Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Lessig on the BBC and the WIPO meeting

Lawrence Lessig, The BBC's lessons for America, Financial Times, September 8, 2003. Lessig congratulates the BBC for the brilliant decision to make its Creative Archive (not yet online) of digitized TV and radio productions free for non-commercial use and priced for commercial use. The BBC has already recouped its expenses on these productions, and the people who paid for them are among those who will now have free online access. Free access not only gives back to donors and the wider culture, it advertises the material to commercial firms that might license it and generate new revenue for the BBC. Lessig then turns to the US, which hasn't shown such creative thinking thinking about the commons recently. He castigates Lois Boland, director of international relations for the US Patent and Trademark Office, for trying to kill the WIPO meeting on open-source software, open-access journals, and related "open and collaborative projects to create public goods". Her objections were ignorant of the nature of open-source software, ignorant of copyright law, ignorant of the WIPO mission, and designed to favor one industry over the public interest.

From the editor of CMAJ

In the (openly-accessible) Sep. 30 issue of CMAJ, there's an editorial by John Hoey, entitled toll-free no more. Two excerpts: "Any restriction to access seems to us a step in the wrong direction", and, "It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to find new economic models for scientific publishing, perhaps building the costs of disseminating knowledge into the publicly supported costs of research".

Connexions project

The Connexions Project produces open-access content for online education and facilitates its collaborative development. Browse the extensive Content Commons to see what is already developed and available, and check out the open-source tools. (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.)

Philosophers discuss open access

Philosophers are discussing high journal prices (low by STM standards) and open access. The discussion seems to have started in late September when Brian Weatherson posted some philosophy journal prices to his blog. Comments to the posting criticized the high price of Synthese ($1,652/year for institutions, $70 for individuals, from Kluwer). This elicited a detailed and undefensive reply from John Symons, the Synthese editor, who has brought down the price during his tenure and considered open access. There are now further thoughts and comments on the Crooked Timber blog. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

New SPARC E-News

The August-September issue of SPARC E-News is now online. In addition to recent news, much of it about open access, this issue contains an article by David Prosser, director of SPARC Europe, Open Access in the U.K.: A Progress Report.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Nobel laureate defends freedom of scientific inquiry

"One of the two Americans who won this year's Nobel prize for chemistry [Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins University] said on Wednesday he may use some of his prize money to help defend academic freedoms against restrictions imposed on scientists as part of the U.S. war on terrorism." From Reuters, October 8, 2003.

Internet2 middleware

Ken Klingenstein, The Golden Age of Plywood, OCLC, October 3, 2003. A multimedia presentation on Internet2 middleware that supports collaborative projects in higher education.

More on whether trade embargoes should apply to scholarship

The Chronicle of Higher Education will host an online colloquy on the question Wednesday, October 15, at 11 a.m. ET. For background, read the Chronicle's open-access article from the October 17 issue, following up its toll-access article (free online excerpts) from last week.

Here's how the Chronicle frames the question for next Wednesday's discussion: "For nearly two years, the world's largest engineering association has placed restrictions on members who live in countries under a U.S. trade embargo, virtually rescinding those engineers' ability to publish research papers in the group's journals. Members have criticized the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, but it has said that U.S. trade regulations make it illegal to edit papers from engineers in those countries. Early this month, word came from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control that the IEEE was right: A special license is required to edit papers submitted by researchers in embargoed countries. While the IEEE looks forward to resuming editing once it is granted a license, questions remain about how the embargo will affect scientific publishing more broadly. Is it correct to consider the process of academic publishing a form of trade subject to regulation? Will the Treasury Department's policies impede the flow of scientific information and impinge on academic freedom? Does the IEEE shoulder some of the blame for the Treasury Department's decisions, since it asked the department for a clarification of the trade regulations?"

The colloquy guest will be Kenneth R. Foster, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania and IEEE member who has "sharply criticized" the IEEE for its treatment of members from embargoed nations.

Pat Schroeder on PLoS Biology launch

From her press release: "The Association of American Publishers welcomes the introduction of the Public Library of Science's (PLoS) first journal....Today, the PLoS joins thousands of publishers who already serve the global scientific and medical community. During the last decade, publishers invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make information more accessible to taxpayers and researchers. Content has been digitized; innovative licensing agreements have been created; in short, technology has already revolutionized the way we share knowledge. I'm interested to see if this experiment with author-paid publishing will work; for now, it's an unproven hypothesis."

OAI static repository spec

Today the OAI released the beta edition of the OAI Static Repository Specification. From the web site: "A Static Repository provides a simple approach for exposing relatively static and small collections of metadata records through the OAI-PMH.....A Static Repository is an XML file that is made accessible at a persistent HTTP URL. The XML file contains metadata records and repository information. A Static Repository becomes accessible via OAI-PMH through the intermediation of one Static Repository Gateway. A Static Repository Gateway uses the metadata records and repository information, provided via XML in the Static Repository, to process the six OAI-PMH requests for access to that information. Because a Static Repository Gateway maps a unique Static Repository base URL to each such Static Repository, harvesters can access a Static Repository in exactly the same manner as they access any other OAI-PMH Repository."

More on PLoS

Marydee Ojala, Intro to Open Access: The Public Library of Science, EContent Magazine, October 10, 2003. Excerpt: "PLoS advocates open access to scientific literature. Open access means scientific papers are available online, free of charge, with no restrictions on access or use. Oh, and one minor detail. Once your paper is accepted, you owe PLoS $1,500. That might sound outrageous outside the scientific community, but authors must pay to publish under the other two models as well --plus they give up their copyright and frequently discover their library can't afford a subscription to the journal in which they've published."

Ojala slips twice in this generally good introduction to OA for the audience that follows the news about the conventional publishing industry. (1) She writes that PLoS "strikes a middle ground between traditional peer-reviewed scientific publishing and self-publishing." Wrong. PLoS Biology will be peer-reviewed and all PLoS journals in the pipeline will be peer-reviewed. (2) She argues that the CC attribution license used by PLoS is equivalent to the public domain. "[I]t's hard to see what types of rights the copyright holder retains." No, it's not hard; it's spelled out in the license. Authors do not consent to the making or distribution of misattributed or unattributed copies of their work.

Inaugural issue of a new DL journal

Ian Witten, Customizing digital library interfaces with Greenstone, TCDL Bulletin, Summer 2003. Taking advantage of the flexibility of Greenstone, the open-source DL software. (PS: Not strongly OA-related, but it gives me a chance to cite something from the inaugural issue of the IEEE Technical Committee on Digital Libraries Bulletin.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Robert Walgate, PLoS Biology Launches, The Scientist, October 10, 2003. A good survey of opinion on the launch of PLoS Biology. Quoting Martin Raff, editor of the (competing) Journal of Biology from BioMed Central: "I think this will have a huge impact in getting people to think about open access and hopefully starting to publish that way. So it's a very good move."

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Eight library and public interest organizations have issued a press release drawing attention to the upcoming launch of PLoS Biology and praising the open-access publishing model. Quoting James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services at Columbia University and Chairman of SPARC: "PLoS has captured the imagination of scientists around the globe. The support it has garnered from leaders in biomedical research make it a potent symbol of the opportunity we have today to share scientific findings and propel innovation. The networked digital environment allows PLoS and similar initiatives to sustain the best features of traditional journal publishing but without perpetuating barriers to access and use. This is a milestone in the advancement of scholarly communication." The organizations behind the press release are the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), the Open Society Institute (OSI), Public Knowledge (PK), and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). (PS: Disclosure: I work for two of these organizations, PK and SPARC.)

Business details on an open-access mathematics journal

Ulf Rehmann, Documenta Mathematica: A Community-Driven Scientific Journal, High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, October 2003. Some history and business details about Documenta Mathematica, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of mathematics that charges no processing fees.

Open-source publishing tools

Chris Gulker, Opportunities for Open Source Software in the Publishing Industry, NewsForge, October 10, 2003. (PS: Every opportunity to reduce costs makes open access more attractive and sustainable.)

International Islamic Digital Library

The National Library of Malaysia will launch the International Islamic Digital Library this week at the summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Helen Pearson, Free science journal hits press, Nature, October 10, 2003 (free even for non-subscribers). Nothing new here, just a prominent alert that the launch is coming on Monday. At end end of this short article Pearson tells readers that PLoS Biology will be peer reviewed. But in the body of the article she juxtaposes open access with the views of some scientists who question the effectiveness of peer review, thereby leaving the false impression that the two topics are somehow connected. This is either sloppy writing or a cunning slur.

Return of the Anti-Feist

The Database and Collections of Information Misappropriations Act (H.R. 2361) was officially introduced in the House yesterday, co-sponsored by Representatives Coble (R-NC), Greenwood (R-PA), Hobson (R-OH), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep Smith (R-TX), and Tauzin (R-LA). The bill would give quasi-copyright protection to compilations of fact and make it a crime to copy and distribute them without permission. It would not balance this protection with fair use, limited term, or first sale, the important counterweights in standard copyright law. News coverage. Watch the video of the hearings on the bill (thanks to ResourceShelf) or follow the debate on the ALA page on the bill. (PS: Credit for the great phrase, return of the anti-Feist, goes to my Public Knowledge colleague, Mike Godwin. Feist is the 1991 Supreme Court case holding that telephone white pages are an unoriginal arrangement of uncopyrightable facts, and that copying them without permission is not infringement.)

Another copyright extremist behaving badly

Chapter 1: A digital security company called SunnComm (corporate motto, "Lightyears beyond encryption") releases an "advanced copy protection mechanism" to prevent users from copying music CDs. Chapter 2: Princeton doctoral student John ("Alex") Halderman discovers that if you hold down the shift key while inserting a CD, you bypass SunnComm's security routines. They never load and the disk is open for copying. Halderman posts his results online. Chapter 3: SunnComm is a laughingstock and loses $10 million in market value. Chapter 4 (unfortunately predictable ending): SunnComm announces that it will charge Halderman for the "possible felony" of distributing a circumvention device in violation of the DMCA. News coverage. (PS: Behind the music copying angle, the anti-circumvention angle, and the kill-the-messenger angle, notice that this is really an Edward Felten case. This is a story about using the DMCA to suppress scientific research into security systems. Felten, BTW, was one of Halderman's advisors on the project.)

Update. SunnComm has dropped its plan to prosecute Halderman. (PS: Either SunnComm would have won in court or it would have lost. If it had won, it would have exposed the DMCA as brutal and itself as a bully that used a bad law to suppress the truth about a bad product. If it had lost, then it would look even more foolish than it does now. The legal threat was lose-lose, and finally someone noticed.)

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Deep linking lawful in Germany

A German court has ruled that deep linking to news stories inside a newspaper does not violate the newspaper's copyright. The defendant, Paperboy, operated a news search engine. Even though it was victorious in court, its web site is offline. You can get a sense of what it was doing through these Wayback Machine snapshots. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Open music

Chris Ulbrich, Music Label Cashes in by Sharing, Wired News, October 8, 2003. On Magnatune and its "open music" business model which combines "shareware, open source and grass-roots activism". Magnatune allows free online access to all the music in its catalog, hoping that consumer sampling will encourage sales. When consumers do buy, fully half the price is paid to the artist as a royalty. The company's motto is "We are not evil."

More on the PMC journal scanning project

On Monday I posted a note about the journal scanning project at PubMed Central. While the participating journals would be freely accessible online --a huge step--, most would not permit more than fair use of their contents. On Monday I wondered whether I was reading the licensing terms correctly and said I would seek clarification. I've since written to PMC and received a good reply from Ed Sequeira, who has let me post it to the forum. On the main question, the answer is that most participating journals are not waiving any rights or permitting any uses not already permitted as fair use under copyright law. But the good news is that the scanning project will expand over time and include more journals, and that all PMC content will soon have an OAI-compliant interface, in which the open-access content can be distinguished from the rest.

Pro-OA letters to the editor

The Guardian has published five letters to the editor in response to David Adam's story on PLoS on October 6. All the letters support open access.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

New Learned Publishing

The October issue of Learned Publishing is now online. It has the following OA-related articles. Only the table of contents and abstracts are free online.

Objection to open-access journal funding model

John Ewing, 'Open access' will not be open to everyone, Nature, October 9, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). A letter to the editor in response to the Declan Butler article in the same issue (see the previous entry). Excerpt: "Each publication model --subscription-based or author-supported-- has trade-offs, but they are not symmetric trade-offs. When a scientist doesn't have a subscription, he or she can nonetheless get information about the article....When a scientist doesn't have the funds to publish an article, the article does not appear....Thatís more than an inconvenience."

(PS: Here's a short reply to Ewing's objection. First, PLoS, BMC, and other open-access journal publishers waive their processing fees in cases of economic hardship. Second, BMC offers institutional memberships, which are roughly equivalent to prepaid processing fees at a discounted price. We don't know yet whether PLoS will follow suit. Third, as Declan Butler noted, many foundations that fund research are willing to pay these fees for their grant recipients. They are willing to consider the cost of open-access dissemination to be part of the cost of research. Fourth, while some of these solutions will not work in disciplines that are not as well-funded as medicine (in Ewing's field of mathematics, for example, or mine, philosophy), that is no objection to using these solutions in the fields where they do work. The success of this business model in biomedicine is progress for biomedicine, and does not imply that the same model will be adopted without modification in (say) mathematics or philosophy. Sixth, when foundations do not pay these fees, universities can. Ewing notes that many universities cannot afford to do so, which is certainly true today. But he doesn't note that, if open access spreads, then every university will realize large savings from the cancellation, conversion, or demise of expensive subscription-based journals. The natural use for this savings is to support the less expensive and more beneficial open-access model of archiving and publication that made it possible. Finally, there are other ways to bring about open access to research articles that do not depend on having research grants, wealthy employers, or windfall savings in the library budget. The most important is eprint archiving, which authors can do on their own, and ought to do, right now.)

More on the imminent launch of PLoS Biology

Declan Butler, Scientific publishing: who will pay for open access?, Nature, October 9, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "Few people would disagree, in principle, with the ideal of open access. The question is whether the economics can be made to work. Employing peer review to sift through hundreds of manuscripts, and then editing the accepted ones into shape, can be an expensive business. Conventional publishers recoup these charging for access to the final product. PLoS aims to turn this 'reader-pays' model on its head, instead charging a 'dissemination fee' to to the authors of accepted papers....Grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health already allow for the charging of publication fees. Other bodies are moving in the same direction. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for example, has agreed to provide its investigators with up to $3,000 each in 2004 to cover open-access fees. On 1 October, Britain's Wellcome Trust announced that it, too, is prepared to meet the costs of open-access publishing....And German's main research agencies are expected to make a similar announcement later this month."

Ongoing conference on open access

Some of the presentations for the conference, La biblioteca digital y la nueva comunicación científica (Barcelona, October 8-10, 2003) are already online. The conference features presentations on open access by Jean-Claude Guédon, David Prosser, Miquel Térmens, Cristóbal Urbano, and Christopher Gutteridge, among others.

New Digital Document Quarterly

The new issue of Henry Gladney's Digital Document Quarterly is now online. The major feature in this issue is an article on what's missing from the Plan for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Reference linking principles

On October 3, NFAIS released its Guiding Principles: Reference Linking. The principles assert that publishers should link their own resources to one another; they should collaborate with other publishers to inter-link their resources; and users should expect and demand this. The main reason is that linking "[i]Increases the value and utility of each of the linked resources." According to the press release, "the NFAIS Board of Directors was unanimous in its acceptance of the Guiding Principles and that individual member endorsement has been very positive. NFAIS will continue to promote reference linking through other activities, and encourages anyone who has an interest to become actively involved in the NFAIS Information Linking Committee."

Monday, October 06, 2003

Back run project from PubMed Central

In May 2003 PubMed Central launched a major initiative to scan and provide free online access to the back issues of 21 biomedical journals. NLM will pick up the tab, including the cost of OCR on the scanned images to support full-text searching.

Note that I'm not calling this open access. Here's a statement from the project web site: "A participating journal gives NLM permanent rights to archive the scanned material and make it freely available to the public through PMC, subject to normal 'fair use' provisions of copyright law [emphasis added]. As with existing content in PMC, copyright for the scanned material remains with the publisher or with individual authors, as applicable." As I read this, users must ask the copyright holder's permission if they want to copy an entire article e.g. to print, share with a colleague, hand out to a class, or post online. If true, this is a rare case of removing price barriers but not permission barriers to a body of literature. Open access removes both. (Can anyone clarify the user rights to this literature? Is it just fair use or is it closer to open access? I'm trying to find out, but would appreciate any help.)

JISC strategy open for comment

JISC has put the first draft of its strategy online for public comment. JISC officials will discuss the comments at a November meeting and hope to release a final version by January 2004. Part of the strategy is a list of 30 policy objectives, of which #9 is "[t]o provide access to online resources (content) as broadly and widely as possible for all learners and researchers." Several of the other objectives are OA-related as well.

STM data in the public domain

The proceedings of the Symposium on the Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain (Washington, D.C., September 5-6, 2002) have now been published as a book from the National Academies Press. Like all books from the NAP, there is both a priced, printed version and a full-text, open-access version.

More on deep linking

Robert Berkman and Christopher Shumway, Copyright Issues Present Ongoing Dilemma: To Link or Not To Link?, Online Journalism Review, October 1, 2003. An excerpt from the authors' ethics textbook for online media professionals. It's useful at least for the many links to relevant literature and court cases. The only problem is that it presupposes readers who take the arguments against deep linking seriously. (PS: I'm not one of them. Every attempt to make deep linking look like copyright infringement strikes me as a bad joke.)

Proceedings from conference on open access

The proceedings from the conference, Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information: State of the Art and Future Trends (Paris, January 23-24, 2003) have been published in a special double-issue of Information Services and Use (Vol. 23, Nos. 2-3, 2003). Unfortunately, the journal only offers free online access to the table of contents and abstracts. (Did somebody think this through?) However, the conference web site gives free access to videos of each presentation. (PS: I hope the conference presenters will deposit the full-text of their presentations in their institutional archives or at least put them on their own web sites.)

The Milbank Quarterly

The Milbank Quarterly, a journal of public health and health care policy, is published by the Milbank Memorial Fund and Blackwell Publishing. The full text of one featured article per issue is openly accessible. In the Archive of Featured Articles, the featured article for September 2003 is On Being a Good Listener: Setting Priorities for Applied Health Services Research. The lead author is Jonathan Lomas, Executive Director of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation.

Demos is ten years old

Demos claims that it has become the "first 'open access' think tank". On Open Access Publishing: "To mark our tenth anniversary in 2003, Demos has created an online archive of its publications which can be accessed free on our website". And: "From now on, all Demos new publications can be downloaded from our website. We hope that publishing online will mean that our ideas travel more quickly and more widely".

New Open Access Now

The October 6 issue of Open Access Now is now online. This issue features an interview with Elizabeth Marincola on open access to society journals, summaries of open-access policy statements by the Russian Society of BioPsychiatry and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a profile of the Open Archives Initiative.

Another way to archive the net

Timo Burkard, Herodotus: A Peer-to-Peer Web Archival System, a master's thesis submitted to MIT in 2002. (Thanks to LIS News.) Distributed users donate unused CPU cycles and disk space to crawl the net and store its contents. Like LOCKSS, it uses duplicate copies to assure persistence. If every node could contribute 100 GB of storage, then (as of May 2002) Burkard estimated that it would take 20,000 nodes to archive the whole net. (PS: A quick Google search suggests that Burkard's idea has been cited but not implemented. Does anyone know of an implementation? If it was tried and found wanting, does anyone know how it fell short?)

More on PLoS Biology launch

David Adam, Scientists take on the publishers in an experiment to make research free to all, The Guardian, October 6, 2003. On the upcoming launch of PLoS Biology. Excerpt: "In the highly lucrative world of cutting-edge scientific research, it is nothing short of a revolution. A group of leading scientists are to mount an unprecedented challenge to the publishers that lock away the valuable findings of research in expensive, subscription-only electronic databases by launching their own journal to give away results for free."

Quoting Vivian Siegel, executive editor of PLoS: "The goal of this journal is to become the first destination for research in the life sciences and to compete head-on with the existing high-profile journals. It's about doing something you believe in rather than doing things the way everybody else does them and I think that's the hallmark of the best scientists." Quoting Alan Leshner, publisher of Science: "We're all scientists and we like experiments, well here's an experiment. And if it works then we'll all take the lessons from it." Quoting Jan Wilkinson, head librarian at the University of Leeds: "We need to get academics to recognise the craziness of what they've been doing. They do all this work and then they just hand it over for free, and then the publishers sell it back to us at these rip-off prices."

Jon Udell: Beyond linking: the challenge and opportunity of citation

Jon Udell has an interesting piece on the importance of developing appropriate technologies to enable citation among web based content. His article doesn't say it, but open access to all scholarly content would make the task of developing citation technologies much easier.

Update on opening up the BBC archive

The UK Guardian newspaper has anupdate on opening up the BBC archive "It is the biggest library of its kind in the world and it was built with your hard-earned money. But for years all you could access was what the chief librarian and a few of his cohorts decided to make available on the day. "

The report goes on to describe a pilot ernabling technology developed by the BBC and some of the battles that need to be won if the archive is ever to be made available.