site licences and consortia deals the downward trend in readers has been reversed. However, the fundamental problem remains - the rate of increase in cost to libraries for electronic access continues to be greater than the increase in library budgets. This paper will show how by harnessing the power of the internet, authors will be able to distribute their work to all interested readers - not just those lucky enough to have a subscription. It will describe how universities can take responsibility for archiving their intellectual wealth and making it more widely available. Finally, the paper will show how the adoption of institutional repositories and open access journals could bring about a change in the financial model of journal publishing, bringing cost savings to society and improving communications, while still preserving the important functions of peer-review."
Rick Weiss, A Fight for Free Access To Medical Research, Washington Post, August 5, 2003. A good profile of the Public Library of Science. Excerpt: "Why is it, a growing number of people are asking, that anyone can download medical nonsense from the Web for free, but citizens must pay to see the results of carefully conducted biomedical research that was financed by their taxes?...It remains to be seen whether the newly bubbling discontent among citizens and politicians will boil over into a full-blown coup, fulfilling scientists' longstanding goal of democratizing the scientific publication enterprise. But whether it succeeds or fails, historians of science say, the effort is a remarkable social experiment in itself....For scientists, the benefits would extend well beyond being able to read scientific papers for free. Unlike their ink-on-paper counterparts, scientific papers that are maintained in open electronic databases can have their data tables downloaded, massaged and interlinked with databases from other papers, allowing scientists to compare and build more easily on one another's findings." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)
The July issue of Serials contains a good number of relevant articles. Unfortunately, not even abstracts are accessible to non-subscribers.
Jan Velterop, Public funding, public knowledge, publication, Serials, 16, 2 (July 2003) pp. 169-174. (Accessible only to subscribers.) Abstract: "The argument that publicly funded research should be publicly available is a valid one, but it cannot be the most important one in the discussion as to whether research should be freely accessible. The overriding argument is that freely accessible research optimises the scientific process as well as its ‘translation’ into societal benefits. Free access, or ‘open access’ as it is widely called, can be brought about by making full use of the technologies available to the world, particularly the internet, but it does need a change in traditional economic models of publishing."
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has always been a major supplier of open-access literature (250,000 titles, 32 million downloads every month). But now it will supply fewer print editions of the same titles. As part of a larger move to save money and refocus the agency on electronic-only publication, it will close the 13 GPO bookstores located outside Washington DC.
The August issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter mailed today. In addition to news and bibliography from the past month, it explores how the major open-access initiatives define "open access" and how we ought to define it.
Samuel Trosow, Copyright Protection for Federally Funded Research: Necessary Incentive or Double Subsidy? A preprint of the first scholarly article I've seen defending the Sabo bill. Trosow is on the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Excerpt: "Sabo’s Public Access to Science Act is an important attempt to place the unresolved yet increasingly pressing issue of public access to federally subsidized works on the policy agenda. In assessing the impacts of the Sabo Bill on the values underlying copyright policy, it is best to focus on two related questions: will the bill promote the progress of science, and how will the bill affect the incentive structure for the production of scholarly works? In the case of federally funded research, incentives have been provided to the author in advance, in the form of the research grant itself. To provide the same copyright protections that apply to a work made without this support constitutes a double subsidy. On the other hand, the limitations on open public access that results from copyrights held by private publishers are an unreasonable loss to expect the public to bear."
More about the editorial in BMJ, on charging for access from 2005: Richard Smith, one of the co-authors of the editorial, has added two additional rapid responses: The BMJ will experiment with the "author pays" model, and, Different models of "author pays".
The new issue of Ubiquity interviews Clifford Lynch on CNI, his career, and the many issues faced by CNI over the past decade. After describing the open-access movement, the interviewer remarks, "If you had floated these ideas five years ago, people would have considered them on the fringe." Lynch's reply: "Yes, you would have been painted a communist or something. But no more. It's something that most journals are starting to deal with seriously. I was involved in putting together a symposium a few weeks ago at the National Academies looking at what electronic publishing was doing to the practices of scientific, medical and technical publishing. The question of how journals are going to respond to demands to open up their content was very much on the table. To be clear, this doesn't mean that all journals are signing on to the program; it means they are recognizing that they have to take a position with regard to the open scholarship program."
On Friday, the European Commission gave "conditional clearance" to the Candover and Cinden purchase of BertelsmannSpringer and its merger with Kluwer Academic Publishers. The EC's press release mentions two objections to the acquisition. First, it would create a monopoly in French medical publishing. C&C met this objection by divesting BertelsmannSpringer's French subsidiary, Groupe Impact Médicine. Second, the journal market prevents true competition. There are many "must have" journals and "[u]niversities depend on the information provided in such journals and cannot afford to cancel subscriptions without loosing [sic] access to the most recent issues discussed in the academic community. A further feature of the market are considerable annual price rises for more than a decade." However, the EC dismissed this objection in light of "the heterogeneity of journals and books published in different scientific disciplines and the heterogeneous nature of these books and journals even if published within a discipline". News coverage. (PS: The U.S. Justice Department has still not ruled on the acquisition and merger.)
Vivien Marx, In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever, New York Times, August 3, 2003. A generally good profile of DSpace and the larger open-access movement. Excerpts: "[J]ust as e-mail dealt a blow to snail mail, digital archives are retooling scholarly exchange. A number of universities, from the California Institute of Technology to M.I.T., are creating 'institutional repositories' designed to harness their own intellectual output. M.I.T.'s archive, perhaps the most ambitious, is called DSpace....Institutional repositories are novel in that much of their content sidesteps academic publishers, which have come under attack from the so-called open-access movement. Some scholars complain that journals delay publication of research and limit the audience because of their soaring costs. The Association of Research Libraries says library costs on journals rose 210 percent from 1986 to 2001 -- an average year's subscription might cost $5,000, with some as high as $15,000." (PS: Marx says that PLoS journals will be peer-reviewed, but then quotes Jeffrey Drazen of the New England Journal of Medicine complaining essentially that open-access literature is not peer reviewed. By giving Drazen the last word, she leaves the impression that PLoS must be an exception. Unfortunately, mistakes like that in high-profile articles negate whatever was accurate and valuable in the rest of the article.)