Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, October 03, 2003

Still stifling after all these years

The EFF has released an update of its DMCA report, Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Excerpt from Section 3 on Free Expression and Scientific Research: "Section 1201 is being used by a number of copyright owners to stifle free speech and legitimate scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten's team of researchers, and prosecution of the Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled a variety of legitimate activities. Bowing to DMCA liability fears, online service providers and bulletin board operators have begun to censor discussions of copy-protection systems, programmers have removed computer security programs from their websites, and students, scientists and security experts have stopped publishing details of their research on existing security protocols. Foreign scientists are increasingly uneasy about traveling to the United States out of fear of possible DMCA liability, and certain technical conferences have begun to relocate overseas." There follows a depressingly long list of annotated and documented examples.

ALPSP awards recognize open access

ALPSP has announced the ALPSP Awards for 2003. Open-access publications did very well. The award for Publishing Innovation went to The AfCS - Nature Signaling Gateway, the open-access experiment from Nature. All four nominees on the shortlist for this award were also open access. The award for Service to Not-for-Profit Publishing went to HighWire Press, Stanford's publishing-portal for society journals, including a large number of open-access journals. Some of the ALPSP awards, such as Ann Okerson's for Services to Publisher/Library Relations, were announced in August as part of the Charleston Advisor Reader's Choice Awards.

Trapping innocent file sharers

Will Knight, Innocent file-sharers could appear guilty, NewScientist, October 1, 2003. Excerpt: "The anonymous paper, Entrapment: Incriminating Peer to Peer Network Users, was posted to a free Australian web hosting service and suggests some users could claim that the evidence on which they are brought to trial is flawed. Experts contacted by New Scientist say the paper is a credible piece of work." (Thanks to Chuck Hamaker.) (PS: If this can happen to innocent P2P music sharers, then it can happen to innocent P2P scholarship sharers.)

More on the Cathy Davidson article

If you missed yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education colloquy on Cathy Davidson's article on the scholarly publication crisis in the humanities, the transcript is now online. (Accessible only to CHE subscribers.) Several threads of the conversation are OA-related. The two most relevant are one on arXiv equivalents in the humanites and one on David Shulenburger's NEAR proposal. Unfortunately, Davidson offers bogus objections to both --that people don't like reading subtle or complicated material online and that "given current directions in both copyright and patent decisions in the U.S., I fear [Shulenburger's] plan might not be realistic in the present climate."

Should trade embargoes apply to scholarship?

The US-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has 350,000 members worldwide, including 2,000 members in Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and the Sudan. Because the US has a trade embargo against these nations, the IEEE has felt obliged to deny these members all the goods and services prohibited by US trade laws. This has meant blocking these members from reading the IEEE online journals and barring editors of IEEE journals from editing their papers. As the IEEE reads US trade laws, it could accept papers from these members but could not edit them, since editing was a "service" that falls under the trade embargo. Six other international scientific and engineering societies contacted by the Chronicle of Higher Education did not read the law the same way, and edited accepted papers by any author.

Last December the IEEE asked the US Treasury Department to clarify the law on this point, and the clarification came down on Wednesday. The IEEE was right: editing is verboten. The only concession allowed by the Treasury Department is that journals may apply for a license to edit papers from the embargoed countries. For more details, see Lila Guterman, U.S. Policy Restricts Scientific Publishing by Researchers in Countries Under Trade Embargo, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 2, 2003. The article is accessible only to CHE subscribers (free online excerpts).

(PS: I can't find the Treasury Department letter at the IEEE or Treasury web sites. If you can, please let me know. I'd also like to know what an organization must promise in order to receive a US government license to edit scientific or scholarly papers by citizens of embargoed countries. Finally, I'd like to hear from US journals that violate the embargo in this way. Do you plan to change your policies? What consequences, if any, have you suffered for putting academic freedom ahead of the trade embargo?)

Update. The Chronicle has made Guterman's article freely available at a new URL.

Oxford UP launches an open-access initiative

Oxford University Press announced today that it will provide open access to articles published in OUP journals, written by Oxford University authors, and stored in the Oxford institutional repository. Quoting Martin Richardson, director of the OUP Journals Division: "I am delighted that we are the first publisher to become involved in this innovative project. Access to our online journals corpus will provide a substantial collection of high quality scholarly research across a broad range of disciplines, facilitating investigations into some key technical, economic and cultural issues surrounding the creation of institutional repositories." The project is a partnership of OUP, Oxford University Library Services, and Project SHERPA. The Oxford repository will be built with the open-source eprints software. When it opens later this year, you can find it here, but currently this link is dead. Meantime for more information see the press release.

Blackwell president on open access

Richard Poynder interviews Blackwell President Bob Campbell in the September issue of Information Today. Excerpt:
Q: What about existing threats?
A: Obviously, there is the open access debate, which gets muddled up with other issues. In fact, open archives should be viewed as complementary to traditional journals.
Q: So you have no problem with academics archiving their papers, so long as they carry on publishing with you?
A: Right.
Q: I guess you see greater threat from initiatives like the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which plans soon to launch a new author-funded journal [PLoS Biology]?
A: Right. PLoS has $9 million in funding and some very good people. Clearly, they will be trying to get good papers and to establish the credibility of their new model.
Q: David Prosser has been pushing a plan for the partial or gradual conversion of conventional journals to open access, where an author offers to pay an upfront fee in exchange for the journal providing open access to that author's article....Would Blackwell journal editors be free to follow this model if they wanted?
A: If we see a new way of disseminating research, we obviously want to learn about it and maybe do it. Indeed, we have talked to several societies about this, but none of them are that keen to try itó[not] yet at least.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

October issue of SPARC Open Access Newsletter

I just mailed the October 2 issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. It has a piece on the Wellcome Trust commitment to open access, how and why to distinguish open access from "Napster for science", the reauthorization of ERIC, upcoming OA-related events in October, and the usual round-up of news and bibliography from the past month.

Good article on bad information

Stephen Adams, Information Quality, Liability, and Corrections, Information Today, Sept/Oct 2003. A fascinating overview of the many kinds of bad information and the damage they can cause. Adams doesn't directly discuss open access, but there are implications worth investigating. For example, he reports that errors not caught by peer review are often caught by periodic consolidation of primary sources into secondary and tertiary sources. However, "[a]ccess to primary literature is now so easy and so powerful that users are tempted to merely re-run searches against a primary source at regular intervals instead of utilizing the slower process of independent data consolidation." One consequence may be that users notice fewer errors, corrections, and retractions. This is a variation on a larger theme --that users of primary literature aren't reaping the value of secondary literature, which goes beyond error correction to juxtaposition, comparison, connection, and perspective. But if primary sources are usually give-away and secondary sources usually are not, then open access will tend to be limited to the primary. The lesson (once again) is that for the foreseeable future we cannot afford to assume that if it's not free online then it's not worth reading.

Four years of open-access social science

Katja Mruck, "Four Years of Publishing FQS as an Example for Social Science Open Access Journals", FQS, 4, 3 (September 2003). An editorial in FQS (Forum Qualitative Sozialforshung) introducing a special issue devoted to Doing Bibliographical Research. The full-text is available only in German, but here's an excerpt from the English-language abstract: "In addition to the contributions to the new issue 'Doing Biographical Research,' the current state of FQS is briefly reviewed. FQS is also discussed as an example for social science open access journals, being part of the open access initiatives which aim to make scientific information accessible worldwide free of cost." (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Digitization and sharing

The presentations from a meeting at the Bibliothèque nationale de France on digitization and sharing (Marseilles, July 3, 2003) are now online. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

More on the Wellcome Trust

BioMed Central has issued a press release describing the Wellcome Trust position statement as a "huge boost to open access". Excerpt: "This announcement follows the decision in September by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to cover the cost of article charges for their researchers. With two pre-eminent funding bodies now offering significant support, and promising to cover publication charges, it is clear that open access publishing is set to become the way of the future."

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Student use of free and priced content

A discussion thread has started at LIS News on the competition for student eyeballs between free internet sources and content licensed by libraries.

More on the Wellcome Trust statement

Stephen Pincock, Wellcome support for open access, The Scientist, October 1, 2003. A good backgrounder --that happens to quote me: "When the Wellcome Trust decides to support open-access publishing, that's a strong endorsement of open access that should carry weight with holdouts who are intrigued by the promise of open access, but undecided about its economics. It also means that a lot of important medical research in the near future will be openly accessible, which is very good news for the acceleration of progress, growth of knowledge, sharing of results, and treatment of patients."

NIH roadmap

The NIH announced yesterday a $2 billion program to accelerate medical research. Excerpt from the New York Times coverage: "Dr. Zerhouni said he wanted to speed the development of new drugs by creating a public collection of hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds that could be tested by scientists, with advanced technology now available only to pharmaceutical companies. Data from testing such compounds would go into 'a freely accessible public database', Dr. Zerhouni said." For more details, see the NIH press release

Profile of Eva Harris

The September 30 New York Times profiles Eva Harris, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Berkeley and the "Robin Hood of biotechnology". She starts with expensive, sometimes patented processes, such as synthesizing phosphorous buffered saline or purifying DNA for polymerase chain reaction processing. Then she finds cheap and public-domain ways to get the same results, and shares this knowledge in books and directly with scientists in developing nations. (Thanks to Terry Foreman.)

New q-bio archive at arxiv

On September 15, arXiv added a new archive on quantitative biology, coordinated by Terry Hwa and Michael Lässig. Quoting Terry Hwa: "It will help biology by indirectly guiding physicists to work on problems of direct biological relevance. It will enrich physics by providing a fresh, steady supply of interesting but complex phenomena arising in biology....At the moment, q-bio papers are published in at least a dozen different journals, many of which are not regularly read by a large fraction of q-bio archive subscribers. It is very difficult to get a picture or keep updated of progress of any given subject. I believe the archive will make q-bio into a coherent field with a cohesive community." (Thanks to Charles Choi in The Scientist.)

Another PLos Biology preview

The Duke University Chronicle has a piece on the paralysis research of Duke researcher Miguel Nicolelis. Excerpt: "Next week, he anticipates, the fledgling Public Library of Science Journal [PLoS Biology], meant to compete 'head to head' with the well-established Science and Nature journals, will debut exciting preliminary clinical data on neuroprosthetic devices that can be controlled simply by thinking about [them]."

Institutional Affiliates of JMIR

The Journal of Medical Internet Research, (JMIR) has recently announced support for "Institutional Affiliates". Plan A, designed for smaller institutions, costs 790 USD per year. In Plan A, upfront article processing fees (APFs, normally 500 USD per article) are waived for up to two submissions per year, with a 20% fee reduction for subsequent submissions. Plan B, designed for larger institutions, costs 1190 USD per year. In Plan B, APFs are waived for an unlimited number of submissions from authors affiliated with the institution.

Economics of scientific research publishing

Here are some more details on Economic Analysis of Scientific Research Publishing report released today by Wellcome Trust. (The cover date is January 2003, but the report was released today.) On its web site the Trust says that "[t]he findings of this report contributed to [its] position statement in support of Open Access Publishing." The final section of the report contains conclusions, possible future scenarios, and an important list of nine "interventions" (pp. 31-32) that foundations could make in the journal market in order to promote open access. The Wellcome Trust is the world's largest private funder of medical research.

Wellcome Trust supports open access

Here are a few more details on the open-access position statement issued today by Wellcome Trust. Excerpts: "The Trust has a fundamental interest in ensuring that neither the terms struck with researchers, nor the marketing and distribution strategies used by publishers (whether commercial, not-for-profit or academic) adversely affect the availability and accessibility of this material [produced by its research grants]....The Wellcome Trust therefore supports open and unrestricted access to the published output of research, including the open access model (defined [elsewhere in the statement]), as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit to be encouraged wherever possible."

The Trust now supports the launch of new OA journals and repositories, promises its grantees that it will pay the processing fees charged by OA journals, and encourages authors to retain copyright and make their work openly accessible whenever possible. The Wellcome Trust is the largest and most influential player yet to take these important steps.

Wellcome Trust boost for Open Access

A new report published today by the UK's leading biomedical research charity reveals that the publishing of scientific research does not operate in the interests of scientists and the public, but is instead dominated by a commercial market intent on improving its market position. In an accompanying position statement the Trust makes it clear that it 'supports open and unrestricted access to the published output of research, including the open access model as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit to be encouraged wherever possible.'

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Improved RSS feed

The Open Access News RSS feed now supports titles and bylines. I gladly give public thanks to OAN contributor Mark Pilgrim for the script revisions that made it possible. Thank you, Mark!

MIT open course list hits 500

Yesterday MIT reached the first goal of its OpenCourseWare project by offering open access to all the materials for 500 MIT courses. This milestone was reached one year after the project launched. (Thanks to

Monday, September 29, 2003

OAI-rights project launched

Today the Open Archives Initiative and Project RoMEO launched the OAI-Rights project, whose mission is to develop an extensible, OAI-compliant, machine-readable method of expressing rights about metadata and online content. The Creative Commons licenses are "a motivating and deployable example." The project team describes its task and some technical issues in a September 26 white paper.

Banned newspaper moves online

In a textbook case of the international internet circumventing national censorship, the only independent newspaper in Zimbabwe, The Daily News, banned last week by the national government, has decided to move to the internet. The staff will work from Johannesburg, South Africa. (Thanks to Jemima Kiss in Dot.Journalism.)

Open-access experiment from COB

The Company of Biologists announced today that all three of its journals will offer a year-long experiment with open access starting in January 2004. COB is adopting what I call the Walker-Prosser model in which authors of accepted papers have the option to buy open access to them by paying the journal's expenses in conducting peer review and preparing the electronic editions. For some initial period, COB will even subsidize the processing fee. For authors who do not choose the immediate open-access option, COB still provides open access after a six-month embargo. (PS: Kudos to COB for this taking this step. In my view, the Walker-Prosser method is the best way for journal publishers to learn the methods and economics of open-access publishing and make an informed decision about full-scale conversion.)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Praise from Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor's column today cites our blog as an example of one of the "good guys" or "builders and problem solvers" on the web. Thanks, Dan!